A tribute to George Szasz, CM, MD

Issue: BCMJ, Vol. 43, No. 10, December 2001, page(s) 557 College Library
Jim Henderson

Last April, Dr George Szasz resigned from the College’s Library Committee after 40 years. He has served longer than any Library staff member. His guidance supported efficient access to medical knowledge for members across BC via their College Library. He saw the shift from the print to the electronic era and ensured the appropriate application of new technology in the Library.

George has been recognized for many accomplishments in his career. He is well known to many College members as a dynamic teacher at UBC. For his contributions to UBC, he was recognized during the UBC Faculty of Medicine Golden Jubilee celebrations last year with a 50th Jubilee Medal. His research on sexuality relating to people with spinal cord injuries led to new techniques for aiding conception. In 1997, George was made a Member of the Order of Canada for his contributions to sexual medicine. The College recognized George with Honorary Membership in 1995.

George loves reading and libraries. As well as the Medical Library Service, George frequents the West Vancouver Public Library and was a regular at UBC’s Hamber Library. However, lest College members believe that George was a biased advocate for libraries, no committee decision was made or budget set without rounds of questioning and consideration. His need to understand the Library’s operation made him an effective committee member. In applying new technology, enthusiasm for the promise it offered was balanced with understanding of the perils of early adoption. George has had a longstanding appreciation of the contributions of library staff. In the April 1961 “Library special issue” of the BCMJ, he said: “This maze of printed information would be completely impenetrable without our librarians.” In the August 2001 issue of Cites & Bytes celebrating 5 years of publication, George remarked: “Our library staff are experts in electronic storage, searching, and transmission of information.”

In 1992, when George took over as chair of the Library Committee, I experienced first hand his wisdom and acumen. Detailed justification of costs and clear understanding of proposals was necessary before George would proceed. He was keen and persistent in learning about Library operations, and always considered possible outcomes. He asked many questions, as often to teach as to learn. His own knowledge generated his presentations to College Council. In Council chambers, he was more formal, but his easy manner was tempered only somewhat. His humanity was always evident. He balanced the needs of the Library with the overall needs of the College, its administration, and its members across BC. He took interest in management trends and had a good sense of timing for the introduction of new services and the winding down of others. The blending of library services with continuing medical education was always in George’s mind. His conceptual understanding of how the Library could support clinicians went beyond day-to-day practical considerations.

At its September meeting, in recognition of George’s work on the Library, College Council created an annual award for a College Library staff member who “has demonstrated a keen interest and has contributed in the area of physician education through the use of the Library.” Library staff, too, have demonstrated their indebtedness to George and acknowledged his understanding of Library functioning. The newly created “domain” on the Internet where our new library catalogue system will be found has been named Szasz.mls.cpsbc.ca.

The staff and I will greatly miss George’s involvement in Library affairs. It has been a privilege, an honor, and a pleasure to work with such a fine man.

—Jim Henderson
Director, Medical Library Service
College of Physicians & Surgeons of BC