In the global and national competition to lure academic superstars, Ontario has gone to Alberta to poach a world-renowned neonatologist.
The Ontario government will announce today that Shoo Lee, who pioneered the Canadian Neonatal Network and has been working on an international one, will be relocating from the oil-rich province to become pediatrician-in-chief at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital and head of the neonatology division at the University of Toronto.
The appointments are significant not only because of Dr. Lee's immense talents, but it is further proof that Canada has succeeded in reversing the brain drain and provinces are now scouring each other's backyards for top researchers.
Dr. Lee, who will move with his team of researchers in the new year, said going east was not a difficult decision.
"Alberta, because of all the oil money, certainly was able to make very attractive packages for people to go there - and they're still successful at it. ... But I think the reality is the depth of capacity and the infrastructure that has been built in Ontario over the years still exceeds anything anywhere else in the country," he said in a telephone interview yesterday from Argentina, where he was speaking at a neonatal conference.
In recent years, Alberta's energy boom has drawn some top names, including, more recently, Jack Mintz, former head of the C.D. Howe Institute who left his post at the University of Toronto for the University of Calgary. But Ontario, and, in particular, Toronto, with its cluster of research institutes, has lured the likes of Tom Hudson, a prominent geneticist, from Montreal, and stem-cell biologist Gordon Keller, who, just months before he arrived in 2007, was named by New York Magazine as one of the scientists New York could not afford to lose.
Dr. Lee is well-known for his work on the Canadian Neonatal Network, which now includes 27 hospitals and 16 universities in the country which collaborate on research relating to neonatal care. The international collaboration includes 200 hospitals across Canada, the United States, Latin America, Europe and Asia.
Dr. Lee, who received his PhD from Harvard University to complement his medical degree, will continue his research in Toronto and lead a program that integrates the neonatal units at Mount Sinai, the Hospital for Sick Children and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
He was in discussion over the summer with government and health-care officials in Ontario about the position. New investments in research, as well as the talent already based in the province, made the move all the more attractive, he said.
"Ontario is one of the very few centres in the world, and really one of the few centres in Canada, that has got the breadth and the depth of capacity to really be a world-class research and health-care centre and compete on the world stage with the likes of Harvard and Stanford," Dr. Lee said.
John Wilkinson, Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation, said Dr. Lee's successful recruitment bodes well for the province and its place on the international stage.
"In Ontario, and particularly in Toronto, we are known as a world-class research powerhouse when it comes to the health sciences. And Dr. Shoo Lee, of course, is not only recognized in Canada, but around the world as one of the leading neonatologists. It is exciting that he's decided that he should pursue his world-class career in Toronto," Mr. Wilkinson said.