USask graduate Dr. Carl Zylak’s (MD’62) has established a bursary to support medical students. (Photo: Submitted)

College of Medicine alumnus finds joy in giving back

Dr. Carl Zylak’s (MD’62) accomplished career in radiology began at the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan (USask). Now, on top of numerous other professional achievements, he's looking forward to helping other students on their journey through the Dr. Carl J Zylak Bursary. 

“A bursary would have been a great help to me at the time. When I was attending university, the faculty was fairly new and we didn’t have awards like this. Or at least, there was nobody telling students how to apply for them,” he said. “It was important to me that this be awarded as a bursary because I wanted to be able to make university an option for anyone in need.” 

Zylak completed his residency at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, then practiced in Winnipeg for a decade before accepting a position as chair of the Department of Radiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He later returned to Detroit as chair of radiology at the Henry Ford Health System. Zylak was very active with the Canadian Association of Radiologists, the Society of Thoracic Radiology and the Radiological Society of North America, having served as president of all three.

In his decades-long career, Zylak has seen the field of radiology change in countless ways. He remembers the paradigm shift of interventional techniques that made procedures much less invasive for patients and significantly more helpful as diagnostic tools. The steady development of new techniques and technology meant the field always stayed interesting, too. 

“There are almost too many advancements to mention. The introduction of interventional radiology changed everything we were doing. And it kept changing throughout my career with CT tools, PET, ultrasound,” he recalls. “Our son Christopher also practices radiology, and the tools and techniques available to him as an interventional and neurointerventional radiologist are incredible. I feel very fortunate that I was able to see all those developments as they came along. I got into the field at the right time.”

As a radiologist, Zylak was “the doctors’ doctor,” using his skills to uncover vital information and help his colleagues help their patients in turn. As Zylak’s career progressed, he also looked for opportunities to help new colleagues develop their skills and find their own trajectory, but Zylak is careful not to overstate his influence. 

“There were a number of people I looked up to and learned from, who I think of as mentors,” he said. “They were so helpful to me. As I got further into my career, I tried to offer that same kind of help to others. I would be very happy if some of them saw me as a mentor. Sharing knowledge with medical students and residents was a very rewarding part of my work.”

After sharing countless lessons with colleagues over the years, Zylak has settled on one piece of advice more important than any other.

“Give back,” he proclaimed. “There are lots of ways to give back, whether it’s financially, through mentorship, or being involved in your community. Give back and be grateful for what’s been given to you.” 

To learn more about the Dr. Carl J. Zylak Bursary and how to establish a bursary to support students, contact Advancement at the College of Medicine.