null Making a positive impact on career development at the RI-MUHC

The Desjardins Centre for Advanced Training shares recent successes in its new annual report


Scientific research is an excellent training ground for many career options, but it is not always easy to find the right path. For trainees at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), the Desjardins Centre for Advanced Training (DCAT) ensures that support is always available. The centre’s new annual report details its progress and successes.

Since 2017, DCAT has offered professional skills training along with career development and networking opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Its mission is to help students develop broad skillsets and help prepare them for a wide variety of career options.

The Desjardins Centre for Advanced Training (DCAT) held a Clinical and Regulatory Affairs Experience Program alumni mixer event in June 2023.
The Desjardins Centre for Advanced Training (DCAT) held a Clinical and Regulatory Affairs Experience Program alumni mixer event in June 2023.

“With more than 1,600 research trainees, the RI-MUHC is truly a research powerhouse,” says Dr. Rhian Touyz, Executive Director and Chief Scientific Officer at the RI-MUHC. “Our trainees are a key element of our scientific productivity and innovation, and we are honoured to play a role in preparing them to be the future generation of researchers and innovators.”

DCAT is clearly making a measureable impact at the RI-MUHC. In 2022 hundreds of participants engaged with DCAT in a variety of ways, attending events, seeking career support or participating in a training program. DCAT hosted more than 50 events during the year, including workshops and seminars focused on career exploration, including careers in clinical and regulatory affairs.

“These events are designed to create space for trainees to reflect on their future goals and to take concrete steps in learning about career paths,” says Miguel Burnier, MD, PhD, the Director of DCAT and a senior scientist in the Cancer Research Program at the RI-MUHC.

Another key pillar of the support offered to trainees at the RI-MUHC is one-on-one career advising. In 2022, 95 trainees benefitted from these individual sessions led by Emily Bell, PhD, associate director of DCAT. As a career educator and professional member of the Graduate and Postdoctoral Development Network and Graduate Career Consortium, Emily Bell provides valuable personalized information and directs trainees towards specific resources, including programs and training. These directed sessions can serve as a catalyst to help move graduate students and postdocs forward with their career development goals.

Expanding specialized training programs

The Clinical and Regulatory Affairs (C&RA) Experience Training Program is another major aspect of DCAT’s work at the RI-MUHC. The program stems from a first-of-its-kind training partnership with the Centre for Innovative Medicine (CIM). More than 50 trainees across Canada have completed this innovative program over the last four years. The C&RA Experience training program involves theoretical learning and a practical externship in the clinical trials environment, where participants learn the fundamental theory and practices involved in clinical trials, network with working clinical research professionals, and round out their skills to prepare them for careers in clinical, regulatory or medical affairs. Program graduates have moved on to diverse professional careers with Medpace, Congruence Therapeutics, ICON, Bioventus, the Princess Margaret Hospital, RI-MUHC, Montreal InVivo, Lundbeck, and many other organizations.

As part of its ongoing mission to enhance training, in 2022 DCAT contributed to two major funding applications for specialized training programs with national and local McGill audiences. Both applications were successful.

The first program, CANTRAIN, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), is a Clinical Trial Training Platform to better prepare the current and future workforce of Canada in clinical trials. CANTRAIN, with continued partnership from DCAT, will transform and expand the Clinical and Regulatory Affairs Experience Training Program into a national training platform for graduate students seeking to expand their career options.

The second program, known as Tremplin, is a multicentre collaboration that will improve the career readiness of over 1,600 research trainees, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at four McGill-affiliated health research centres: the RI-MUHC (lead); the Lady Davis Institute; The Douglas Research Centre; and the Centre de Recherche de Biologie Structurale. This McGill consortium, funded by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS), will provide trainees with opportunities for career conversations, increased career exposure, and relevant career transition skills, all of which are essential for students to develop their own individual career plans. At the RI-MUHC, DCAT will lead the development of activities in the area of precision health careers and professional development.

“There are so many talented trainees at the RI-MUHC, and we know that their time with us can be transformational for their future careers,” says Emily Bell. “I am proud of the role that DCAT is playing to guide them and facilitate their future success.”

The DCAT team at the RI-MUHC includes Miguel Burnier (director), Emily Bell (associate director), Ariel DeRoo (DCAT coordinator), Christina Farant (CANTRAIN National Stream coordinator), and Amelie Bourdiec (project manager, TREMPLIN).

October 10, 2023

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