Joseph and Mildred Sonshine Family Centre for Head and Neck Diseases

How It Started

Due to a generous donation from the Joseph and Mildred Sonshine Family in September 2005, Mount Sinai Hospital was able to celebrate the opening of a Centre for Head and Neck Diseases in December 2008.

The Centre is a state-of-the-art facility for the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer. It has allowed Mount Sinai Hospital to maintain its leadership in the medical and surgical treatment of thyroid cancer, both in our community and worldwide. Under the direct supervision of Dr. Paul Walfish and Dr. Jeremy Freeman, the centre continues to remain at the forefront of research and is able to apply the latest advances in diagnosis and treatment for its patients.

Alex & Simona Shnaider Research Laboratory in Thyroid/Molecular Oncology

In 2009, a generous donation from Alex and Simona Shnaider assisted in establishing a Chair in Thyroid Oncology for Dr. Paul Walfish and a research laboratory in molecular oncology. Within the Alex & Simona Shnaider Research Laboratory in Molecular Oncology, a number of research projects are ongoing related to the study of thyroid oncology and more recently has also been extended to study other epithelial cell cancers, to include breast, lung, colon, liver, prostate, and head & neck cancers. Several publications have appeared in BMC Cancer, the Public Library of Science One, and the Journal of Proteome Research on our most recent observations. Additionally, a research associate/co-director Ranju Ralhan, PhD, has been recruited to this program as well as several Masters Degree students and lab technicians. They have been focusing their efforts towards discovering molecular biomarkers which can distinguish between aggressive and non-aggressive subtypes of epithelial cancers.

Each year the DaVinci Gala is held to offset some of the operational costs of patient care and research associated with the centre’s efforts. The Gala is a single evening of dinner and dancing in the spring, dedicated solely to raising funds for the Centre for Head and Neck Diseases. It is the support of our attendees and sponsors during this special event that make the centre such a resounding success!

Dr. Paul Walfish

Dr. Paul Walfish is a Senior Consultant to the Head & Neck Oncology Programme and Endocrine Division at Mt. Sinai Hospital. He is head of the Da Vinci Gala.

Paul G. Walfish, C.M., O.Ont., M.D., FRCP(C), FACP, FRSM(Engl), FCAHS is Professor Emeritus of the Departments of Medicine, Paediatrics, Otolaryngology, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at the University of Toronto, a past Senior Scientist at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital and a past Director of the Mt. Sinai Hospital Endocrine Division. He is currently a Senior Consultant to the Head & Neck Oncology Programme and Endocrine Division at Mt. Sinai Hospital.

He was appointed to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honour Medical Society in 1957 and received his M.D. degree (Magna Cum Laude) from The University of Toronto in 1958. He subsequently did Post Graduate Training Internal Medicine with a subspeciality interest in Endocrinology and obtained an F.R.C.P.(C.) degree in 1963. He then received an R. Samuel McLaughlin Travelling Fellowship to the Thyroid Unit of the Massachusetts General Hospital from 1963-1964. Subsequently, he was appointed a Scholar, Medical Research Council of Canada (1964-1969).

Since 1964, he has been an Academic Full-Time Physician-Scientist in the Department of Medicine, University of Toronto at Mount Sinai Hospital and has directed the Thyroid Research Lab/Gene Expression Laboratory as a Senior Scientist within the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital. Dr. Walfish has also served as the Director of Endocrine Division within the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto from 1971 to 1989 and was promoted to the rank of Full-Professor of Medicine in 1982 and Honorary Full-Professor of Paediatrics in 1983, Otolaryngology in 1996 and Pathology & Laboratory Medicine in 2007.

His research laboratory has made numerous contributions to the study of thyroid disease which have led to the improved management of several thyroid disorders at both a national and international level (over 250 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapter publications) to include the early detection and treatment of congenital hypothyroidism in newborn infants and the prevention of its mental retardation sequelae, the application of ultrasound and needle aspiration biopsy in the detection and management of thyroid nodules with cancer, the detection of post-partum thyroiditis and its thyroid dysfunctional consequences. He continues to perform both clinical and basic science research to improve our understanding of many aspects of thyroid physiology and pathology. Since 1988, he has performed studies on the molecular mechanisms of gene activation of thyroid hormone, which have been published in prestigious peer-reviewed journals. He has also continued clinical and basic science studies applied to the management of thyroid cancer.

