Dr. Neil Fleshner By Melissa Galati
rostate cancer, the most common type of cancer in Canadian men, has been deemed a “silent killer” in light of its commonly asymptomatic presentation. Dr. Neil Fleshner, a uro-oncologic surgeon at University Health Network (UHN), has dedicated his life to improving the treatment and prevention of this common malignancy. A leading expert in the prevention of early-stage disease
progression, Dr. Fleshner shared with the IMS Magazine his journey through the field of urology, focus on prostate cancer, and his team’s strides toward disease prevention. Dr. Fleshner was born and raised in Montreal. His motivation to pursue medicine as a career stemmed in part from the death of his grandmother, who passed
away from pancreatic cancer when he was young. After completing his medical education at the University of Toronto, he began the internship year, aspiring to become a medical oncologist. However, he soon realized that he was drawn more to the procedural aspects of surgery, rather than internal medicine. “I started thinking about what interesting cancer fields are procedural, and landed on urology because of the nature of the cancers.” According to Dr. Flesher, 23% of human cancers are urological, and these malignancies have a wide “cancer portfolio.”
Photo by Pratiek Matkar
Dr. Fleshner then spent three years completing his oncology training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and concomitantly obtained a Master of Public Health (MPH) from Columbia University. Discussing his interest in epidemiology, he elaborates: “I never really felt I had the right mindset for wet lab research. On the other hand, I knew I wanted to have an impact. Around the same time, it hit me that parts of our disease models were wrong. It was always about treating disease and I was turned on by the idea of preventing disease… Epidemiology is really about what causes diseases and how to prevent them.” From that point on, Dr. Fleshner focused his energy on the emerging field of prostate cancer prevention.
Neil Fleshner, MD, PhD, FRCSC
Division of Urology, University Health Network Department of Surgery, University of Toronto 26 | IMS MAGAZINE FALL 2016 ENGINEERING AND MEDICINE
Research on the impact of lifestyle on health and disease has revolutionized prostate cancer research in the past two decades. “One of the most interesting aspects of what I’ve done is [try] to get men interested in men’s health issues.” Women, he says, are much better at prioritizing and monitoring their own health than men. “It’s this idea of macho-provider. Men are conditioned not to complain about aches and pains; to ‘bring home the
The fall issue of the IMS Magazine for 2016, with a feature on Engineering and Medicine.