Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

“She served with wisdom, warmth, grace & diplomacy.”

© Irma Coucill and CMHF
2009 Inductee

The Honourable Dr. Sylvia Fedoruk

Born: 
May 5, 1927, Canora, Saskatchewan
Died: 
September 26, 2012
Education: 
MA - University of Saskatchewan
Dr. Sylvia Fedoruk is one of Canada’s foremost medical biophysicists and the only woman who in the 1950s was conducting medical-physics research in Canada. Her groundbreaking achievements have earned her worldwide recognition, bringing honour to the University of Saskatchewan, her home province, and Canada as a whole. Working with Dr. Harold E. Johns, Dr. Fedoruk, as the chief medical physicist for the Saskatchewan Cancer Foundation, was one of four scientists involved in the development of one of the first nuclear scanning machines and the Cobalt 60 Therapy Unit (the “Cobalt Bomb”), which pioneered the curative treatment of cancer using high intensity radioactive cobalt in humans.

The world’s first non-commercial cobalt-60 therapy unit went into operation at the University of Saskatchewan in 1951 – the same year Dr. Fedoruk submitted her thesis in physics. Within ten years, cobalt radiation had become the standard of radiation therapists worldwide, and it was estimated that by the end of the century it had helped more than 70 million people.

Later in her career, Dr. Fedoruk contributed to the development of the Dosimeter, allowing doctors to control the amount of radiation that each cancer patient received. She also participated in the development of one of the first whole body scanning machines that used radioactive nuclides to help detect cancers of the thyroid and liver.

With an academic career that spanned 35 years, Dr. Fedoruk was the first woman member of the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada and served as a consultant on nuclear medicine to the International Atomic Energy Agency, among other advisory boards. She was Chancellor at the University of Saskatchewan (1986-1989), and the first female Lieutenant Governor of the province (1988-1994) – a position she served with wisdom, grace and a strong measure of diplomacy. In addition to her extraordinary scientific strengths, Dr. Fedoruk excelled as an athlete, and in 1986 was inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame.

Dr. Fedoruk was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada (1986). She has been awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit (1986), the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal (1977), a Canada 125th Commemorative Medal (1992), five honourary doctorates from Canadian universities, among other honours.