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Renowned Toronto surgeon debuts his premiere solo exhibit curated by his patient

WATCH ABOVE: When people are sick, they lean on doctors to help their physical pain. But for Dr. John L. Semple and one of his patients, the connection has blossomed through a shared love of artwork. Susan Hay has the story.

Dr. John Semple, head of the plastic surgery division, at Women’s College Hospital is known nationally and internationally as a surgical clinical leader in breast surgery and breast reconstruction.

Emilia Ianeva is a patient of Dr. Semple’s after she was diagnosed two years ago with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

“Within a span of four weeks, I was actually diagnosed with a second one,” said Ianeva, owner of Berenson Fine Art. “Semple was the final doctor that I met with, he takes you through these last and very important healing steps of the breast reconstruction surgery.”

Ianeva said she felt an immediate connection on many levels with her surgeon. But what made her most comfortable was their shared appreciation for art – which became the unexpected link.

“I saw the OCAD Diploma on the wall of his office and also his office was surrounded by his artwork,” said Ianeva. “So naturally our conversation shifted from oncology to art, and I believe the human link between a doctor and a patient.”

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Semple says that conversation led to an idea.

“Emilia brought this idea up that I should have a show because she had seen some of my art work and that’s where it all started,” said Semple.

On Nov. 1, Semple will debut his premiere solo exhibit, Portraits of Places: a collection of 24 watercolours curated by Ianeva.

“I know many people who have a hobby painting, but Dr. Semple he’s actually an accomplished artist,” said Ianeva.

“The interesting thing is I was a painter before I became a surgeon,” said Semple. “I find there are many overlaps of what I do in surgery and what I do in painting in terms of design and ideas and how you know your medium, how you actually approach a 3-D problem.”

“This exhibit is very close to my heart because it’s my connection with my surgeon, somebody that gave me back everything that cancer took away from me,” said Ianeva.

Portraits of Places will run between Nov. 1 an 22. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Women’s College Hospital Foundation.