Dr. Conrad Fernandez is constantly taking off one hat to put on another. As the head of the Division of Hematology & Oncology at the IWK, he ‘wears many hats’ and has responsibilities in four broad categories.
As a pediatric oncologist, Fernandez provides clinical care to children with cancer in both inpatient and outpatient settings at the IWK. In addition, he has special training in bone marrow transplant and runs that clinic at the IWK with colleague Dr. Bruce Crooks.
“One of the great appeals in pediatric oncology is that we have the privilege and responsibility of looking after people who are in a very vulnerable part of their lives,” says Fernandez. “I also really like the long term aspect of care for pediatric cancer. You get to know your patients well over many years.”
Under his administrative hat, Fernandez heads the division at the IWK, chairs the division heads council, sits on the executive for the Department of Pediatrics, and is involved in more committees than you can count on two hands.
“As the leader of the division, I hope that I provide mentorship and guidance for our division members and our service,” Fernandez says. “That’s a really rewarding part of my role. Each of these team members provide a critical role in providing high level care to our pediatric hematology/oncology patients.”
The IWK is part of the international Children’s Oncology Group (COG) and Fernandez is the principle investigator for the institution which at any one time has between 60 and 70 clinical trials open. He chairs the Renal Tumours Steering Committee of the COG, is the lead for the ethics component of a $25 million project, PROFYLE, and is chair of the research committee and on the board of the regional Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute.
“I love the intellectual challenge of the research we do in terms of the questions that are being asked. They’re both interesting and challenging and I really hope make a difference in people’s lives,” says Fernandez.
When he’s not delivering care, leadership or doing research, Fernandez is teaching and sharing his skills with the next generation of clinicians. He teaches at the Dalhousie University’s medical school with pediatric residents and is involved with the division’s pediatric fellow program at the IWK.
“I love that the IWK is a relatively small institution. It’s big enough to do the majority of things that we need to do for our patients, but small enough that we know each other well and know each other across disciplines from the lab, through diagnostic imaging, through surgery,” says Fernandez. “It’s a unique place to work. It really supports that kind of interaction with many health care providers in the institution being friends, as well as colleagues. It’s a community of health care providers that come together for the benefit of children.”
Fernandez gives so much of himself to the IWK and to childhood cancer but he doesn’t claim to be able to do it without help. “I couldn’t do it without the support of my family, and particularly my wife, Suzanne Ramsey, a busy clinician-leader herself in the Division of Pediatric Rheumatology.”
February 15 is International Childhood Cancer Day (ICCD). ICCD is a global collaborative campaign to raise awareness about childhood cancer, and to express support for children and adolescents with cancer, the survivors and their families.