Golden Hands Award Winner – Bob Sydenham – 2009

Elaine Maheu presented Bob Sydenham his Golden Hands award in 2009.

Picture: Elaine Maheu and Bob Sydenham

CPA Congress Calgary, May 29th, 2009

It is an honour, pleasure and a privilege to be standing here tonight to present the Golden Hands Award to Bob Sydenham.

More than 9 people (of which Stanley Paris, Freddy Kaltenborn, Jim Meadows, Erl Pettman, Diane Lee, to name a few) have written letters to nominate Bob for this prestigious award and everyone was unanimous in stating that Bob was ideally suited for this award and that David Lamb, in whose honour the award was developed, would be delighted to see him receive it tonight.

Bob is well known as a great clinician, teacher, scholar and mentor over a career of more than 33 years. His clinic has always been open to those who wished to come and learn from him and he has donated immeasurable hours to working for the future of physiotherapy, not just in Canada but also abroad. Bob has been a mentor for all his professional life and he has been an inspiration for his peers. His mentorship provided the much needed guidance in how to apply theoretical knowledge to clinical practice. As a life-long learner himself, he fostered the same in his associates and encouraged the development of clinical expertise in all those he worked with. Diane Lee wrote that “Bob was way ahead of his time as an evidence-based practitioner in that his model of practice was (& probably still is) patient centered with a hefty dose of clinical expertise and consideration of any current research and its applicability to clinical practice”.

Bob has been an advocate of the Canadian Orthopaedic Manipulative Therapy Association since its inception as a specialized group in the mid 1970’s. He has been one of the most influential manual therapists in Canada together with David Lamb, Cliff Fowler, John Oldham, Ann Porter, Erl Pettman and Diane Lee. According to his good friend, Jim Meadows, Bob has been active in all aspects of physical therapy through his involvement in education at the University of Alberta, in regulatory issues with the College of Physical Therapists of Alberta, in professional standards with the International Federation of Orthopaedic Manipulative Therapy, in maintaining our scope of practice through the Manual Therapy Steering Committee and Canadian Orthopractic Manual Therapy Association and clinically with his ongoing and tireless treatment of patients and the writing of clinical research papers.

Through his involvement internationally, as the Canadian delegate to IFOMT from 1988 to 1992 and then as IFOMT president, from 1992 to 1996, he was instrumental in making Canada an international leader in the field of manual therapy. Through his dedication and his countless hours of volunteer time, he attended to many international issues and contributed tremendously to the success of IFOMT.

Back in 1996, I had the opportunity to work with Bob in preparing for the famous “Quebec Court case” involving the Quebec Professional Order of Chiropractors and a Quebec physiotherapist. Our scope of practice was at stake as the chiropractors wanted the sole right to vertebral manipulation. Bob & I were two of the four physiotherapists (with Erl Pettman and Paul Castonguay) that worked on this case and Bob was the major resource for us. He gathered a large amount of literature, including articles and books, pertinent to our issue and prepared huge files that we reviewed as a group. I was the expert witness in this case and without Bob’s implication in gathering the necessary information to back up my testimony, the task to win this case would have been much more difficult. Winning this case confirmed our scope of practice. Internationally, all manual physiotherapists were relieved when the good news spread around. Again, this would not have been possible without Bob’s immense contribution.

According to Erl Pettman, “Bob’s main attribute to our profession has been in his selfless dedication to the preservation of our right to practise Orthopaedic Manipulative Therapy. He has been a beacon of light, both nationally and internationally, to organisations and individuals who have had their right to practice OMT challenged, many times in a court of law. Bob has often undertaken such challenges underpaid, if at all, for the extent of his efforts. We should all have a huge respect for this dedication in this regard”. Along the same lines, Freddy Kaltenborn wrote that “with his work Bob has not only updated IFOMT, but also the whole physical therapy profession, without thinking “ego and pocketbook”.

Bob has been a founder of the Manual Therapy Steering Committee and has been a member of this committee since it was set up in 1995. This committee has been very involved nationally and has followed many manual therapy issues involving different professionals practicing vertebral manipulation. The work of this committee has made us more aware of what’s happening outside our profession and has contributed to our knowledge of safety issues that need to be considered when practicing manual therapy.

Overall, Bob deserves this award which is long overdue considering his leadership and his continued and tireless contributions to Orthopaedic Manual Therapy, both nationally and internationally. There are not very many outstanding people like Bob and it is our duty as a group to officially recognize his contribution – he is an extremely worthy recipient of this award.

Congratulations Bob.

— Elaine Maheu


Below is Bob’s appreciation speech.

“Thank you, Elaine


Words cannot express how humbling this is for me. First of all, I would like to thank Hilary Reese, who I thought was a friend, until i found out she orchestrated this nomination for months under my nose at the clinic with me being completely oblivious to it all, along with her accomplices, Keith Mang and Marney Mustard.

Thank you also goes to the executive of the Orthopaedic Division for their most kind thoughts and consideration for this most prestigious award, and those who wrote the very kind letters of support.

It truly is an honor and a privilege to receive this award; however, I think of it as more of a reflection of the inspiration, drive, commitment and dedication of those who I have been most fortunate to consider as friends and colleagues over the past many years, including:

David Lamb, Cliff Fowler, John Oldham, Erl Pettman, Alun Morgan, Jim Meadows and Diane Lee and of course, Eaine Maheu, who has so admirably presented Canada’s quest for the next IFOMT meeting in Perth, Capetown and finally and most overwhelmingly in Rotterdam.

Plus many others, both nationally and internationally, such as:

Freddy Kaltenborn, Olaf Eventh, Stan Paris and Ian Searle

Unknowingly, I have hopefully absorbed a little bit of each of you, and thus any small contribution that I may receive credit for, is more accurately, recognition of the many who have gone before me to face the challenges of the profession, to mold and characterize it, as it is today, for I know I have stood amongst some of the best in our profession, and it is truly, humbling and an honor.

On a day to day basis, one tends to forget many of the experiences and activities until they are reminded of them, on an occasion such as this. I would not have, or more accurately, could not, have considered many of the challenges over the years if it wasn’t for the love and support of my wife, Gaye, of almost 23 years, who continues to make this all worthwhile.

Thank you again, to all, who have made this a most memorable moment.”