Dr. Bradly Wouters
Dr. Bradly Wouters, UHN’s EVP, Science & Research, says it’s been “very stimulating, very motivating” in the early days of his new role to have met so many clinicians and scientists at the other UHN hospitals. (Photo: UHN)


Dr. Bradly Wouters took a winding path to Executive Vice President, Science & Research at UHN.

The native of North Battleford, Sask. earned a Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Saskatchewan and was poised to embark on a career in high energy physics in the United States. But he accepted an invitation from a professor to visit the B.C. Cancer Agency in Vancouver where he felt an instant rapport with some principal investigators, developed an interest in biology, and ended up completing a PhD in medical biophysics at the University of British Columbia.

"My education and career choices have always been shaped by curiosity," Brad said in an interview with UHN News. "I enjoyed science, physics and chemistry, because it created opportunities for curiosity more than anything."

Interest in biology piqued, he went on to do a post-doctoral fellowship in radiation oncology at Stanford University School of Medicine. A stint at the Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre was followed by a move to Maastricht University in the Netherlands before recruitment to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in 2008, where as a senior scientist he researched the influence of hypoxia – oxygen deprivation – on tumours and translating that knowledge into personalized cancer treatment.

"What I realized when I started my PhD was that we're in a very special era of biology," Brad says. "Much like it was for physics at the turn of the last century when Einstein formulated the special theory of relativity, it was a transformational time in physics, and now we're going through a transformational time in biology."

'Huge opportunity'

That same excitement about the quest for discovery that has been the hallmark of an award-winning career in research, is at the core of what motivates Brad in the new role he began on Oct. 1 – EVP, Science & Research, at UHN, the post he took over from Dr. Chris Paige.

Brad sees endless possibilities at UHN, which spent $316.3 million on research in the year ending March 31, 2016, once again topping the list of Canada's Top 40 Research Hospitals, according to Research Infosource Inc.

"I think there's a huge opportunity for research to be a bigger part of the entire organization, for us to realize the idea of a research hospital that Chris talked about and to really incorporate research into everything we do at UHN," Brad says.

"Research is what defines us, what makes us different."

He talks about the twofold mission of UHN – delivering the best care possible today and, through research, developing new treatments for tomorrow – and how intertwined they are.

UHN's 'scientific pull'

"We have some of the greatest clinicians in the world and they come here because of the opportunity to do research and to learn from what we're doing," he says. "Excellence in healthcare delivery is very much predicated on an ability to have a dynamic and big research environment."

It was UHN's "scientific pull" which led Brad and his wife, Dr. Marianne Koritzinsky, an award-winning cancer researcher at the Princess Margaret, to move their young family to Canada in 2008. He had a "a very strong relationship" with the radiation oncology group, including Drs. Rob Bristow and Richard Hill, through their overlapping research, so that made the return home that much more appealing.

"Brad gained international reputation in radiation biology research in Europe," says Dr. Mary Gospodarowicz, Medical Director at the Princess Margaret, who approached him at a conference in Denmark to discuss the possibility of coming to UHN. "He impressed us not only with his vision and commitment to research but also with his understanding of how embedding research in the clinical environment can both stimulate basic research and accelerate its translation to clinical practice.

"His research excellence, forward vision, leadership skills and forever positive, can-do attitude made him an irresistible candidate," Dr. Gospodarowicz says.

'Gold nuggets all over the place'

Brad, who was interim Director of Research at the Princess Margaret from 2014 until coming out on top of an international competition for the EVP position last fall, says it's been "very stimulating, very motivating" in the new role to have met so many clinicians and scientists at the other UHN hospitals.

"I'm still very in the learning phase, finding out all the gold nuggets all over the place," Brad says of his initial weeks in the new post.

It's a phase which has convinced him even more of the infinite possibilities for UHN research.

"I'm excited to look at opportunities in areas where there's commonality between the research institutes to enable individuals to come together," Brad says. "I'm a big believer in group intelligence and team science, that's really our competitive advantage here, to be able to put people together that have broad expertise.

"Our individual scientists are great, and could be great anywhere by themselves. It's the environment that elevates research opportunities and innovation to another level."​

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