uOttawa MD/PhD student receives a Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Award

MD/PhD student Marc-Olivier Deguise

“Aside from research, I have always been interested in helping children, especially those afflicted with sporadic or congenital diseases that impact their access to a normal life at a young age.”

-- Marc-Olivier Deguise, uOttawa MD/PhD student

MD/PhD student Marc-Olivier Deguise is a 2018 recipient of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (CMHF) Award for medical students with an established track record of community leadership, superior communication skills and demonstrated interest in advancing knowledge.

With passion for both research and clinical work, Deguise hopes to offer first-hand treatment to patients while simultaneously contributing to the understanding of diseases through research.

“I hope to not only make an impact locally through my future clinical practice, but also globally through my research,” says Deguise, whose PhD work focuses on a fatal neurological disorder called spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) under the supervision of Dr. Rashmi Kothary, uOttawa professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine (CMM) and Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology (BMI), who is also the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute’s Deputy Scientific Director and Senior Scientist.

SMA is a genetic disease affecting the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement. Unexpectedly, Deguise’s research has successfully identified this disease may be a multi-system disorder, instead of a disease that affects solely the motor neurons. The contribution of non-neuronal organ has been long debated in the SMA field. As such, his research challenges the historical neuron-centric dogma and more scientists are now supporting this new idea. The significance of his paradigm-shifting research was recognized by the Award of Excellence in Graduate Studies at uOttawa, the Dr. Ronald G. Worton Researcher in Training Award of The Ottawa Hospital, and the Audrey J. Boyce MD/PhD Fellowship.

Deguise hopes that his research may change the way SMA is defined, potentially leading to new standards of patient care for SMA patients to fill in the gaps in the management of issues that may have been previously overlooked.

“Aside from research, I have always been interested in helping children,” says Deguise. “Especially those afflicted with sporadic or congenital diseases that impact their access to a normal life at a young age.”

Thinking back to his own childhood, he recognizes how incredibly lucky he was to be healthy and could just be a normal child, enjoying sports and hanging out with friends without limitations. He adds that his pediatrician gradually and inadvertently turned out to be one of his role models due to the incredible level of health care he received from her.

“I really liked going to see my pediatrician, as she just had a special way of discussing and interacting with you. Nonetheless, with age, I couldn’t help but notice that not every child in her waiting room had the privilege of taking their health for granted, that many were living with illnesses that affect their quality of life,” adds Deguise.

As a student, Deguise is already looking for ways in which he can indirectly improve the well-being of children, whether it be through advocacy, fundraising or medical education. Recently, he led a fundraising team through Smiling Over Sickness at uOttawa that raised $33,760 for pediatric cancer research.

Furthermore, in an effort to bridge the gap between clinical and research training in medical school, he established an annual event in collaboration with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario to introduce medical students to prospective research supervisors in a speed-networking model.

Deguise hopes to combine his passion in research, medicine and health care throughout his career.

Each of Canada’s faculties of medicine/health sciences facilitated the review of applicants and recommended one award recipient from each medical school to the CMHF.

Deguise will attend the 2019 Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Montreal on May 2, 2019, where CMHF recipients will received their mentions and have the opportunity to meet CMHF Laureates as well as interact with health leaders from across the country.

For more information about the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Award for medical students, visit official website for the 2018 recipients.

MD/PhD student Marc-Olivier Deguise

Photo credit : The Ottawa Hospital

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