My name is François Bénard and I am a clinician-scientist at the BC Cancer Agency.  I am a joint employee between the BC Cancer Agency and theUniversity of British Columbia (UBC), where I am a Professor in the Department of Radiology, and the Academic Head of the Division of Nuclear Medicine.

My position is supported by a research chair called the “BC Leadership Chair in Functional Cancer Imaging.” This research chair was funded by the BC Cancer Foundation (through generous donations) and the BC Government (through the Leading Edge Endowment Fund). I am really grateful to both of these organizations. I spend about 20% of my time working directly with patients and spend the remainder conducting research.

I was born in Quebec and attended medical school there. I had always been involved in laboratory research in medical school. After completing my residency in nuclear medicine, rather than start practicing immediately, I decided to undertake training in a new and upcoming research imaging tool called “positron emission tomography” (PET). At the time, this research tool was being used to explore the physiology of the brain and the heart, but interesting potential applications were starting to emerge in cancer diagnosis.

So, after doing some research abroad at the University of Pennsylvania, I came back to Quebec and started the first clinical PET scanning service in Canada in Sherbrooke.

Eventually, I was approached by the BC Cancer Agency to help develop theCentre of Excellence for Functional Cancer Imaging.  Its development is not only to directly improve patient care, but also to develop a new research infrastructure to support its research mission. My colleague, Don Wilson, had already set up a clinical program and the Agency had purchased a state-of-the art PET/CT scanner.

I was impressed with how this new program fit in with the Agency’s overall vision and how much the Agency had to offer – great scientists at the BC Cancer Agency’s Research Centre and Genome Sciences Centre, new laboratories in molecular pathology and world-renowned clinicians. I also saw the potential to develop collaborations with researchers at UBC andTRIUMF (a national nuclear physics laboratory located on the UBC campus). 

I felt I could have opportunities to build a research program that was not possible anywhere else in Canada.

Furthermore, the missing infrastructure was my specific domain of expertise. Having started a program before, I knew what was needed to get the Agency’s program in Functional Cancer Imaging moving forward to become one of the world’s leading clinical and research programs.

I look forward to telling you more about what I do over the coming few weeks.  Please be sure to post any comments or questions you might have!

François