Dr. Gary Levy (L) and Dr. Ian Tannock
Dr. Gary Levy (L) and Dr. Ian Tannock are recipients of the 2020 UHN Global Impact Award. (Photos: UHN, Visual Services, UHN)

Dr. Gary Levy, who helped create what has become one of the world's leading multi-organ transplant programs, and Dr. Ian Tannock, who developed novel treatments for prostate cancer and introduced scientific rigour to clinical trials research, are recipients of the 2020 UHN Global Impact Award.

As one of the founders and Director from 1990 to 2013 of what is now the Ajmera Transplant Centre at UHN, Dr. Levy's aim has always been to develop a strong research program and integrate that into clinical practice to help patients. He has also played an important and highly collaborative role with the Trillium Gift of Life Network, the provincial organization for organ donation.

In a bold move in 1990, Dr. Levy united separate transplant programs in kidney, heart, liver and lung within Toronto General Hospital – a first in Canada. He also partnered with four teaching hospitals, including Toronto Western, St. Michael's and SickKids.

In keeping with his focus on collaboration and creating a hub of excellence in Ontario, in 2008, Dr. Levy created the first University of Toronto Transplantation Institute with the U of T and hospital partners (SickKids, Sunnybrook and St. Michael's), where international researchers and students learn about and create interdisciplinary research projects "without borders."  He is also the founding Director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Training Program in Regenerative Medicine at the U of T.

Levy at desk hold liver
Dr. Levy helped create Canada’s first multidisciplinary, integrated transplant unit in 1990. (Photo: UHN)

"He has been an inspiration, mentor and role model for many clinical and research fellows who he has trained, many of whom have gone onto lead clinical and research programs in their home countries," Dr. Atul Humar, Director of the Ajmera Transplant Centre, and Dr. Ed Cole, Physician in Chief at UHN, wrote in a letter to the committee which reviews nominations for the UHN Global Impact Award.

In his own research and practice, Dr. Levy has made seminal findings in immune mechanisms, established UHN's robust living liver donor program to improve access for patients who need a liver transplant, pioneered treatments to reduce or eventually eliminate immunosuppressive medications, and explored the possibility of stem cell therapies.

"We can think of very few individuals better qualified or more deserving to receive this distinguished award," Drs. Humar and Cole concluded in their letter.

Dr. Tannock, an internationally recognized and respected leader in the field of medical oncology, has a rich legacy in the development of new treatments for prostate cancer, which have led to changes in clinical practice at on a global level. He's also had a major impact in the field of clinical trials research methodology, credited with bringing a level rigour that hadn't existed previously.

"Without a doubt, Dr. Tannock has brought a degree of scientific integrity to clinical trial design and reporting that certainly was lacking in the early days of his (and my) career," Dr. Frances Shepherd, medical oncologist and the Scott Taylor Chair in Lung Cancer Research at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, wrote in a letter supporting the nomination.

"In particular, he has exposed the bias that may be inherent in industry-sponsored cancer research that may be driven by financial rather than scientific goals, and has provided wise counsel to trainees the world over on how to navigate the murky waters of academic-industry partnerships."

Dr. Tannock joined Princess Margaret Hospital at its Sherbourne St. site in 1976 as a medical oncology resident. Two years later, he became a full-time staff physician.

Black and white of Tannock at desk
Dr. Tannock works at his desk in the late 1970s at Princess Margaret Hospital on Sherbourne St. (Photo: Visual Services, UHN)

With clinical expertise in genitourinary and breast cancer, Dr. Tannock's work involves researching methods related to cancer clinical trials. He also chaired trials for men with metastatic prostate cancer, which led to the licensing of new drugs that are being used around the world.

"Dr. Tannock continues to be lauded for his significant contributions to the research and development of cancers, in particular, prostate cancer," says Dr. Amit Oza, Medical Director of the Cancer Clinical Research Unit at the Princess Margaret, wrote in a nomination letter.

"His career is most lauded for the eloquent intersection of clinical and research activities, which have impacted clinical trials conduct and the paradigm of care for prostate cancers."

Awarded since 2004, the UHN Global Impact Award recognizes the incredible contributions of TeamUHN members, such as Dr. Levy and Dr. Tannock, who have changed health and healthcare both here and around the world. 

The names, photos and citations of the Global Impact Award recipients are posted in UHN hospital lobbies. Previous winners are:

2004 Fredrick Banting, Vera Peters, Harold Johns

2005 William Bigelow, Ernest McCulloch, Jim Till

2006 William Gallie

2007 Joel Cooper, Griff Pearson

2008 Charles Hollenberg, Bernard Langer

2009 Mary Agnes Snively

2010 Robert Jackson

2011 Charles Tator

2012 Dimitri Oreopoulos

2013 Victor Ling

2014 Alan Hudson

2015 Jenny Heathcote

2016 Karel terBrugge

2017 Jack Cunningham, Gordon Whitmore

2018 Louis Siminovitch

2019 Diana Schatz, E. Douglas Wigle

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