Drs. Gordon Whitmore and Jack Cunningham
Drs. Gordon Whitmore (L) and Jack Cunningham have received the 2017 UHN Global Impact Award for their “pioneering work” in medical physics. (Photos: University of Toronto/Canadian Association of Physicists)

Drs. Gordon Whitmore and Jack Cunningham have been named recipients of the 2017 UHN Global Impact Award for their landmark work as medical physicists.

The award, which was presented yesterday at the UHN Annual General Meeting in the MaRS Auditorium, recognizes individuals who have changed health and healthcare both here and around the world.

Drs. Whitmore and Cunningham, both natives of Saskatchewan, joined the Ontario Cancer Institute in the 1950s and spent much of their respective careers there, as well as what is now the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and the University of Toronto.

A group of nominators cited the pair for "their pioneering work in medical physics and their vision in shaping the field of medical physics in Canada and around the world."

Drs. Whitmore and Cunningham join 20 other recipients who have been recognized since the award was first given in 2004, including Dr. Frederick Banting, Jim Till, Mary Agnes Snively and Victor Ling.

Dr. Whitmore joined the Physics Division of the Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI) in 1956 and headed the division, and its successor, Experimental Therapeutics, from 1980 to 1996. His research activities focused initially on the response of cells to radiation and chemotherapeutic drugs and he worked with a number of leading scientists in the area, which eventually led to the development of the large hypoxia program at the OCI, the Princess Margaret and UHN. His publications on radiation span 60 years.

In addition to his laboratory-based research focus, Dr. Whitmore worked with Dr. Cunningham in the development and implementation of the Princess Margaret's world-leading radiation physics program.

Dr. Cunningham, who joined the staff of the OCI and the Princess Margaret in 1958 and went on to be the Chief of Medical Physics, was described by one nominator as "one of Canada's most distinguished medical physicists." He advanced innovative concepts in radiation dosimetry and was a pioneer in developing the computerized dose calculations used to treat cancer patients around the world. A publisher of more than 70 peer-reviewed publications, he also co-authored the seminal textbook The Physics of Radiology, which remains a staple in medical physics education.

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

2004 – Frederick 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 – Dimitrios Oreopoulos, Robert Uldall

2013 – Victor Ling

2014 – Alan Hudson

2015 – Jenny Heathcote

2016 – Karel terBrugge

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