20 Questions with Tim Caulfield

Tim Caulfield, LL.B., LL.M., FRSC, FCAHS

Professor, Faculty of Law and School of Public Health; and Research Director, Health Law Institute, University of Alberta




20 Questions with Tim Caulfield

1. Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
I was born in Cape Cod and grew up in Mystic, Connecticut, USA. My high school years were here in Canada – right here in the Edmonton area – so I very much consider myself a Canadian.

My dad is an Engineer/Physicist, and he was doing work up north, so he moved our family to Canada, and we settled in Edmonton – the biggest city close to where he was working. There is quite a big difference between Cape Cod, Mystic, Connecticut and Edmonton, Alberta. I think it was a definite shock for my mom!

2. Where did you go to school?
I went to Salisbury Composite High School in Sherwood Park and then did my undergrad in science at the University of Alberta (U of A).

I’ve always been fascinated by science and also been attracted to the policy world. I decided to go into law with a hope of combining my interests.

And as with so many trainees out there my life changed because I had great mentors. When I got to Law School at the University of Alberta, I met people who worked with the Health Law Institute and it was like a light went off. It was really one of those rare moments in my life where I got this incredible clarity and certainty that this is what I wanted to do. I honestly feel very fortunate because I don’t think this happens for everyone. I got to the Institute and just knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life.

But probably even more importantly, and this is something that I have tried to embrace and model in my life, is that I had these mentors. This allowed me to almost immediately fulfil that dream. Those people included Justice Ellen Picard, Gerald Robertson and later, Bartha Maria Knoppers. From very early on I had these fantastic mentors and it has been so key to my career.

I did a Masters in Law at Dalhousie University and my original plan was to take the more conventional law professor route – teach, do health law in a very kind of traditional way, and publish law review articles etc. But my first academic job was working with Bartha (Knoppers) and her impact as a mentor was so significant for me. She does these big interdisciplinary projects and she very immediately made me realize the possibilities and that you could combine your passions – doing empirical work and work closely with scientists – and take a more unconventional path. Bartha is one of the early legal scholars, not just in Canada but internationally, that has championed the interdisciplinary approach. She has pushed the idea that not just legal scholars but sociologists, anthropologists, artists – you name the discipline – can all be active partners in a bigger team. This is something that SCN also embraced early on as an institution and has been a world leader in supporting interdisciplinary research approaches.

Read the full interview here.

Published June 2021.