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To those who knew her best, Dr. Pamela Catton was much more than a visionary leader in the medical community. She was courageous and compassionate to those who needed help. She was devoted and fiercely loyal to anyone she considered family. She was outrageous, creative, and fun-loving. But above all, she was totally unique. She loved to go against the grain, she dared to be different, and she lived her life unapologetically true to herself. There could be no words that could properly express the profound sense of loss we feel at her passing.
Dr. Pamela Catton: Nov. 28, 1953- Dec. 23, 2014
Dr. Pamela Catton has been described as a creative force and fearless leader – and Mary Hooey, who spent over 52,000 hours alongside Dr. Catton in her lifetime, couldn't agree more.
"Pam was not only my mentor, leader and inspiration – she was my friend," says Hooey, Business Administration Manager, Education and Survivorship Program at the Princess Margaret. "I first met Pam in 1986 and the connection between us was instant.
"Her guidance and encouragement to always do better was consistently in the forefront."
As the Medical Director, Breast Cancer Survivorship Program and Radiation Oncologist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Director, Oncology Education at the University Health Network, Dr. Catton was an internationally renowned educator and mentor to an entire generation of oncologists.
A pioneer in education
A skilled and compassionate clinician who consistently delivered exemplary care for her patients, Dr. Catton was a driving force in innovations in education, covering the spectrum from undergraduate, post-graduate, continuing education, faculty development, inter-professional, patient and cancer survivor education.
Among many of Dr. Catton's legacies was the development of a joint Bachelor of Science Program in Medical Radiation Sciences (MRS) between The University of Toronto Department of Radiation Oncology and The Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences – which at the time was the first Radiation Therapy Degree program in Canada. Since its initial establishment in 1999, the MRS program has trained more than 1,500 radiation therapists, imaging and nuclear medicine technologists – many of whom are now leaders across Canada.
"Dr. Catton was an inspiring mentor, who believed in everyone's capacity to thrive in our academic environment; she would pour her entire energy and soul into ensuring that all trainees and junior faculties achieved success," says Dr. Fei-Fei Liu, Chief, Radiation Medicine Program at the Princess Margaret. "She mentored and influenced an entire generation of radiation medicine professionals, who are now leading their own programs nationally and internationally."
Dr. Catton's particular passion was the promotion of inter-professional education and talent development. This passion translated into the creation of Clinical Specialist Radiation Therapists (CSRTs), which began as a pilot project at the Princess Margaret in 2007, and now has expanded to 24 CSRTs flourishing in 10 cancer centres across Ontario.
Dr. Catton's contribution to the educational community extended well beyond our local environment; she was a key participant and leader in the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, ranging from numerous site visits across the country reviewing residency training programs, to co-chairing the Working Group on CanMEDS roles, and Chairing the Education Research and Development Committee.
In all of these activities, Dr. Catton worked tirelessly, critiqued constructively, and facilitated the transformation of our medical training programs.
'She is a true example that one person can make an important difference in this world'
Through her strong vision, boundless energy, and organizational skills, Dr. Catton established the trailblazing ELLICSR: Health, Wellness, and Cancer Survivorship Centre at UHN, the first centre of its kind in Canada, focused on empowering patients to improve their health, well-being, and the overall delivery of cancer care.
"Very early on in her career as a radiation oncologist, Dr. Catton recognized the need to improve the experience of her patients. She wanted to make a change and went on to develop world-class innovative patient education and survivorship programs at the Princess Margaret," says Jennifer Jones, Director of Research, Cancer Survivorship Program and Associate Director, ELLICSR at the Princess Margaret, UHN.
"There is no doubt that Pam has left an important and impactful legacy and has been a pathfinder for what we now know as patient-centered care. She is a true example that one person can make an important difference in this world."
Audrey Friedman, says Dr. Catton will be dearly missed by all her colleagues.
"Pam was so genuine in her caring about the work we were doing and for the people she worked with, that we all loved to be part of Pam's team and to share in her passion," says Audrey Friedman, Director, Patient Education and Survivorship and Associate Director, ELLICSR at the Princess Margaret, UHN. "On a personal note, we became very close friends over the past 16 years and she lovingly called me her 'work sister' – I will forever miss my dear friend and 'work sister', Pam."
Recognizing a dedicated teacher and visionary leader
Dr. Catton received numerous honours and awards for her achievements throughout her career, including:
Dr. Catton will be dearly missed by everyone within our communities. Her legacy will continue through all the programs which she has launched and established; her impact will continue to reverberate through the generations of radiation medicine professionals who will strive to advocate for the highest quality oncology care for our patients.
"What I will remember of Pam aside from her laughter is that she was someone who inspired others to dream for a future of better health and self-efficacy," says Angela Dosis, Director, Web and Digital Innovation and Associate Director, ELLICSR at the Princess Margaret, UHN. "A quote by John Quincy Adams describes Pam's impact – 'If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader' – And Pam will forever be present in all that we dream and do."