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CASBS Board Member Heather Munroe-Blum

dr. heather munroe blum

Heather Munroe-Blum OC, OQ, PhD, FRSC, currently serves as Chairperson of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) and is Principal (President) Emerita of McGill University. 

She is a Director of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Chair of RBC's Corporate Governance Committee, Director of CGI Group, and Director and Vice-Chair of the Gairdner Foundation. She is a member of the Board of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) of Stanford University, as well as for the Trilateral Commission. 

Munroe-Blum became the 16th Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University in 2003 and served for more than a decade as the first woman in this role. A distinguished scholar in the fields of psychiatric epidemiology and public policy and an accomplished administrator, Munroe-Blum was a member of McGill’s Faculty of Medicine and professor in its Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health. Prior to this, she served as professor and Vice-President (Research and International Relations) at the University of Toronto.

Munroe-Blum has dedicated her career to the advancement of higher education and science and innovation. She advises institutions and governments on the role that progressive evidence-based public policy (especially policies concerning universities, health, science and innovation) plays in enhancing society and the international profile of nations. She serves as chair and member of national and international panels and awards competitions. 

Included among achievements during her time as Principal of McGill were the strengthening of the quality of graduate education and the graduate student experience, as well as strengthening international research collaborations and their impact.

She initiated and chaired the Principal’s Task Forces on Student Life and Learning and on Excellence, Diversity and Community Engagement, which led, respectively, to measures to enhance the university experience for McGill’s 35,000 students as well as extend McGill’s engagement with the community and its contribution to healthy civil society at home and abroad.

Munroe-Blum oversaw the dramatic renewal of the professoriate (over half of McGill's outstanding tenure-stream professors were recruited during this decade, a majority came from outside of Canada, including repatriated Canadians); advancement of university governance; major infrastructure renewal; numerous community engagement initiatives; the development of one of Canada's largest academic health centers, a McGill-affiliated hospital; re-engagement with alumni from around the world; the completion of an unprecedentedly successful fund-raising campaign; support of Canadian policy developments affecting the support of excellence and success for Canadian scholars and scientists, major research teams, and Canada's research universities; and the promotion of distinctive areas of excellence and societal impact in teaching, research and scholarship.  

Over the years, in addition to other research funding, Munroe-Blum received her primary research support from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health for clinical trial research exploring treatments for major psychiatric diseases. She is the author or co-author of over 70 scientific articles, four books and numerous policy papers, including her ground-breaking 1990 report Growing Ontario’s Innovation System: The Strategic Role of University Research, which led to the creation of a new framework of science policies and programs in Ontario. She contributed to the report Research Universities and the Future of America:Ten Breakthrough Actions Vital to Our Nation's Prosperity and Security (2012) as a member of the U.S. National Research Council’s committee reporting to Congress on the status of American research universities.  

Munroe-Blum was a founder and founding director of the boards of the Toronto-based Medical and Related Sciences Discovery District (MaRS), Montreal's Quartier de l'Innovation, and Genome Canada, where she also served as founding Vice-Chair of the Board. She has served on the boards of Canada’s largest teaching hospitals, the Council of Canadian Academies, the Association of American Universities (AAU), and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). She was a member of the former Medical Research Council of Canada as well as Neurosciences Canada, in addition to numerous other scientific and not for profit organizations. 

Dr. Munroe-Blum has served as a director on the boards of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Alcan Inc., the Canada Forum of Rio Tinto Alcan Inc., Yellow Media Inc., and Hydro One (Ontario), among others.

Munroe-Blum is a Specially Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an Officer of both the Order of Canada and l'Ordre National du Québec. She is the recipient of numerous national and international honorary degrees and awards.

She holds a Ph.D. with distinction in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a M.S.W. (Wilfrid Laurier University), and B.A. and B.S.W. degrees (McMaster University).  

Munroe-Blum has a deep personal commitment to the causes of childhood literacy and open science. She is active in an initiative to support Canada’s children to become the most literate in the world.  Her commitment to open science is reflected in her commitment to the recently launched Tanenbaum Open Science Institute of McGill's Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI), the first open science clinical and research institution committed to the open sharing of scientific data across universities, research institutes, governments, and industry. 

Munroe-Blum is married to screenwriter, Len Blum. Their adult daughter, Sydney, is a dedicated social innovator working in Toronto.

Quote about the role of CASBS

“"In this time of uncertainty - when the distance between conflicting opinions is so vast that even the definition of a 'fact' is under attack - a good measure of the promise for peace and societal progress resides in the advanced study of the behavioral sciences."

Personal factoid

It is not everyday that a distinguished academic is married to a Hollywood comedy screenwriter, yet Heather has been married to her childhood sweetheart, screenwriter Len Blum, since she was barely twenty.


CASBS thanks Nicole Keefler for her assistance with this biography.

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