Dr. Ivan Silver (MD’75) considered retiring before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. He’s glad he didn’t because the need for geriatric psychiatry care has never been greater.

By: Faculty of Medicine


Dr. Ivan Silver (MD’75) remembers waking up two days before his wedding to the sight of his father holding an envelope. It was a letter he had been waiting for from Dalhousie’s Medical School — news of his acceptance that would change his life forever.

Growing up in a family of physicians in Saint John, New Brunswick, Dr. Silver was greatly inspired by his father, an ophthalmologist, and from his mother, a dietitian. While passionate about music, he also found great interest in the study of psychology during his undergraduate degree at McGill University, yet it wasn’t until his third year that he made the decision to apply to medical school.

First Canadian-trained fellow in geriatric psychiatry

An older white man faces the camera straight on with a big smile. He is wearing round tortoiseshell glasses and has a receding hairline and prominent eyebrows. He is wearing a grey suit jacket with a shirt and grey-purple plaid tie.

Dr. Ivan Silver

During Dr. Silver’s residency program in Toronto, he began working in one of the first inpatient units with designated bed for geriatric patients in Canada. He saw great potential need in this growing field and became the first Canadian-trained fellow in geriatric psychiatry.

Over the next 42 years, Dr. Silver worked primarily in outpatient settings in different hospital settings and led the faculty development and continuing professional development programs at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.

He also had a lot of fun along the way. Dr. Silver developed new ways of engaging students by using games to facilitate learning. He developed several teaching games early in his career based on gaming technology called “frame games” and used them to teach medical students, residents and faculty.

Commitment to care

Dr. Silver’s most recent leadership role ended in 2018 as the inaugural Vice President of Education at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Canada’s largest mental health hospital. There, he worked alongside educators and administrators to establish a Student Centre, a program of research in education, and the first Simulation Centre for Mental Health in Canada.

Dr. Silver retired from CAMH this past June, but he plans to continue coaching and guiding academic work. “I was going to retire before the pandemic and I’m sure glad I didn’t. I never worked so hard clinically as I did during the pandemic, and that’s when I realized I can’t retire because the need was so great,” Dr. Silver reflects.

The Dalhousie connection

Over the years, Dr. Silver’s connection to Dalhousie has remained strong. “It really did feel like I was home when I began my medical journey at Dalhousie,” remembers Dr. Silver. “My time at Dal wasn’t just about launching my career, it was really about the high quality teaching that I received as a medical student and the wish to pay this forward in my career.”

Throughout his career, Dr. Silver supported local artists and musicians, and was even a composer of Hebrew liturgical music for many years. In the same way, his passion for medicine and education will live on, even in retirement.

He will always fondly recall that day his father handed him his acceptance letter to Dalhousie. “And just like that,” he says, “medicine, in a way, chose me.”