- Not to be confused with John Dirks (cartoonist).
Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he studied medicine at the University of Manitoba and received a fellowship in medicine from the Royal College of Physicians in 1963. From 1963 to 1965, Dirks trained in nephrology research at the National Institutes of Health. He then became the head of the nephrology division at the Royal Victoria Hospital. In 1976, Dirks became head of the Department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia and, in 1987, Dean of Medicine at the University of Toronto. From 1994 to 1996, he was Dean-Rector at the Aga Khan University in Pakistan. in 1993, he became president and scientific director at the Gairdner Foundation and also serves as chair of the Medical Advisory Board and of the Canada Gairdner Wightman Committee for the foundation.
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