Dr. John Dirks is President and Scientific Director of the Gairdner Foundation, Senior Fellow of Massey College and Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of Toronto. He received his B.Sc. (Med) and MD from the University of Manitoba in 1957, a Fellowship in Medicine in 1963 from the Royal College of Physicians and is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Canada (1982).
He trained in nephrology research at the National Institutes of Health from 1963 to1965, was a Medical Research Council Canada grantee from 1965 to1987 for his work in renal pathophysiology and has published 155 peer-reviewed papers. He trained numerous postdoctoral fellows many of whom subsequently went on to become academic leaders across Canada. He has held a number of major Professorships at McGill University, UBC, and the University of Toronto, and has held major academic administrative positions as Director of Nephrology at McGill (1965-1976), Head Department of Medicine at UBC (1976- 1987), Dean of Medicine University of Toronto (1987-1 991) and Dean- Rector of Aga Khan University in Pakistan (1994-1 996). He Chaired the International Society of Nephrology Commission for the Global Advancement of Nephrology (COMGAN) from 1994 to 2005. A major educational-clinical outreach program in over 100 countries, ISN COMGAN sponsors 50 - 55 postgraduate programs each year, attended by over 15,000 physicians worldwide.
Since 1993, Dr. Dirks has been President of the Gairdner Foundation in Toronto, which awards major international prizes in biomedicine. He expanded the two tier prize selection advisory committee to become a more national and international committee populating it with the world's top flight scientists. During the last 15 years, the Gairdner Awards have received increasing international recognition and today is one of the top three prizes in the world for medical research. He greatly expanded the National Program, whereby Gairdner Award winners visit Canadian Universities and he initiated the High School Lectures in 1999 to ensure greater interaction of the world's most creative scientists with Canadian colleagues and students. He transformed the Gairdner Foundation Board into a high profile public board. His effort to brand Canada's commitment to scientific excellence was supported by the Government of Canada in 2008 with a 20 million dollar contribution to the Foundation's endowment. Next year, the first international prize in global health will be launched by the Foundation.
In 2005 Dr. Dirks was awarded the NFK International Medal by the National Kidney Foundation (USA) and the Roscoe Robinson Award by the International Society of Nephrology for his contribution to nephrology education. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2006 and was made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science in 2008.
-citation delivered by mentor, Dr. Henry Friesen, Faculty of Medicine, Univeristy of Manitoba