RI-MUHC Annual Report

RI-MUHC ANNUAL REPORT 2022

FOCUS ON OUR TRAINEES

What is our new generation of researchers achieving today?
 

Over 1,400 research trainees play a vital role in advancing biomedical research at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC). These highlights celebrate only a few of the bright minds at work over the past year!

RI-MUHC trainees (L to R), top row: Tho-Alfakar Al-Aubodah, Yasmine Benslamine, Prisca Bustamante and Charbel El-Kefraoui; bottom row: Karina Gasbarrino, Dominique Geoffrion, Wilian Macedo and Anne-Julie Tessier
RI-MUHC trainees (L to R), top row: Tho-Alfakar Al-Aubodah, Yasmine Benslamine, Prisca Bustamante and Charbel El-Kefraoui; bottom row: Karina Gasbarrino, Dominique Geoffrion, Wilian Macedo and Anne-Julie Tessier
 

PRESTIGIOUS AWARDS AND PUBLICATIONS

Chronic kidney disease in children

Tho-Alfakar Al-Aubodah
Received second-place award for his abstract on idiopathic nephrotic syndrome at the 2021 Canadian Society of Nephrology Virtual AGM Meeting. By pinning down the culprit immune cells that cause the disease, this work will help tailor treatment and reduce the side effects of currently used immune-suppressive drugs in affected children.

Estrogen and colon cancer

Yasmine Benslamine
Received the Doren J. Putrah Cancer Research Foundation Scholar-in-Training Award from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) to present her work at the AACR Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA, in 2022. Her M.Sc. project investigates how the female hormone estrogen influences the spread of colon cancer to the liver.

World's first non-invasive blood screening test for uveal melanoma

Prisca Bustamante
Received the 2021 Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation—PhD for developing the world's first non-invasive blood screening test for uveal melanoma, the most common eye cancer found in adults. Her novel liquid biopsy test, developed under the supervision of Julia Burnier, PhD, is in use in a clinical study at the McGill Academic Eye Centre and is expected to have global impact.

Opioids at home after surgery

Charbel El-Kefraoui
Co-first author of study published in The Lancet, finding more harms than benefits to the prescription of opioids upon discharge after surgery. Most recent McGill University awards for his M.Sc. work:

  • Best Abstract Presentation – 2022 McGill Department of Medicine High Value Healthcare Symposium
  • Best Poster Presentation – McGill Pain Day 2022

Women disproportionately affected by stroke

Karina Gasbarrino
First author of study on “Importance of sex and gender in ischemic stroke and carotid atherosclerotic disease,” European Heart Journal, and recipient of multiple awards in 2022:

  • European Atherosclerosis Society Young Investigator Fellowship to present her research at the 90th EAS Congress (Milan, Italy)
  • Mitacs Social Entrepreneur Award
  • McGill MedStar Award
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Postdoctoral Fellowship

Glaucoma: potential biomarkers and treatment pathways

Dominique Geoffrion
February 2022 winner of the Relève étoile Jacques-Genest award from the Fonds de recherche du Québec–Santé (FRQS). Published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, her winning publication describes the first study in humans to investigate the association of glaucoma after KPro surgery and inflammatory molecules in tears. In 2021 she won a McGill MedStar award for this work, as well as international recognition from ophthalmological societies:

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
  • European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons
  • Asia-Pacific Association of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons
  • Canadian Ophthalmological Society
  • Vision Health Research Network

Antiretroviral therapy and TB

Wilian Macedo
Co-first author of a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, showing that alveolar macrophages, which are cells important for protection from tuberculosis (TB) infection, are adversely impacted by antiretroviral therapy.

Muscle mass and cognitive decline

Anne-Julie Tessier
First author of a study published in JAMA Network Open that shows faster decline in cognitive executive function in older adults with low muscle mass, and winner of major awards for her doctoral work:

  • Canadian Nutrition Society PhD Dissertation Award for Outstanding Research 2022
  • Governor's General Gold Medal 2021-2022 and Gordon A. Maclachlan Prize 2021-2022, McGill University
     

DISTINGUISHED SCHOLARSHIPS

Vanier scholars Anish Arora and Motahareh Vameghestahbanati (top left), Arna Ghosh and Joan Miguel Romero (bottom left); Margaret R. Becklake fellow Ben Geboe (right)
Vanier scholars Anish Arora and Motahareh Vameghestahbanati (top left), Arna Ghosh and Joan Miguel Romero (bottom left); Margaret R. Becklake fellow Ben Geboe (right)

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships, CIHR

Anish Arora, Arna Ghosh and Motahareh Vameghestahbanati (2021); Joan Miguel Romero (2022)
Earned Canada’s most prestigious graduate award at the doctoral level for the following projects:

  • Anish Arora – A new model of care delivery for migrant people living with HIV in Montreal
  • Arna Ghosh – A biologically plausible deep learning framework to model self-supervised learning in the visual cortex
  • Motahareh Vameghestahbanati – Investigating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and dysanapsis
  • Joan Miguel Romero – Using bioinformatic approaches to understand how T cell-inflammation occurs in pancreatic cancer. Romero also received a Novartis Oncology Young Canadian Investigator Award.

