Anne Pomeroy

Anne Pomeroy Autor Lectureship for the Humanities in the Biomedical Sciences

Anne Pomeroy Autor Award in Interdisciplinary Studies

When someone is described as “accomplished” it usually means they are experts in one or two fields.  What, then, should we call someone who excelled in every area of human endeavor?  Is that level of excellence even possible?  Well, yes.  Here is the story of a supremely accomplished person who was a scientist, parent, world traveler, athlete, organic farmer, mentor, and volunteer. Her name was Dr. Anne Autor and she had a strong connection to UVic and the City of Victoria.

Dr. Autor was a Professor Emerita at UBC where she taught in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.  However, her career really started in Victoria High School, where, at the age of 13, she decided to become a scientist.  She then went on to take science at Victoria College, the precursor to the University of Victoria.  Her sons say her early academic experiences at Vic High and Vic College were always especially meaningful to her.

Dr. Autor was born Dorothy Anne Pomeroy on January 26, 1935, in Prince George, BC. Her father, Alfred, whose family had settled in Victoria in the late 19th century, was a constable in the BC Provincial Police and later sergeant in the RCMP. Her mother, Mary, was a school teacher whose family first came to BC in the 1880s and homesteaded in Pemberton.  Her father’s police service meant she spent her childhood in several small towns and cities in BC before the family settled in Victoria. 

After Vic College, Anne earned honours bachelor and masters degrees at UBC, a doctorate at Duke University in North Carolina and completed post-doctoral studies at the University of Michigan. While at UBC, she married and had two children, Erik and Kurt.

During both her studies and the career that followed she became one of those pioneers of the mid-20th century; an “only” or “first” woman.   She was the only woman in the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programmes in biochemistry at UBC and Duke, the first woman post-graduate in her department at Michigan and then the first woman lecturer in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Iowa, where she received her initial faculty appointment. She and the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada, became the first two women members of the Vancouver Round Table, a civic organization of prominent British Columbians from business, government, and academe. As a woman in science, Dr. Autor considered it especially important to mentor younger women entering the profession and helped launch the careers of a large number of graduate students.

Dr. Autor left Iowa in 1983 to return to Vancouver as a tenured Professor at UBC and a clinical researcher at St. Paul’s Hospital. In addition to her university and hospital laboratories, she also opened the first DNA forensic lab in the province and worked closely with the RCMP.

For over 30 years, Dr. Autor continued her research in the fields of biochemistry, toxicology and pathology, supported by prestigious grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Damon Runyon Foundation, the March of Dimes and other organizations.  Her work contributed to many scientific advances, including cancer research and the understanding of infant mortality.  Anne authored numerous scientific papers and published two books. 

She was active in at least a dozen scientific organizations in both Canada and the US; often in leadership positions. As a result of her research on metabolism of drugs and toxic compounds in the human body, the BC Environment minister appointed her as an advisor to the Waste Reduction Commissioner on the management of toxic substances. While in the United States, she served as an advisor to National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency.

During sabbaticals, Dr. Autor was a researcher and visiting professor in the UK, Switzerland, and South Africa and a guest lecturer in many other countries around the world. After her retirement from UBC in 2000, Anne became an adjunct professor in the medical school at Al Ain University, United Arab Emirates. In 2001, she was appointed professor and vice chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Aga Khan University Medical College in Karachi, Pakistan. While living in the UAE, she read the entire Koran. When she moved to Karachi, she made a point of taking Urdu language classes.

In Karachi she developed an innovative learning curriculum for medical students, which was just one example of her creative and inventive teaching style.  She strongly believed that Science and Humanities were linked and her lectures always included the history behind the science. Her son says, "She embraced intellectual curiosity with a passion which didn't stop at the gates of Science."

Anne Autor returned to Vancouver and permanent retirement in 2004, spending time visiting her sons and two grandchildren and working on the organic farm established on her grandparents’ homestead with her brother Richard Pomeroy. 

Outside her profession, Dr. Autor engaged in many volunteer activities and accepted appointments that reflected her wide range of interests and active support of her community. She served on several boards, including the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation; the UBC Faculty Senate; the Law Foundation of BC and the Vancouver Art Gallery.  In 1988 she was one of the first non-lawyers to be accepted into the Law Society of BC as an appointed chair of the first Compensation Advisory Committee for provincial court judges. She was also a member and volunteer streetcar driver with the Vancouver Downtown Historic Railway/Transit Museum Society, and an active parishioner of the Christ Church Cathedral (Anglican).  

In her spare time (what spare time?) Anne enjoyed travel, reading history and literature, experiencing different genres of music and theatre, gardening, skiing, scuba diving, horse-back riding, fly fishing, running, and swimming.  Rarely missing a chance to celebrate Robbie Burns Night, she often saluted the occasion with her sons, sipping fine, single-malt Scotch and smoking a good cigar. Dr. Anne Autor died on November 13, 2018. The University of Victoria is honoured to have been chosen as a beneficiary of her estate

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