Prof. Sandy McEwan

Creating a Lasting Image

University of Alberta Professor Sandy McEwan sets a course in making a difference.


Sandy McEwan is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Oncology at the University of Alberta. We asked everything from why he chose his field of study to what’s on his playlist in hopes of giving you a better understanding of what goes on outside the lab for one of the best minds in Canadian research.

What inspired you to become a scientist?
I went into my current discipline because I felt it was a way of combining my medical practice with an ability to understand the basis of disease through functional imaging. This goes back to my early days where I became interested in the evaluation of divers who were suffering from dysbaric osteonecrosis. At that time there was no MRI routinely available for the investigation of these individuals.  Using radionuclide techniques, I found it was possible to identify the causes and offer solutions to this issue. Following this I was able to use very similar techniques in the diagnosis and management of patients with cancer.

What do you envision in the future of your field?
I believe imaging will become important not only as a diagnostic tool in the practice of medicine, but also as a biomarker which will enable us to understand the pathophysiological basis of the diseases that we are treating and allow stratification of optimum therapies.

What advice would you give young researchers?
Perseverance, patience, innovation. Find an area of research in which you can become an expert and in which you can expect to see your findings ultimately translated into clinical practice.

What do you read?
I read predominantly non-fiction especially related to history or pre-history. I have just completed a review of the excavations at Catal Hoyuk in Turkey, and I am reading a new biography of Lawrence of Arabia.

What’s on your Ipod? 
Mostly classical music, some jazz.

If you could meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
I would probably like to meet someone like Herodotus, a classical historian who travelled widely in the fifth century B.C. As the founding father of history he was effectively the originator of the maxim, “Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are destined to repeat them”. His history of that time is fascinating, erudite, and provides brilliant insights into people two millennia ago.

If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be?
Probably politics or law, because in these areas, as in medicine, you can make a difference for individuals and society.

What do you like to do for fun?
I like to cook, though I am not particularly good yet!  I am slowly improving and my family at least let me cook for them on occasion.