National award honours innovator Frank Prato’s excellence in medical physics

Frank Prato receives Gold Medal for leadership and vision

Frank Prato is a man of many firsts:

First in Canada to conduct magnetic resonance brain imaging. A pioneer in magnetic resonance cardiac imaging. Driving force behind the installation of Canada’s first PET/MR scanner. Founder of the Canadian Organization of Medical Physicists (COMP) while president of the Canadian College of Medical Physicists.

Frank Prato
Frank Prato

And while Frank admits to a competitive streak that constantly propels him to break new ground in medical physics, the renowned, prolific researcher is keen to note these innovations have been part of a larger team effort.

“My career has been filled with opportunities to work with and train some spectacular scientists who have made major contributions across Canada and around the world,” he says. “I’m proud of the whole group that has developed over the years and the support St. Joseph’s has provided.”

Chief Medical Physicist at St. Joseph’s Health Care London (St. Joseph’s), Frank has been awarded the 2024 COMP Gold Medal, the organization’s highest award for outstanding career achievement.

“Dr. Prato’s ground-breaking work in the field of medical physics has not only advanced the scientific community but also significantly impacted patient care in Canada and beyond,” says COMP President Boyd McCurdy, “His pursuit of innovation and excellence exemplifies the highest standards of our profession, and we celebrate his outstanding contributions to medical physics with admiration and gratitude.”

Frank is also Assistant Scientific Director and Imaging Program Leader at Lawson Health Research Institute (Lawson) and professor of medical imaging and medical biophysics at Western University.

“I have worked with Frank for 36 years now and have come to recognize him as one of the finest people I know,” says Ting-Yim Lee, Director of PET/CT Research at Lawson, medical physicist at St. Joseph’s Hospital, and one of the nominators of Frank for the award.

“Frank is unfailingly helpful and authentic, a great listener and a tenacious problem-solver. He demonstrates excellence and professionalism in medical physics locally, nationally and internationally.”
-Ting-Yim Lee, Director of PET/CT Research at Lawson, medical physicist at St. Joseph's Hospital

Ting cites Frank’s leadership in being “at the forefront of numerous international innovations in nuclear medicine and diagnostic radiology.”

Throughout his 48 years as a medical physicist, Frank has been inspired by the potential of technology’s reach into human health.

“I’ve always wanted to work in an area where we can do research, with a vision of what’s going to be important in patient health. I get excited about being on the leading edge of discovery that’s embedded in patient care.”

Critical advancements in nuclear medicine and diagnostic radiology, thanks to the work of Frank and his St. Joseph’s/Lawson team, have included:

  • Introducing the first bone mineral density imaging procedure on a patient in Canada, a tool now essential for managing osteoporosis.
  • Performing the first magnetic resonance brain imaging in Canada, setting a national standard.
  • Pioneering magnetic resonance cardiac imaging techniques, enhancing the understanding of myocardial scarring and blood flow assessment.
  • Introducing the first PET/CT and PET/MR scanners in Canada, revolutionizing molecular imaging and proving the economic value of advanced imaging technologies.  
  • Imaging the brains of premature infants, a world first.
  • Developing Canada’s first self-sustaining cyclotron infrastructure.
  • Conducting the world’s first MRI-compatible, high-resolution brain PET scan.
  • Early diagnosis and treatment of dementia, mental illness and prostate cancer.  

Frank’s leadership extends beyond his technical achievements. As the founder of COMP, an organization that now includes more than 800 professionals, he played a crucial role in establishing the organization, advocating for medical physicists' independent voice and professional growth.

His tenure as President and board member of the Canadian College of Physicists in Medicine (CCPM) was marked by significant advancements, including enhancing certification processes and establishing reciprocity with the American Board of Medical Physics. Frank also received the Valuable Service Award from CCPM in 2002 and was named a Fellow of COMP in 2013.

Earlier this spring, Frank received a Dean’s Award of Excellence for Research Faculty from Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. He is also the sole Canadian to have won the d'Arsonval Award, an international honour from the Bioelectromagnetics Society.

A dedicated mentor, Frank has guided more than 60 Masters of Science students, PhD students and Post-Doctoral Fellows, many of whom have won awards and secured prominent positions in the field. His mentorship has been instrumental in the success of numerous scientists within the Imaging Program at Lawson, contributing to a legacy of innovation for years to come.

“At 78 years old,” says Frank, “I am pleased to say I have achieved things at St. Joseph’s that will far outlast me.” 


Back to all Stories