He holds degrees in biology and electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a medical degree from McGill University. He worked in the department of medical imaging at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto for 22 years, and was department head for 12 of those years. He was the head of medical imaging for the former Saskatoon Health Region, and now he’s the Executive Physician for Provincial Programs with the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
So what does Dr. Paul Babyn feel his greatest success is?
“Getting my wife to marry me,” he says. His wife, Elizabeth Babyn, is an artist currently working in mixed media.
Yes, underneath this quiet and, he admits, his somewhat reserved exterior, lies a bit of a sentimentalist. And this quiet passion shines through when he discusses his work, especially his work with children.
“For me, working with individuals who are just starting their life and being able to help them is what I enjoy most,” says Babyn. “You can make the most impact on their future.”
Physician Executive for Provincial Programs for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, Dr. Paul Babyn
Initially, Babyn was going to use his electrical engineering degree to create prosthetics. Then he went to medical school and felt the pull towards medical imaging, and eventually became a pediatric radiologist.
“Imaging is exciting because it marries engineering and life sciences together. It’s been fascinating to see how all these rapidly developing technologies can impact how we provide diagnoses for people. It’s pretty special,” he says.
Born and raised in Toronto, and after years of working for The Hospital for Sick Children, Babyn came to the Prairies for the opportunity to work as the Head of Medical Imaging at the University of Saskatchewan. He is closely involved with the running of the training program here.
“At Sick Kids, we had quite a large number of fellows, and here we have more residents that are just starting their training in radiology. So working with them is a rewarding aspect for me. Our residents keep me young and stimulated by asking the questions that you should have asked them first,” he laughs.
Babyn divides his time between his academic role and his responsibilities within the Saskatchewan Health Authority. He currently oversees several PhD students working on projects that combine technology and health care.
“My students are doing really interesting work. One project is working with remote sonography up in the north, and another is focussing on improving kidney services here in the province,” he says.
Although his graduate students and residents aren’t children, it’s obvious he’s just as proud of working with them as he is of helping pediatric patients.
Finding that balance between his passions and the diversity of scope of his work is what Babyn says he likes most about his job. As the head of medical imaging for the former Saskatoon Health Region, Babyn considered it a privilege that he was able to help set up the positron emission tomography–computed tomography (PET CT) program here. He also assisted with the set-up of the provincial PET CT program.
“Working within health care is fantastic,” says Babyn. “I get to work with individuals like Corey Miller (Vice President for Provincial Programs), as well as many others who challenge you and make you try and achieve more every day.”
The scope of the Provincial Programs portfolio covers a lot of ground across the province. The portfolio includes Diagnostic Imaging, Maternal and Children’s Programs, Laboratory Medicine, Pharmacy Services, Community Care and Tertiary Care.
“It’s definitely a wide variety of programs and trying to understand their challenges is a challenge in itself,” Babyn says. “But part of my job is to help those teams make improvements in their areas. It’s where our greatest challenges lie, but it’s also where our successes will be, too.”
While he admits that the transition to a single health authority has been daunting and overwhelming at times, Babyn feels the single system creates more opportunities to strengthen care.
“As I’ve travelled around the province, I’ve seen pockets of excellence, and if we can connect them together and replicate them in other areas by putting the right infrastructure in place, we can truly make health care within the province of Saskatchewan exceptional,” he says. “There’s great enthusiasm out there from individuals across the province who want to improve the system and now we have that opportunity.”
You would think that between his academic and SHA responsibilities that Babyn wouldn’t have time for much else. But he’s an avid tennis player. “Or at least I was until I started having some knee issues,” he says. “I like that I don’t have to worry about getting a team together for tennis. I can just go and play.”
Besides working on his forehand serve, Babyn enjoys walks and hikes with his dog, Indy. The mixed breed pup “adopted” Babyn and his family when he wandered onto their property in Ontario.
“We took him to the pound initially but no one claimed him, so we reclaimed him and he’s been with us for 12 years now.”
Babyn heads back to Toronto to visit every few months; his oldest son lives there. None of his four children followed him into medicine, he reports, but they are evenly split between creative and more academic-focused careers.
“One son is doing creative writing, one is doing statistics, one did his math degree and my daughter is a freelance photographer,” Babyn notes. “And they’re spread out across the country – Victoria, Montreal, Toronto and Halifax.”
When asked what he would eat if he could only eat one food for the rest of his life, Babyn, ever the academic, answered the question with a question.
“No consequences? Hamburgers,” he says. “But somehow I don’t think my wife is going to appreciate that answer.”