Dr. Margaret Oulton (PhD’75) — a professor and prenatal researcher who created a discovery that would ultimately lead to the secure delivery of more than ten,000 infants across our area — is the inaugural recipient of the Dalhousie Golden Eagle Lifetime Achievement Award. It recognizes outstanding and extended-standing connection and commitment to the advancement of academic excellence at Dalhousie University.
Two fate-driven walks in the snow led Dr. Margaret Oulton (PhD’75) to make choices that would forever influence her life and perform. The initially stroll took spot when she was a young university student. Engaging the guidance of her brother, Dr. Oulton debated no matter if or not she ought to take a difficult course in physical chemistry, which would permit her to full a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, or drop the course, and finish with a Bachelor of Arts alternatively.
It was the early 1960s, and at the time, she didn’t envision a future exactly where she would will need a science degree. The two walked along the Acadia University campus as snow gently fell from the sky. The choice was ultimately a decisive “no,” and she dropped physical chemistry and moved onto studying at Dalhousie to full her final credits, transferring them back to Acadia, to finish with a degree in arts.
“At the time, I didn’t think about myself to be a fantastic student,” explains Dr. Oulton. “I enjoyed science, but college wasn’t a huge private priority. I met my future husband when I started studying at Dalhousie, and in time, we got married and began a family members.”
Aside from becoming a wife and mother, Dr. Oulton started teaching grades seven by way of 12 at a junior and senior higher college in Harvey Station, N.B.
An unexpected profession in science leads to a ‘eureka’ moment
Flash forward various years, and Dr. Oulton took a different life-altering stroll in the snow. She was contemplating no matter if or not she ought to take that identical course in physical chemistry she dropped at Acadia, only this time at Dalhousie. The course would permit her entrance into the Masters of Biochemistry system. Obtaining currently worked as a study lab tech in the division, Dr. Oulton had begun taking courses in biochemistry component time. She proved to have an aptitude for the system, earning prime marks in her courses. Dr. Oulton’s intellect caught the interest of the faculty, and they have been eager to have her grow to be a component of their group.
This time, Dr. Oulton engaged the guidance of her husband, Ian, and they walked by way of a snowy Dalhousie campus, pondering no matter if they could handle her becoming in college as they raised their young family members. This time, the answer was “yes”, and Dr. Oulton embarked on what would prove to be an illustrious profession.
In 1975, Dr. Oulton earned a PhD in Biochemistry, anything she mentioned felt like vindication following what she deemed to be her much less than stellar functionality through her undergrad. No matter: Dr. Oulton had located her spot as a mature student and now, as an esteemed scientist.
Dr. Oulton with Dr. Michiel Van den Hof, a professor in the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Dalhousie.
For the subsequent 3 decades, Dr. Oulton became a steadfast and valued member of the Dalhousie neighborhood, earning professorships in the departments of Physiology and Biophysics, and Obstetrics and Gynecology. Beyond these outstanding endeavours, Dr. Oulton was a champion for girls, demonstrating this as a employees scientist at the IWK Overall health Centre and as a lead health-related researcher at Dalhousie’s Faculty of Medicine.
Substantially of Dr. Oulton’s award-winning study focused on advancing overall health outcomes for infants who have been at threat for critical breathing troubles. In reality, whilst major a group of researchers at Dalhousie’s Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Oulton had what she known as her “eureka” moment.
“It was an thrilling discovery,” says Dr. Oulton. “Using the procedure of centrifugation to separate the sediment portion of amniotic fluid and examining the sediment with really strong electron microscopy, we found the presence of fetal lung surfactant in the type of discrete membranous structures known as lancelllar bodies. This was our eureka moment!” In the simplest of terms, Dr. Oulton’s team’s evaluation showed excellent correlation amongst the presence of this surfactant and fetal lung function, in a trial study with 91 sufferers.
This discovery led to the improvement of an correct and ground-breaking test to establish if an unborn infant’s lungs had created sufficiently for them to withstand induced premature birth. More than the course of twenty years, this test permitted for the secure delivery of more than ten,000 infants in Atlantic Canada.
Getting options right now and into the future
In 2020, the globe was entrenched in a worldwide overall health crisis produced by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Despite the fact that retired for some time, Dr. Oulton’s perform would be made use of by quite a few researchers in vital COVID-19 study. In reality, her perform helped to inform researchers that lung surfactant is destroyed by the coronavirus. Certainly, her published articles have been cited additional than 450 occasions due to the fact her ‘eureka’ moment.
Right now, Dr. Oulton is nonetheless passionate about science. Her most current concentrate is on the atmosphere and how we can positively influence climate action.
“I see the fantastic perform Dalhousie is carrying out in climate action study and I get excited,” she says. “It’s time for us to cease focusing on what the trouble is and to uncover options. I want a healthier planet for my youngsters, grandchildren, and fantastic grandchildren, so they as well can take lifechanging walks in the snow and make choices that will forever influence their lives. They deserve that. We all deserve that.”
Dr. Oulton with her daughter, Krista Welsh.