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Medical Radiation Sciences

Nicole Harnett
Director, MHScMRS
Program: Master of Health Science in Medical Radiation Sciences

Years Active in the IMS: 2007 – Present

The little program that could.

It was the start of a new millennium – a time for big ideas and big plans. A small but mighty team of 2 took action on their idea that, with the blistering pace of innovation and change in the field of radiation medicine, radiation therapists could play a major role in shaping its future. With a program design in hand, Dr. Pam Catton and I began our search for a home for our new little program at the University of Toronto. To a great extent, our pitch fell on deaf ears….until we met Dr. Ori Rotstein. In his years as Director of IMS, the IMS had seen significant growth in vision and in size. Under his leadership, the Institute was expanding its purview including the perpetuation of a “professional” program model with the addition of the Master of Health Science in Bioethics and thus appeared to be the perfect home for our little program. And so, the wheels were put into motion to launch the Master of Health Science in Medical Radiation Sciences (MHScMRS) – the first graduate program for radiation therapists in North America.

From the start, it was evident that this small, boutique program would challenge the IMS leadership to think outside of the box and to embrace the unusual. As the program worked to find its target audience, it underwent several reincarnations. Most notably, in 2013, the program was converted to a “blended delivery” format providing almost 90% of the program content online. This change allowed students in the program to remain at home and keep their clinical jobs while studying, which is a quality that is now garnering international attention. Since its inception in 2009, the MHScMRS program has graduated 9 future radiation therapy leaders, with 3 additional students set to graduate in 2018.

The twists and turns of launching and shepherding this kind of burgeoning program required thoughtful guidance from within the Institute – guidance that has been unwaveringly provided by Dr. Howard Mount in his role as Chair of the Curriculum Committee. His willingness to listen to new ideas and openly support what he believes in has been a key driver of the program’s evolution and responsiveness. With his continued support and with Dr. Mingyao Liu in the Director’s Chair, it appears our little program will continue to be in good hands.

Photo: Nicole Harnett with the first MHScMRS graduates.