Margaret R. Becklake Fellowship in Respiratory Research

Ben Geboe, tiospaye wakankdiduta
Received in 2021 from the Montreal Chest Institute Foundation for postdoctoral work on a culturally safe framework for TB prevention and care for urban Indigenous populations in Montreal.
 

FOSTERING COMMUNITY AND PROFESSIONAL SKILLS

Student members of the BRaIN Program’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Committee
Student members of the BRaIN Program’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Committee

Building an equitable, diverse and inclusive research environment

Annabel Wing-Yan Fan (Chair), Christina Chou, Amanda McFarlan, Airi Watanabe and Xingqi (Raffles) Zhu
In addition to demonstrating research excellence, students in the Brain Repair and Integrative Neuroscience (BRaIN) Program are working hard to create a more equitable, diverse and inclusive research environment. They took the initiative to form an Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Committee, which hosts workshops and speakers to educate the community, builds a mentorship program and provides research opportunities for Black undergraduate summer students.

Postdoctoral Survey

Ruben Lopez Salazar, Justin Miron and Shradha Wali
An initiative of three postdoctoral fellow representatives on the RI-MUHC Trainee Council, the Postdoctoral Survey gathered important insight into the experience of postdocs at this institute. The RI-MUHC is home to 278 postdocs, a group of early career researchers who are key contributors to science and innovation. The survey results will guide the development of new initiatives at the RI-MUHC, including a postdoctoral network in 2022.

Postdoctoral fellows Justin Miron, PhD, Ruben Lopez Salazar, PhD, and Shradha Wali, PhD (L to R)
Postdoctoral fellows Justin Miron, PhD, Ruben Lopez Salazar, PhD, and Shradha Wali, PhD (L to R)

Career and Professional Development Needs of Graduate Trainees

Desjardins Centre for Advanced Training (DCAT) logo

Congratulations to our DCAT team!
Under the leadership of Dr. Miguel Burnier and Emily Bell, PhD, the Desjardins Centre for Advanced Training (DCAT) team at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) was awarded an ambitious new grant from the FRQS. “In the first half of 2022, our consortium approached trainees to gather a wealth of information about their career goals and training needs,” said Emily Bell, associate director of DCAT. “The results of the needs assessment, combined with DCAT’s experience running experiential training programs in career paths such as clinical and regulatory affairs, led to the proposal to develop a training program that will prepare trainees to work in roles associated with precision medicine.”

DCAT offers structured career support to RI-MUHC trainees alongside their graduate or postdoctoral training. The RI-MUHC thanks Desjardins for generous support in enhancing career development opportunities for its trainees.
 

SUPERVISORS’ ACCOLADES

Research trainees Byunghoon Tony Ahn, Wejdan Alenezi, Mohammad Sazzad Hasan, Harry Moroz and Paul Yejong Yoo (L to R)
Research trainees Byunghoon Tony Ahn, Wejdan Alenezi, Mohammad Sazzad Hasan, Harry Moroz and Paul Yejong Yoo (L to R)

Anti-harassment training

Byunghoon Tony Ahn
Progress in developing an innovative suite of animated anti-harassment training videos, paired with a simulation to equip McGill residents with knowledge, strategies, and practice to combat harassment, earning a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council doctoral award. (Recognized by Jason Harley, PhD.)

New candidate ovarian cancer risk genes

Wejdan Alenezi
Awarded second place for her oral presentation at the 2022 Canadian Conference on Ovarian Cancer Research. She presented unpublished data proposing new genes to predict the risk of ovarian cancer in an abstract titled “Genetic analyses of diverse DNA repair pathway genes identified new candidate ovarian cancer risk genes.” (Recognized by Patricia Tonin, PhD.)

Hematopoietic cancer risk in children

Mohammad Sazzad Hasan
Progress in research on the risk factors (genetic syndromes and radiation exposure) of hematopoietic cancer in children with congenital heart disease and on the threshold effect of radiation exposure. (Recognized by Dr. Ariane Marelli.)

Heart failure and individualized disease trajectories

Harry Moroz
Identified the main limitations in modelling heart failure (HF) for adults with congenital heart disease in clinical research, as well as the need to do so. As a result of this review, he is developing the first interpretable deep learning HF model using attention mechanisms, which predicts individualized disease trajectories. (Recognized by Dr. Ariane Marelli.)

Child Community Health Inclusion Index

Paul Yejong Yoo
Developed a measurement tool to assess aspects in the environment that facilitate the health and inclusion of children with disabilities, called the Child Community Health Inclusion Index (CHILD-CHII). Awards in the final year of his doctoral studies:

  • Pat Martens Memorial Student Prize for Best Student Abstract, Canadian Association for Health Services and Policy Research, Maternal and Child Health Theme Group (2022)
  • McGill University Institute of Health and Social Policy Graduate Award (2021-2022)
  • Judith Kornbluth Gelfand Fellowship in Pediatric Rehabilitation, McGill University (2022)

(Recognized by Annette Majnemer, OT, PhD.)
 

Related news

Read more about these and other trainee achievements in Training news on the RI-MUHC website