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angle-left Message from the Executive Director, RI-MUHC

Vassilios Papadopoulos, D.Pharm., PhD

Dear colleagues and friends of the Research Institute of the MUHC,

The last nine and a half years have been a very exciting period in my life. As such, only another unique challenge could tempt me to resign in the middle of my third four-year term as Executive Director and Chief Scientific Officer of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), as was announced today. 

Since my recruitment from Georgetown University, I have never questioned my move to wonderful Montreal, Canada, McGill University, and the MUHC. I hope to repeat this excellent experience when, on October 1, I take on my new role as Dean of the School of Pharmacy, John Stauffer Dean's Chair in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Professor of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, USA. 

Plans for my succession will be announced after the RI-MUHC's Board of Directors meets in August, and I know that the Board will ensure a smooth transition for our research community. 

If you'll indulge me in some reminiscing, one of my first tasks at the RI-MUHC was to improve the efficiency of its administration and services. Adjustments also had to be made so that the RI-MUHC would be in a better position to handle ongoing changes to the way research and funding were being managed at federal, provincial and industry levels. As you know, the RI-MUHC was created in 1989 by the merger of five hospital-based research institutes. However, it was not until 2010 that an integrated administrative structure and management system was achieved. In parallel, a Strategic Research Plan and an outline for the design and construction of new facilities were developed. Then, we had to meet the challenge of securing the funding for this multifaceted project, which I am proud to say we did based on the strength of our ideas as well as both the grants and donor community.

Last year saw the restructuring of our research programs and opening of new research facilities. It is deeply satisfying seeing our Strategic Research Plan bear fruit when I stand in my new laboratory, or at the Centre for Innovative Medicine, or in the Centre for Translational Biology technology platforms. Looking forward to February 2017, the new facilities for the Centre of Outcomes Research and Evaluation will open at 5252 de Maisonneuve Boulevard West. Moreover, the New Year will mark the launch of the new functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) facilities at the Montreal General Hospital of the MUHC (MGH) site, with funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Quebec government. Soon, I am confident that the RI-MUHC will also be able to renovate the remaining research infrastructure at the MGH successfully. 

It is my belief that a successful Montreal and Quebec translate into a successful research institute. For this reason, I got involved in promoting Montreal and Quebec through various local and government initiatives; participated in the management of several not-for-profit Quebec organizations; and accepted invitations from the Quebec government to participate in various missions around the world. At the same time, I participated in national and international organizations and initiatives promoting research and the healthcare sector in Canada, while addressing national and worldwide problems. I hope that this type of engagement will continue after I move on, as I remain convinced that it has benefited the RI-MUHC and research in general. 

Indeed, with its new facilities, reorganized structure, tenure-track agreement with McGill, and highest research grants and contracts funding ever, the RI-MUHC is on track to dominate the Canadian research landscape for years to come. I thus believe that my goals here have been fulfilled and it is time for me to shift my attention to another institution and respond to new challenges. 

Of course, resolving the complex issues that emerged over the last five years was possible because of the support and expertise of many groups and individuals that I would like to acknowledge: the Chairman of the Board with whom I have had the privilege to serve, Mr. Raymond Royer, and our Board members; Mr. Normand Rinfret, the President and Executive Director of the MUHC, who has provided continuous support since my recruitment, and my colleagues on the MUHC Management Committee; Dr. David Eidelman, Vice-Principal of Health Affairs and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University; Dr. Rose Goldstein, Vice Principal of Research and Innovation at McGill University; the current and past members of the RI-MUHC's Management Committee and Research Council, who encouraged and supported me in accomplishing our vision; our faculty, trainees and staff, who entrusted me in leading them through the difficult times of reorganization and redevelopment; my close collaborators in the RI-MUHC's administration, who helped frame our vision and ensured the day-to-day operations, delivering the highest possible standards of services to our community, funders, and partners; and last but not least, the provincial and federal governments and our hospital foundations, which have been excellent partners in building the RI-MUHC of today and of the future. 

In closing, allow me to cast an eye on that very future. As the RI-MUHC is a hospital-based research institute, one has to account for the four major changes/challenges in biomedical research: (i) the transformation of descriptive sciences to information sciences; (ii) the integration of biology, population and social sciences; (iii) the reality that the distance between a nucleotide and an organism has decreased dramatically; and (iv) that diseases are dynamic and not static. These four major changes should serve as guides in organizing the next vision of the RI-MUHC, to be achieved in today's challenging and ever-changing ecosystem where economic impact intertwines with discovery and practices. 

To each member of this research community, a heartfelt thank you. The opportunity to lead the RI-MUHC has been a privilege that I will cherish forever.  

—August 2, 2016