Born in Macklin, Sask., Conly was a distinguished graduate of the College of Medicine Class of 1978, and has gone on to a celebrated career as a physician, scholar, and administrator.
“My education occurred in small-town Saskatchewan schools in Radville, Weyburn and Davidson,” said Conly during his acceptance speech at this year’s USask Spring Convocation. “After a year of undergraduate education, I had to accept an offer of admission to the College of Medicine on June 8, 1973 – exactly 50 years ago to today’s date, June 8, 2023. What a remarkable coincidence it is.”
Conly's initial work at USask began with studying the effects of broad-spectrum antibiotics and their impact on intestinal bacteria, which led to a long and storied career in both research and administrative roles focused on combating antibiotic resistance and infection control in collaboration with researchers around the globe.
In his introductory speech, College of Medicine Dean Dr. Preston Smith (MD) said, “Dr. John Conly is a changemaker, a collaborator and a humanitarian. Through his dedication to creating positive change, he has advanced the study of medical epidemiology and has dramatically influenced infection prevention and control globally.”
When the pandemic struck, Conly was directly involved in the efforts to control infection and reduce hospital outbreaks through effective health recommendations while he served as the chair of the World Health Organization Infection Prevention and Control Research and Development group for COVID-19. This work continued throughout the pandemic and demonstrated only a small portion of the commitment and dedication to global health that Conly embodied throughout his career.
“I’ve never had a busier time in all my life,” said Conly. “There were many challenges and failures that occurred along the road, but we persevered.”
Among his many successes, and awards and honours received over his career, Conly was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2018, one of the country’s highest civilian honours.
During his acceptance speech at USask Convocation, Conly highlighted how working hard in all endeavours is imperative to success, but to always remember to find joy in the journey.
“In each area throughout the course of my career, dedication to tasks sprinkled with fun along the way has been a constant,” he said. “It is said that laughter is the best medicine, so always keep an eye out for it and embrace the humour and the fun times wherever they may be found.”