Surgeon’s career reflects deep dedication to lifelong learning
Dr. Ralph George is the recipient of the 2022 James H. Graham Award of Merit
Meet a surgeon whose 37-year career stretches from Newfoundland to downtown Toronto. Ralph George, MD, FRCSC, is an associate professor of General Surgery at the University of Toronto and medical director of the CIBC Breast Centre at St. Michael’s Hospital. A dedicated teacher, mentor and colleague, he is equally known as a world expert in breast cancer management. His career is marked by high standards of care, a commitment to lifelong learning, and the far-reaching dissemination of medical knowledge and expertise. For these reasons, he is the 2022 recipient of the James H. Graham Award of Merit.
Dr. George’s career — progressively serving in various community and academic surgical posts in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario — includes the consistent pursuit and promotion of professional development.
As one colleague writes, “Dr. George has never forgotten the basic tenet of medicine…never stop learning.”
Sharing surgical knowledge and expertise
Dr. George is the kind of surgeon others turn to for guidance.
“He is constantly staying up to date through journal clubs, conferences and self-directed reading,” writes nominator Adena Scheer, MD, FRCSC, a surgeon at the CIBC Breast Centre. “At our tumour boards he is often the one to cite recent trials and is always pushing our group to stay current. He is truly a lifelong learner and loves to share his knowledge with colleagues and trainees.”
Dr. George’s commitment to medical education includes serving on and chairing multiple committees at the Royal College over the span of 20-plus years. This list includes the General Surgical Oncology Examiners Subcommittee and the specialty examination board.
“Not only does he mentor and teach colleagues and trainees, but he is a founder of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada General Surgical Oncology Subspecialty,” explains Dr. Scheer. “As a fellow myself, I can attest to the hard work he puts in developing the fellowship, examinations, attending meetings and rounds, and staying up to date on General Surgical Oncology when his specialty practice is breast.”
Throughout his career, Dr. George’s contribution to medical education has included teaching and training surgical residents and non-surgical specialty trainees as part of multidisciplinary cancer care.
“Most importantly, Dr. George is the best role model for our trainees in how to approach a patient with breast cancer,” writes Melinda A. Musgrave, MD, FRCSC, assistant professor at St. Michael’s Hospital, in her letter of support. “His kindness, patience and most importantly his ability to listen (not just hear, but listen) to the patient is one of his most enduring strengths.”
Dr. George has a special talent in sharing his expertise and knowledge. “From lectures to medical students, operating room skill training, to an auditorium full of seasoned surgeons, Dr. George can captivate any audience and make didactic learning entertaining,” writes Renee Hanrahan, MD, FRCSC, a surgeon at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, in her letter of support. “I always watch in awe as he enthrals a room of over 200 people.”
Advancing breast cancer care
Dr. George’s contribution to breast cancer care in Canada is far-reaching. “He is a pioneer in Toronto and in Ontario in establishing the importance and role of oncoplastic surgery in breast cancer care,” writes nominator Samuel Ogunbiyi, MBBS, FRCSC, a staff surgeon at the Stevenson Memorial Hospital in Alliston, Ont.
In all aspects of his surgical career, Dr. George’s commitment to breast cancer patients has been unwavering. “He has had a passion for these patients and their treatment, sitting on numerous panels and committees, establishing guidelines for care and advancing the specialty by continuing to train new surgeons not only in the art of surgery, but in the knowledge of the disease and its advancements,” explains Dr. Musgrave.
In addition to his tremendous contributions in breast cancer management, Dr. George is a leading surgeon in treatment of Hidradenitis Suppurativa. This condition results in painful, debilitating wounds that impact the patient’s physical, social and psychological wellbeing.
“After a new immunological treatment was launched, he rapidly became involved working in conjunction with the dermatologists to develop treatment pathways and guidelines for surgery for these patients,” writes Dr. Musgrave. “He is a national and international expert in this area and has changed the landscape for these forgotten and abandoned patients.”