Whenever it meets with physicians in their environment, the QMA has observed that many of its members are committed to improving care and services on a daily basis. Great initiatives are taking shape everywhere. Some of them should even be implemented or adapted elsewhere, but for this to happen, we need to know that they exist!
If you have set up a project that deserves more visibility or if you know of members colleagues who have done so, feel free to contact QMA. We would be pleased to showcase your achievements.
Mathieu Nadeau-Vallée: leadership in research
Third-year medical student and member of the QMA, Mathieu Nadeau-Vallée recently won a Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Award. Since 2015, the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame has acknowledged second-year medical students who have demonstrated community leadership, strong communication skills, and an interest in advancing knowledge. Each university can nominate one candidate.
“The award was mostly for my research work,” said Mr. Nadeau-Vallée. During his Ph.D. in pharmacology, under the supervision of Dr. Sylvain Chemtob, neonatologist, pharmacologist and researcher at CHU Sainte-Justine, Mr. Nadeau-Vallée conducted research on reducing the risks of premature birth.
Currently, about 10% of babies worldwide are born premature. Because we still don’t know how to prevent it, prematurity is the leading cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality. “For now, all we have to go on is the patient’s history of preterm labour or the length of the cervix measured on ultrasound at certain points in the pregnancy. At best, we’re able to detect 10% of the actual population at risk, which is not nearly enough,” said Mr. Nadeau-Vallée.
Reducing uterine inflammation to prevent premature births
When Mr. Nadeau-Vallée met Dr. Chemtob, the latter was working on anti-inflammatories as a way to reduce the number of premature births. Mr. Nadeau-Vallée expressed his interest in working with Dr. Chemtob, who told him about a molecule he and his colleagues had developed for testing on mice. This therapeutic agent is a tiny molecule, much smaller than those developed to date to target interleukin-1, a messenger closely linked to inflammation of the tissues in the uterus. “It was believed that inflammation played a conclusive role in preterm labour,” explained Mr. Nadeau-Vallée, “and, in fact, when we administered it to mice that showed signs of giving birth prematurely, they actually gave birth at term to healthy young.”
A first! Up to this point, by targeting interleukin-1, researchers were interfering with the fetus’s basic defence mechanisms, causing harmful side effects in both the fetus and the mother. Conversely, the molecule co-developed by Dr. Chemtob has a beneficial effect on both prematurity and fetal health. With his colleague and fellow medical student Alexandra Beaudry‑Richard, Mr. Nadeau-Vallée just published a new article in Nature Scientific Reports, in which he shares his latest work. “We administered the molecule to mice showing signs of giving birth prematurely, but this time focused on retinal development in the young, because we know that premature babies are at risk of blindness due to retinopathy of prematurity.” Once again, the results are conclusive, and the molecule is capable of reversing the inflammation in mice and of producing very good results in terms of retinopathy.
Combining clinical practice with fundamental research
Just like his mentor, Mr. Nadeau-Vallée wants to become a clinician-researcher, which is why he enrolled in medical school at the same time as his Ph.D. in pharmacology. In his opinion, having a background in fundamental research and a career as a clinician is the ideal scenario for “generating clinical hypotheses and then being able to test them in the lab.”
He already has experience teaching applied fundamental science courses at Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Medicine. “It’s important to give this type of course to people who are interested in medicine,” he explained. In fact, he often sees students in his program spending summers working in labs. He also doesn’t hesitate to approach Dr. Chemtob with his ideas. “I reached out to him as a researcher, but I ended up meeting a potential mentor with whom I really enjoyed having scientific discussions,” he said.
Mr. Nadeau-Vallée is considering the possibility of doing a residency in Internal Medicine. “I’m very curious by nature. I like to get to the bottom of things, and I think the diagnostic aspect in Internal Medicine is very interesting.” In the meantime, he’s working on his thesis and pursuing his medical studies.
Students Olivia Monton from McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine, Dax Bourcier from Université de Sherbrooke’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Science, and Mathieu Allard from Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine were also 2018 recipients of a Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Award.
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