History of Excellence in Post-Graduate Multidisciplinary Education

In 1952, the University of Montreal formed the Institute for Experimental Medicine to enable post-graduate and post-doctoral students from around the world to study with Dr. Hans Selye, the internationally acknowledged “father of the stress field”. In ever more detailed mapping of the animal and human mechanisms of stress or, as Dr. Selye termed it, the pathways of “adaptation energy”, they were forming a broad scientific knowledge base for addressing a host of human issues well beyond the originating medical concern with “diseases of adaptation” ……………… the stress related illnesses to become so prevalent 50 years later.

Psychosomatic research conducted by Selye’s students during the 1960’s fostered clinical biofeedback, the growth of body-mind theories, and the still world leading investigations of the role of stress in the rate of human aging.

More than 600 doctoral students were graduated in the next 30 years. And, as they returned to their several dozen countries of origin, the stress concept, theories of how humans adapt or fail to adapt to the challenges of changing environments, began to play a catalytic role in the emergence of landmark multidisciplinary thinking. Perhaps best known is Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s Future Shock (1970), integrating history, sociology, psychophysiology and futures modelling.

Such integrative science was also the basis for Dr. Selye’s multiple collaborations with several dozen noted futurists and social theorists, including Buckminster Fuller, Marshall McLuhan, and Aurelio Peccei.

In 1975, the Hans Selye Foundation was formed to sponsor international multidisciplinary symposia, attracting yet more students and practitioners to Montreal. The scope of doctoral studies also expanded, now ranging from such basic sciences as contributed to Dr. Roger Guillemin’s Nobel Prize for the endorphins, to modelling alternative health care futures, psychobiological factors in juvenile delinquency, and human factors in corporations’ growth or decline. Dr. Toffler’s The Adaptive Corporation (1985) highlights the benefits of integrating insights from the biobehavioural sciences with those of traditional business administration.

In 1979, the Canadian Institute of Stress was chartered by the Government of Canada as an “educational institution” to conduct education and applied research for various health professions, multi-national corporations, and government agencies. Shortly after Dr. Selye’s passing on October 16, 1982, all educational programs were relocated from Montreal to Toronto, the new home office of the Canadian Institute.

Given the Institute’s extensive involvement in organizational effectiveness and occupational health programming, plus corporate management’s growing awareness of the human impacts of turbulent change, the Institute has become an internationally respected resource in the business management and human resources communities.

By 1992, our multidisciplinary tradition, focusing on human adaptation, had achieved a substantive and across-disciplines breadth far outstripping the mandate of the original Institute of Experimental Medicine. In that same year, our evaluation of distance learning methods, with Telemedicine Canada and several multi-national corporations’ training programs, confirmed we had the technological base to begin linking our international roster of educators and practitioners with the hundreds of students worldwide who, while seeking education focused on stress, change and the future, could not travel to Canada.

By 1997, we were training several dozen mature students across North America who wished to extend their professional practices beyond the single discipline (medicine, social work, industrial psychology) in which they had been trained years before. With advances in high-speed internet access and virtual classroom software, the most recent 12 years have seen our Certified Stress & Wellness Consultant program attended by professionals, business people and diverse consultants in Mexico, the U.S., Argentina, Spain, Ireland, England, Italy, France, Lebanon, India, Lithuania, Japan and, of course, across Canada.

Contact us: aboutus@stresscanada.org