Francophonie: an international passport for research
By Claudine Auger
He remembers as a teenager coordinating a youth volunteer program at a senior centre. This experience of stimulating contact with the residents and staff, combined with studies in biology and an interest in research—and voilà, young Marc Carrier was on his way to becoming a doctor. As he recounts, it was purely “by accident” that he decided to specialize in hematology. “One summer, I did a rotation with a hematologist, Dr. Marc Roger, who became a mentor, and I presented my research findings at an annual conference in the United States. I was hooked! But if someone had told me I would be doing research in venous disease, I wouldn’t have believed it. When we think of a blood clot, we naturally think of a stroke more often than a thrombosis. Venous diseases are the poor relation in research,” says Dr. Marc Carrier, adding that it is certainly not the specialty with the most attractive reputation. Today, however, as chief of the hematology division at the Ottawa Hospital, he leads a team of some 30 colleagues who are just as dedicated as he is, including a dozen who are specialized in venous disease. “Which shows there are others who think hematology is sexy,” he says with a laugh.
Devoting most of his time to clinical research, the hematologist emphasizes the importance of practising in the field, with patients. These two components are, in his opinion, an essential combination for those not wanting to lose sight of what is necessary to the practice. “Patients ask me questions, and that’s what inspires me and gives me ideas for research. It’s very exciting to contribute to improving care.” This researcher in venous thromboembolic diseases considers himself privileged to benefit from a dynamic structure that allows him to be continually exploring the boundaries of his fields of interest. And this is thanks in part to the openness to Francophonie.
Indeed, as Dr. Marc Carrier points out, “Francophonie is an international passport.” As his community welcomes a number of Francophone residents from around the world, whether they return home or decide to settle in Canada, these exchanges weave a vast network, multiplying expertise, collaborations and research program opportunities. “This provides access to a larger and more diverse patient base, allowing us to broaden our horizons and so the practice evolves more quickly.” For this Franco-Ontarian, who is among the first to have taken the medical program in French, he considers it a great asset to have these two cultures, Francophone and Anglophone, living side by side. “But if you don’t pay attention, it’s easy to forget French when you’re living in a minority environment. It’s a challenge, because most opportunities are in English. So, it’s important to invest beyond the faculty itself, for example, in residencies and continuing education, in addition to research.” The hematologist, who has always given his unconditional support to Francophone Affairs, has decided to become more closely involved. “It’s a unifying and welcoming organization whose open-mindedness adds to its power to mobilize. My role is still being defined, but having had the chance to be guided by a Francophone mentor myself, I would like to share my research skills and offer tools to Francophone students. It’s the small acts that, when multiplied, create a domino effect.”