Dr. Chan Gunn, a pioneering Vancouver physician in the field of pain relief, is giving $5 million to the University of British Columbia for construction of a new building devoted to exercise and sport medicine teaching, research and patient care.
The 13,480-square-foot building, to be named the Chan Gunn Pavilion, will be the new home for UBC’s sport and exercise medicine centre – one of the first academic sports medicine units in the world, and the first in Canada.
Dr. Gunn and his wife Peggy made the gift in recognition of UBC’s efforts to investigate, apply and teach intramuscular stimulation (IMS). IMS is a non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical technique developed by Dr. Gunn for alleviating pain resulting from nerve damage. A blend of acupuncture and western medicine, it involves inserting a needle deep into muscle, causing it to relax and relieve pressure on pain-causing nerves.
“Having a connection to UBC is very important for teaching and research into IMS,” Dr. Gunn says. “IMS will have a permanent home to grow.”
UBC will commit $2.25 million for the first phase of the building, which will house space for community care and research activity, including IMS. UBC will continue fundraising for a second phase, which will provide additional space to conduct research.
“The Chan Gunn Pavilion will create capacity to integrate IMS into the Division of Sports Medicine, and to expand research, teaching, and care into that technique and other therapies for sports injury and exercise-related health care,” said Dr. Gavin Stuart, dean of the Faculty of Medicine and UBC’s vice provost, health.
The new building will be located next to the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre on Wesbrook Mall. Construction is scheduled to start in December 2015, following final approvals, and is expected to take two years. The centre will temporarily relocate to the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health in July until construction is complete.
The centre’s current home for the past 35 years, situated in the middle of UBC’s athletic fields, will be torn down this summer to make way for the National Soccer Development Centre.
Dr. Gunn’s donation forms part of UBC’s start an evolution campaign, the most ambitious fundraising and alumni engagement campaign in Canadian history.
BACKGROUND | Chan Gunn, IMS and Sport Medicine
Malaysia, the U.K., then Canada: Dr. Chan Gunn received his bachelor’s, master’s and medical degrees from Cambridge University. After nine years of general practice in his home country of Malaysia, Dr. Gunn and his wife immigrated to Canada in 1966, where he joined the Workers’ Compensation Board in Vancouver as a staff physician. In that position, he began to explore the nature of chronic, non-injury pain, and after years of research, developed a new approach to relieving it.
A new technique: Dr. Gunn asserts that intramuscular stimulation (IMS) can help people with pain in their back, neck, arms and legs, or those suffering from headaches or neuralgia, which includes extreme skin sensitivity. Most patients need just a few treatments. Dr. Gunn spent most of his career providing IMS therapy, training others in the technique, and raising awareness in the medical community of its potential. There are now about 160 physiotherapists and physicians practicing IMS in British Columbia, including those at UBC’s sports medicine centre.
In 2011, the Gunns donated $1 million to UBC to create an IMS training program, an IMS research fund for graduate and undergraduate students, and an annual lecture focusing on IMS and pain caused by nerve damage (known as neuropathic pain). The training program has a waiting list of 30 physicians and physiotherapists.
Pioneers in sport medicine: UBC is recognized as the birthplace of sport medicine, with seminal studies on stress and overuse injuries, innovative surgical and musculoskeletal imaging techniques, and novel physiotherapy approaches to injury (including IMS). The sport medicine centre is viewed as a model for similar units across North America.
The centre, currently led by Professor Don McKenzie, has more than 50 professionals involved in patient care, education and research, including sport medicine physicians, orthopedic surgeons, internists, musculoskeletal radiologists, physiotherapists and exercise scientists. This multidisciplinary, integrated team provides care for active individuals, patients with chronic medical problems, Olympic athletes, national teams, professional and amateur sports teams. Its high volume of patients also provides numerous educational opportunities for medical students, residents, clinical fellows and practicing physicians.