Dr. Runjan Chetty
Dr. Runjan Chetty, the newly named J.C.B. Grant Chair in Oncologic Pathology, will dedicate chair funding to research across UHN’s Laboratory Medicine Program, giving all staff the opportunity to compete for money for their research. (Photo: UHN)

Dr. Runjan Chetty's career has come full circle.

As a medical student, Dr. Chetty, like countless other physicians around the world, used Grant's Atlas of Anatomy, the seminal and enduring work of Scottish-born John Charles Boileau Grant, who would go on to become the Chair of Anatomy at the University of Toronto (U of T) in 1930.

Now, Dr. Chetty, Medical Director of the UHN Laboratory Medicine Program (LMP), is the recipient of the J.C.B. Grant Chair in Oncologic Pathology, named for the minister's son who authored the most popular anatomy texts in the English-speaking world.

"It's strange," says Dr. Chetty. "Using the book as a student, many years ago, I'd never have thought I'd be in an institution where Grant worked, or that the chair would exist, let alone that he would leave it for oncologic pathology.

"But, knowing the book and knowing what it represents, I feel very proud and honoured to be in this position, and to be able to use the funds to help LMP."

Born near Edinburgh in 1886, Dr. Grant was a decorated serviceman of the Royal Army Medical Corps serving in the First World War before moving to Canada. At U of T, he established himself as an "Anatomist Extraordinary," publishing three renowned textbooks that form the basis of Grant's Anatomy, still used in anatomy classes today, and making unforgettable memories for all those that found themselves in his classes nearly a century ago.

"I remember fondly Grant's lectures… the beautifully coloured blackboard diagrams created with chalk," Dr. George Bernstein, a former student, wrote nearly a quarter century ago in recognition of Grant's contribution to Canadian Medicine. "Grant would gesticulate like a great conjurer, as a whole region of anatomy appeared just as the surgeon would see it.

"Those who studied under J.C.B. never forgot him, while those who never met him desired to know him."

Plaque outside of museum at U of T
Many of the specimens illustrated in Grant’s Atlas of Anatomy are on display in the J.C.B. Grant Museum at the University of Toronto. (Photo: UHN)

The J.C.B. Grant Chair in Oncologic Pathology is made possible, in part, by Dr. Grant's widow, Anne Catriona Robertson, who left The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation a bequest of the Atlas when she died in 1982.

Dr. Grant's textbooks, first published more than a half century ago, continue to be used in schools today, and for the more artistic anatomist there's even a Grant's Anatomy Coloring Book published in 2018.

"The person who the chair's named for reflects on you, and you reflect on them," says Dr. Aaron Schimmer, Research Director at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.   

With that comes a sense of pride, Dr. Schimmer adds, as well as a desire to ensure you represent their name with pride.

The selection committee, which includes senior scientists and clinicians across the Princess Margaret and U of T, including Dr. Schimmer, unanimously recommended Dr. Chetty for the chair based on his leadership of LMP, and his contributions and advocacy for translational oncologic pathology research.

"Everything we do on the clinical side, including all of our treatments, are fundamentally based on the pathologic diagnosis," says Dr. Schimmer.

"It all starts there," he says.

The Grant Chair is the first endowed chair awarded within LMP, which Dr. Chetty describes as a very important step.

"It's acknowledgement from our clinical colleagues to the importance of pathologic research," he says.

It's his plan to open the Grant funding to all LMP staff, and chair a committee supplemented with members of UHN's Research Institutes to review all submitted projects and proposals.

"Of course I feel quite proud and humbled by this investment," says Dr. Chetty. "But by the same token, the most important thing for me is the quality of the research, and that the money is well spent and wisely spent."​

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