Remembering Michael Sharpe: A Dedicated Colleague, Mentor and Friend

 

THIS IS AN EXCERPT FROM THE 2015-2016 ANNUAL REPORT.

"Mike's amiable nature, piercing intellect and engaging persona created a remarkable network of friends, colleagues and mentees that transcends time and space"

Dr. Michael Sharpe (February 3, 1965 - June 22, 2016), an internationally respected medical physicist, endearing friend and cherished colleague, passed away on the afternoon of June 22, 2016 after a brief but hard-fought battle with esophageal cancer.

Dr. Sharpe was an Associate Professor at UTDRO and the Department Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto. He was also the Associate Head of Medical Physics (Professional and Academic Affairs) in the Radiation Medicine Program at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and an Affiliated Faculty of the Techna Institute. Our thoughts and condolences are with his wife Jane, his two lovely children – Gregor and Emily, as well as his parents, siblings, nieces and nephews.

Mike’s amiable nature, piercing intellect and engaging persona created a remarkable network of friends, colleagues and mentees that transcends time and space. His loss was felt the world over. “Mike was an absolute gem! He was uber-smart; exceptionally knowledgeable and analytical, and called it as he saw it,” recalls UTDRO Chair, Dr. Fei-Fei Liu. “I could always count on Mike to give me an accurate and honest assessment of any situation; he was never one to sugarcoat the message… and for that, I will always be deeply grateful. Mike will be deeply missed by everyone within our communities.”

Mike joined UTDRO and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in 2002 and worked tirelessly to advance the technology and practice of radiation therapy. Today, his innovations and inventions directly benefit cancer patients worldwide. Mike was recruited back to Canada from William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, where he led the development of intensity modulated radiotherapy techniques for breast cancer patients and was a central part of the team that invented the active breathing control system for precision radiotherapy. Both of these developments are employed worldwide for the benefit of many patients. Mike was respected as a leading intellect in the development of image-guided radiation therapy techniques and was invited to lecture around the world on his work in the emerging field of adaptive radiotherapy. Over the course of his career, he authored over 60 peer-reviewed publications, as well as numerous chapters in the field of radiotherapy.

Despite his efforts to stay out of the lime light, Mike was recognized for his contributions on many occasions, including receiving Cancer Care Ontario’s Innovation Award in 2007 and the University Health Network’s Inventor of the Year Award in 2009. In 2015, Mike became a Fellow of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine in recognition for his many significant contributions to the field of Medical Physics. In the very brief time since his passing, the global radiation medicine community has responded with numerous statements of condolence and accolades of his impact on the field. UTDRO faculty Nicole Harnett remembers Mike fondly, “Mike was an inspiration, a mentor, a safe haven and a willing co-conspirator. As has been said about Mike many times, he was a masterpiece in the making – a piece of art that, while not quite done, made you better for having been able to share in its making anyway.”

Mike had a passion for teaching and a natural skill in mentorship. As a seasoned Medical Physicist, he was often approached by trainees and staff, and he took his role as mentor seriously. His passion for rigor and clarity brought immeasurable benefit to the profession of Medical Physics and to the patients these individuals served. Mike continued this effort at scale by serving as the Quality Leader of Cancer Care Ontario’s Radiation Treatment Program. Mike’s animated and engaging teaching skills were sought after by many. He delivered lectures on advanced radiotherapy techniques to medical physicists, radiation oncologists and radiation therapists in local courses as well as in invited lectures around the world. To this end, he was recruited by the American Society of Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) for their international teaching programs, and in 2011, was a founding faculty member of the annual European Society of Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO) course on Advanced Treatment Planning.

In addition to Michael’s dedication to his family and his profession, he had an incredible passion and talent for cycling. After having discovered cycling just over 10 years ago, Mike took on a central role in the establishment of the RMP Accelerator team in the annual Ride to Conquer Cancer (RTCC) at the Princess Margaret. As team co-captain, Mike recruited many friends and colleagues to the wonderful sport of cycling. His charming and passionate personality was as effective at raising funds as he was at recruiting. Although Mike knew his fate was sealed, he still signed up for the 10th anniversary of the RTCC in 2017 - a leader to the end

Mike will be dearly missed by his friends and coworkers at UTDRO and by his many colleagues from around the world.

Image Credit: Marc Kessler

 

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