Q&A with alumnus Dr. Jay Kalra
Recognized in his adopted hometown of Saskatoon as a community builder, social advocate and cultural ambassador Dr. Jawahar (Jay) Kalra, M.Sc.’72, PhD’76, B.Med.Sci.’79, MD’81, can add a new honour to his list of achievements: Outstanding Community Service Award recipient. Dr. Kalra proudly accepted the honour during Memorial’s 34th annual Alumni Tribute Awards on Oct. 19. Born in India, he immigrated to Canada in 1971 to complete postgraduate studies at Memorial. He left an indelible mark on campus life and has since gone on to become a pioneer in Canada’s medical profession. Contributor Jeff Green spoke with Dr. Kalra following this year’s awards gala.
JG: What were your first impressions when you arrived here in the early ’70s?
JK: I arrived in January and was bracingly introduced to a Canadian winter. While the weather was a tad of a shock to say the least, the hospitality and warmth of the people took my fears away. I fell in love with St. John’s and it made me feel at home instantaneously! Still today, I feel that St. John’s is a kind of hometown for me. I am a Newfoundlander!
JG: Why Memorial?
JK: After completing my undergraduate education, I was exploring further avenues to pursue my higher education abroad. I had heard and read that Canada was a land of opportunity. Memorial was an up-and-coming university and had a very good graduate program in biochemistry.
JG: How important was your Memorial education to your future success and career?
JK: Very important. In fact it has set the stage for what I am today. While I was a student in medical school, I was privileged to be the first Canadian to win a student research award at the Eastern Student Research Forum in Miami, Fla. The award recognized our groundbreaking research on the metabolites of the cardiac drug digoxin. Subsequently, we started a student research day to share research findings at the medical school. It is truly remarkable to see how much research is being carried out in the Faculty of Medicine today.
JG: What was your reaction to receiving the Tribute Award?
JK: It was very humbling. I was honoured and proud of my alma mater and I was delighted to return. To me, this award is a symbol of the work we have done as volunteers for our communities and is a reminder that there is more to do.
JG: Why do you volunteer?
JK: My father was a known philanthropist and was dedicated to worthy causes. I truly believe in the motto “in service for community.” I have always felt welcomed into whatever community I was in and that sense of welcoming made an impression on me. Service to the community is a fundamental strength of our great province and our nation. Canada is a place where every person, by volunteering, has the opportunity to make this country better and to promote harmony and diversity in our communities. It is important to return something to society and to help others however we can.