In Conversation with Dr. Paul Gibson

Dr. Paul Gibson3

As POGO’s Associate Medical Director, Dr. Gibson provides oversight for POGO’s seven Satellite Clinics including clinical practice and professional development training.  He also chairs POGO’s Technology and Therapeutic Advisory Committee (TAC) that works to ensure timely and equitable access to state-of-the-art cancer treatment to all children in Ontario.  Dr. Gibson was a member of the executive committee of the Provincial Pediatric Oncology Plan (PPOP), POGO’s long-range plan for childhood cancer care in Ontario. He is also a pediatric oncologist, and recently joined the team at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton.  He is also an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at McMaster University.

Q. What does Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM) mean for you?

Dr. Gibson: September is a time to celebrate collaboration. It’s a time to acknowledge the team efforts that lead to the remarkable outcomes in children’s cancer. It’s the families, the doctors, the nurses, the child life specialists, pharmacists, rehabilitation professionals, information coordinators, volunteers, tertiary hospitals and satellite centres. The saying is that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a province to care for families impacted by childhood cancer.

Q. What led you to pediatric oncology?

Dr. Gibson: As an undergraduate student, I worked as a counsellor at a variety of summer camps for kids with special needs and interacted with pediatric oncology patients and the dedicated professionals caring for them. It was here that my interest in oncology was sparked. I spent two summers in Alberta where I had the pleasure of working with Kids Cancer Camps of Alberta. Once in medical school, I was fortunate enough to be granted a studentship to spend the summer working with the pediatric oncology team at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). My experience there cemented my goal to become part of this world.  I was fortunate to train in pediatric oncology at SickKids and then spend 10 amazing years working as part of the team at Children’s Hospital in London.

Q. What aspects of your work bring you the greatest joy, challenge or sadness?

Dr. Gibson: When I tell people I work in childhood cancer, their first response tends to be, ‘It must be so sad.’ I always explain that while the bad days can be awful, the vast majority of days are filled with laughter, levity and team work. Day to day we see our patients enjoying the moment, playing with their families, nurses, child life specialists, therapeutic clowns and volunteers. The biggest challenge still lies in the fact that we don’t cure every patient. Our team is profoundly impacted by challenges such as relapses and patients we can’t cure. It’s important for us to lean on each other in those hard times.

Q. When and why did you become involved with POGO?

Dr. Gibson: I first became involved with POGO as a trainee at SickKids. I participated in the annual POGO symposiums and enjoyed being part of the collective provincial community. I also had the chance to be a presenter during the Satellite Education Days and learn more about the communities served. When I joined the team in London in 2010, I came to appreciate the important job POGO plays in ensuring excellence and equity in kids’ cancer care throughout the province.  POGO not only serves as the official advisor to the Ministry of Health, but also an important facilitator of collaboration and cooperation between professionals caring for children with cancer throughout Ontario.

Q. What mark do you want to make as POGO’s Associate Medical Director and as an oncologist?

Dr. Gibson: POGO’s successes over the past 30+ years have been built on the backs of dedicated volunteers and leaders. As the Associate Medical Director, I wish to make my mark by not only continuing the programs, relationships and advocacy of the past, but also to play a role in helping to usher in new therapies and technologies to improve childhood cancer outcomes for all patients in Ontario.

Q. If you could say one thing to the families and children in your career, what would that be?

Dr. Gibson: I would say, “Thank you!” It’s an incredible privilege to be ‘let in’ to their family dynamic at a time most would say is their worst. Not only do families allow us to work with them and care for their child, but so many also participate in research and clinical trials knowing that the knowledge we gain may never impact their child, but may improve the care and outcomes of countless children in the future.

Q. What would be your call to action to Ontarians for CCAM?

Dr. Gibson: Ontarians must make childhood cancer research a priority. While more children survive childhood cancer now than ever before, too many young lives are still lost every year. We must ensure Ontario children have access to clinical trials that will aim to improve outcomes and minimize long-term complications.  We must also ensure that we take our best efforts to care for those who survive but are left with immense health challenges and also those who will not be cured and deserve the same world- class care at the end of life.

Dr. Gibson graduated medical school from Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, in 2004 and started training in pediatrics at BC Children’s Hospital. He has practiced pediatric hematology and oncology exclusively since starting his subspecialty training at Sick Kids in 2007.

Dr. Gibson served as Physician Lead for the creation and implementation of a variety of computerized provider order entry efforts in Southwestern Ontario, both within and beyond oncology.  He has participated in a variety of research endeavours aimed at improving symptoms and quality of life in children and adolescents undergoing cancer therapy.  

Dr. Gibson is an avid sports and music fan and when he’s off duty attends Blue Jays’ and Toronto Leafs’ games, and supports independent musicians and festivals.

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