11th Annual Ori Rotstein Lecture in Translational Research

Article by Serena Peck

Graphic Design by Sherry An

The Annual Ori Rotstein Lecture in Translational Research has had a variety of wonderful keynote speakers over the years, with topics ranging from basic science, surgery, and health equity. Traditionally, this event is held in-person with a diverse array of speakers and networking opportunities. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held virtually once again. In keeping with the 2020 Ori Rotstein Lecture virtual format, this year’s event began with a lecture from the keynote speaker, followed by a moderated discussion with an esteemed panel of accomplished clinicians and researchers. Leading up to the event, students were asked via survey to choose the topic for this year’s keynote talk, with the majority selecting global health and epidemiology.

On November 2nd, 2021, the Institute of Medical Sciences held the 11th Annual Ori Rotstein Lecture in Translational Research. This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Mary Gospodarowicz, Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Toronto, past Chair of Radiation Oncology, and past Medical Director of Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Dr. Gospodarowicz gave an excellent lecture entitled “Global Cancer Control – Challenges and Opportunities”.

The beginning of the keynote lecture discussed the global cancer burden, and the accompanying equity gap. Dr. Gospodarowicz spoke at length about greater survival outcomes in highly developed areas due to (1) availability of care, specifically in prevention, early detection, and diagnostic services, (2) affordability, and (3) awareness. Dr. Gospodarowicz also discussed the economic benefits behind investing in cancer therapy, noting that investment in radiotherapy can improve financial solvency of nations and save money over time. She also discussed artificial intelligence, and how its development will continue to play a key role in cancer therapy. Dr. Gospodarowicz ended her talk discussing advocacy, engagement, and leadership. She noted how we need more “T-shaped people”, meaning that we need young leaders who not only have a deep-disciplined expertise, but also have cross-disciplined expertise. Healthcare and cancer care are complex systems, and young leaders should bring cross-discipline expertise and technology experience as leaders and healthcare advocates.   

Following the keynote speaker, the event transitioned into a panel discussion on highlighting unique journeys through research. The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Ori Rotstein himself, the Vice President of Research and Innovation at Unity Health Toronto and a Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto.The discussion began with panelists describing their paths and journeys to their current position. The panel consisted of Dr. Atul Verma, Electrophysiologist at Southlake Regional Health Care Centre, Dr. Frank Rudzicz, computer scientist at Unity Health Toronto, Dr. Janet Smylie, scientist at Unity Health Toronto, Dr. Samantha Yammine, neuroscientist, and science communicator and our keynote speaker, Dr. Gospodarowicz.

Panelists were asked to describe a defining moment in their career that got them to where they were today, and many gave very inspirational feedback. Some key advice that the entire panel agreed on were to (1) follow your passion, (2) understand the importance of networking—let people know what you are interested in, (3) keep asking questions, and lastly, (4) strengthen your writing skills and public speaking skills, as they are invaluable—practice, practice, practice!

Overall, the Annual Ori Rotstein Lecture in Translational Research was a huge success. The students were very engaged and asked numerous thought-provoking questions. Personally, I thought this year’s event was amazing. The keynote speaker and panelists were distinguished, diverse, and genuinely interested in engaging with the student body. I am looking forward to what next year’s event holds!