In 1983, he received an Award of Merit from the City of Toronto for his contributions in establishing newborn screening for congenital hypothyroidism in Metropolitan Toronto and the province of Ontario. Dr. Walfish has been honoured by election to Fellowship in The Royal Society of Medicine of England, Endocrinology Section in 1986, appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 1990, and awarded the 125th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation Commemorative Medal in 1992. In 1995, he received an Ambassador Award from The Metropolitan Toronto Convention and Visitors Association and a special citation from the American Thyroid Association for his activities as Chairman of the Local Organizing Committee for the 11th International Thyroid Congress held September 1995 in Toronto, Canada. In 1998, he was selected as the first recipient of the Council Award from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Toronto honouring his contributions in thyroidology, which have had a significant impact on healthcare delivery in Ontario and worldwide. He also received a 2001 Jonas Salk Prize co-sponsored by the Ontario March of Dimes and Aventis-Pasteur for the elimination of newborn cretinism in Ontario and throughout the world as well as a 50th Anniversary Jubilee Medal on the Reign of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002. For outstanding contributions in clinical thyroidology, he was honoured in 2004 as the first Canadian to receive the Paul Starr Award from the American Thyroid Association. In 2007, he was awarded the Canadian Medical Association Medal of Service and the American Thyroid Association Sidney H. Ingbar Distinguished Lectureship Award. In 2008, he was honoured by an appointment to the Order of Ontario.

In 2009 Dr. Walfish was honoured with a third award from the American Thyroid Association by receiving the John B. Stanbury Medal in Thyroid Pathophysiology for his research contributions which has impacted on patient care and he was elected to Fellowship in the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences for outstanding career contributions to the advancement of health care in Canada and abroad. In 2012, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contributions in Thyroidology (see presentation picture above with Peter Mansbridge).

In 2016 Dr. Walfish was recognized by the prestigious Living History Project at the University of Toronto for his work in the advancement of thyroid cancer research and patient care and for leading the way for congenital hypothyroidism screening.

Dr. Ian Witterick

Dr. Witterick is Professor and Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at the University of Toronto

Dr. Ian J. Witterick, MD, MSc, FRCSC, graduated from medical school at Western University cum laude followed by internship at St. Michael’s Hospital. He completed the otolaryngology-head & neck surgery residency training program at the University of Toronto followed by fellowships in head & neck oncology and rhinology and an MSc in Clinical Epidemiology. His current clinical appointments are at Mount Sinai Hospital, the University Health Network, and Saint Joseph’s Health Centre, Toronto. His current research interests include head and neck oncology, rhinology, and skull base surgery. He is actively involved in research supervision of medical graduate students and holds a faculty appointment with the School of Graduate Studies, Institute for Medical Sciences, University of Toronto.

Dr. Witterick is Professor and Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at the University of Toronto since July 1, 2012. Previous positions held in the Department include Vice-Chair, Director of Postgraduate Education and Director of Continuing Education. Dr. Witterick serves on numerous committees at the University of Toronto including Chair of the Education Committee for the Faculty of Medicine. At the Royal College, he serves on the Accreditation Committee and recently finished a five year term as Co-Chair of the examination board in otolaryngology-head & neck surgery.

Dr. Witterick is a highly regarded teacher, having received numerous teaching awards including the Postgraduate Medical Education Program Development and Innovation Award and the Charles Mickle Fellowship Award. He received the Teacher of the Year Award and Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, and the Colin R. Woolf Award for Long-Term Contribution in Continuing Education, University of Toronto. He has supervised over twenty clinical and/or research fellows and has organized more than forty continuing education courses or conferences nationally and internationally. He is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery and the American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy. He is a frequently invited speaker nationally and internationally and has published widely in the fields of head & neck oncology, rhinology, and skull base surgery.

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DaVinci Gala Committee

  • Shellianne Bedder - Chair
  • Dr. Paul Walfish - Co-Chair
  • Paul Manna - Co-Chair
  • Phil Campione - Co-Chair
  • Amanda Burcul
  • Melissa Campisi
  • Sam Ciccolini
  • Blayne Creed
  • Enrico De Pasquale
  • Mendel M. Green
  • Warren Green
  • Michelle Holland
  • Daisy Maher
  • Julia Maher
  • Enza Mancinelli
  • Joseph Mancinelli
  • Brain Maniz
  • Anthony Primerano
  • Elio Radacchio
  • Andrew Salomon
  • Jeffrey Silver