The History Corner: Derek Harwood

Derek Harwood was a South African radiologist, settled in Canada (1936-1996). He was a pioneer in the field of Paediatric Neuroradiology and established it as a sub-discipline. He was Founding President of the World Federation of Neuroradiological Sciences.

Born in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia, Harwood first studied in his home town and earned his medical degree at the University of Cape Town in 1960. After his internship at Groote Schuur Hospital, he started a fellowship in neurosurgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada. In 1964, he finally settled on radiology, completing his residency in 1967. 

He was chief of pediatric neuroradiology at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto from 1968 to 1978 and Chairman of that institution from 1978 to 1988. His contribution to the field of pediatric neuroradiology for more than 30 years enabled the international recognition and acceptance of this discipline. In 1976, he and his colleague Charles Fitz published a three-volume textbook, Neuroradiology in Infants and Children, which became an essential source of reference. He authored seven textbooks and more than 200 articles. The distinctive feature of his work was his ability to adapt various technologies and techniques to the pediatric population, documenting his adaptations clearly and analyzing its importance when treating a patient. He changed pediatric neuroradiology from being a dark science based on arteriography and pneumoencephalography to the present specialty based on modern imaging techniques.

Harwood created a prestigious residency program at the Hospital for Sick Children, which included a one-year fellowship in pediatric neuroradiology. Being accepted as a fellow at Dr. Harwood Nash´s Department was a great honor. He founded the World Federation of Neuroradiological Sciences and was its first president (1994-1998), being also involved in the creation of the Pan African Neuroradiological Society.

Some of his main achievements and distinctions were: President of the American Society of Neuroradiology (1986), Chairman of the Executive Committee of the American Society of Paediatric Radiology (1986-1987), Honorary Fellow of the College of Radiology of the College of Medicine of South Africa (1991). Extraordinary lecturer, he gave more than 300 lectures around the world.

He was very fond of his native country. For 25 years, he returned to it along with his family whenever possible, cooperating with the University of Cape Town´s scientific activities and even bearing the travel costs himself.

Harwood was a man full of enthusiasm and energy with extraordinary leadership skills. He was cultured and very human, and had a great sense of humor.

He really cared about his people. He used to call his friends and old fellows regularly to learn about their lives and professional activities.

He was really keen on water activities, such as swimming and fishing. He used to go fishing on his big motorboat on Bays Lake, North Toronto.

Reviewed by Doctor Luis Humberto Ros