Internationally recognized scientist, Dr. Martin Yaffe, has devoted his career to finding ways to help women with breast cancer. The diagnostic techniques he continues to pioneer save thousands of lives around the world every year.
Dr. Yaffe grew up in the North End of Winnipeg, the eldest of three sons in a family with Eastern European roots. His parents taught their boys that education was the pathway to a successful life. Inspired by an uncle who was a nuclear chemist, young Martin pursued a career in science.
He began his studies at the University of Manitoba, completing a bachelor of science in 1971 and master of science two years later. Dr. Yaffe recalls listening intently to a visiting scientist from the University of Toronto, who spoke passionately about the great contributions physicists could make to medicine. He immediately shifted his focus to medical physics - a decision that eventually led to him becoming a Ph.D. student in the lab of that same inspiring scientist.
Dr. Yaffe earned his Ph.D. in medical biophysics in 1978, and in the 40 years since, the University of Toronto remained his homebase for groundbreaking research in breast cancer management. Today he is a professor in the department of medical biophysics and the Tory Family Chair in Cancer Research at Sunnybrook Institute.
He is driven to transform laboratory findings into practical advances in everyday care. Best known as a pioneer in the development of digital mammography, he has helped to substantially improve the accuracy of breast cancer imaging. He was one of the first scientists to recognize the potential of emerging technologies in digital electronics and computers, and then motivate industry leaders to bring his concepts to commercial fruition. Today, digital mammograms are widely accepted as the modern standard of care throughout the world.
Dr. Yaffe is now researching ways to improve and expand the use of the technologies he has developed. With his colleague Dr. Norman Boyd, he is exploring computer-generated mammographic signatures associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. A startup company he co-founded is developing software that will allow these findings to be used cost-effectively in the field.
Dr. Yaffe’s achievements have earned him many distinguished awards, among them the Sylvia Fedoruk Prize, the Greenfield Award and a fellowship from the American Association of Physicists in Medicine. For his tireless advocacy of improved breast screening for younger women, he was recently honoured with the Cause Leadership Award of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. He was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2015.
The University of Manitoba is proud to award a Doctor of Science, honoris causa, to Dr. Martin Joel Yaffe, an outstanding role model for the Canadian scientific community.
Martin Joel Yaffe