Intended for healthcare professionals


John Violet: radiation oncologist and physician scientist who pioneered targeted radionuclide therapy for prostate cancer

BMJ 2020; 371 doi: (Published 11 December 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4803
  1. Gavin Yamey, professor of global health and public policy
  1. Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA
  1. gavin.yamey{at}
Photo credit: Imogen Violet

In every hospital—every lucky one, that is—there is a doctor who has a reputation for staying late to talk with patients, giving them as much information and time as they need to absorb and understand their diagnosis and treatment options. At the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia, the radiation oncologist John Violet was that doctor. Violet was known as much for his empathy as his tireless quest to develop a new generation of tailored cancer treatments and his profound respect for the autonomy of patients he recruited into trials.

There was also more than a whiff of the Renaissance man about him. An acclaimed photographer with a love of cityscapes, he came to work dressed in purple three piece suits, with a fountain pen and leather briefcase, carrying off what one of his colleagues called a “slightly bonkers magician fashion look” with aplomb. He was an avid traveller, a connoisseur of food, wine, interior design, and 1980s rock music, and a devoted father who was at his happiest when singing along to Queen to the delight of his two young daughters.

Violet was just three years old when his father—a beloved …

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