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Scholar offers sage advise on life and career

Dr. Jacob Van Dyk’s 40 year distinguished career was celebrated recently at the Schulich Medicine convocation, when he received an honorary degree. As is customary, during the formal proceedings, he took to the podium to share wise and inspiring words.

Quoting Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, he began “When I was your age, we didn’t have the internet in our pants. We didn’t even have the internet not in our pants.”

Not surprisingly his words were met with laughter. He had used the quote, however, to make an important point about the rate of change in health care, the global challenges it presents, and the social responsibility these new young graduates and physicians, who sat before him, needed to consider regarding this change as they moved through their careers.

“Much like technology,” he said, “the rate of change in medicine is increasing exponentially, and the evolution of change taking place in the future will be much more rapid. The global challenges present new responsibilities to the collective of medical doctors and affiliated professionals, and together we have a social responsibility to help with the health care disparities that exist around the world.”

Van Dyk, knows of what he speaks, having witnessed these changes first-hand. His educational and professional career has spanned the evolution of technological change from the two-dimensional radiation therapy era to the four-dimensional era of today.

Throughout, he has been advancing the field of medical biophysics and the safe and effective use of therapeutic radiation for the treatment of cancer.

An internationally renowned medical physicist, Van Dyk has made substantial achievements helping to set new standards in radiation therapy. His publications and recommendations are embodied in quality assurance standards used throughout the world.

And he has contributed to the execution of specialized irradiation techniques, and he was the lead contributor and editor of “The Modern Technology of Radiation Oncology: A Compendium for Medical Physicists and Radiation Oncologists (Volumes 1-3)”. And he was also a member of the team who brought a new tomotherapy machine to London, in the early 2000’s; at the time it was one of only three in the world.

His achievements have not gone unnoticed. He is a Fellow of the Canadian College of Physicist in Medicine, the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, and The Institute of Physics in the United Kingdom. In 2011, he was awarded the Canadian Organization of Medical Physicists’ highest award: the Gold Medal.

Recently he stepped onto the world stage giving him a global perspective on the state of health care education and services. He is a member of a Global Task Force on Radiotherapy for Cancer Control, which is part of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC).

The task force is focused on improving standards for radiation therapy especially in the developing world where the incidence in cancer is increasing at a significantly higher rate compared to the developed world, and improving access to technology and education for people in the developing world.

In doing so, Van Dyk fulfilled a personal goal to make a difference to the developing world. It also has helped to widen his experience providing him with the wisdom to guide others including the new graduates.

Closing his convocation address, Van Dyk reminded the graduates to seek opportunities available, consider those around them, and find balance in their lives.

“Keeping your priorities straight, investing in others and celebrating the moments are a way of maintaining a solid equilibrium in your practice and in your life,” he said; sage advice from an award winning, internationally renowned scholar who has helped to change the face of radiation therapy in Canada and around the world.

Read more about the 2014 medicine Convocation here.