How did you get interested in your career path?
I always wanted to have a career in academic medicine and in neonatology. I enjoy teaching and sharing the latest knowledge and best practices, I wanted to be in the middle of where medicine and science are being improved and where knowledge arises.
As a medical student, I very much enjoyed cardiology and circulatory physiology, and I was fascinated with the fragility, as well as the strength, of the new-born infants. I was impressed as well as honoured to be able to assist them through their first minutes to sometimes months after birth, to witness and often help the building of a family (i.e. a woman and a man becoming mother and father) and therefore to participate in the launching a whole life.
Through my research theme, I am able to combine my clinical as well as scientific interests, and to continue contributing to healthier childhood and adult lives of those infants we care for.
What are you most proud of in your career or otherwise?
I am quite proud that I have persisted in this career path of clinician-scientist. I am proud that I have been successful obtaining grants, fellowship awards for the graduate students and important and novel research results, all this while I was able to continue being a neonatologist, being involved in my Division and my hospital, and raising my three sons. In brief, I am proud I was able to do it all so far!
As a clinician-scientist, I am very proud that my experimental research results allowed me to cross the bridge to clinical research, and ultimately to do meaningful “knowledge transfer” to the health care professionals and the grown-up patients themselves. And as I am now more a “senior” investigator, I am honoured that younger faculty (often women) come up to me for advice or simply to exchange and discuss, and I am very proud of the successes of my mentees.
What important career challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
Compared to my male colleagues I was not taken seriously. In clinical or scientific local meetings, my opinions were criticized more harshly and directly. At national or international conferences, people do not come up to me as to my male colleagues of the same career level. The challenge is not to lose confidence in our work and ideas.
I overcame this by staying close to supporting colleagues (whether scientist as well or not); I gained the respect of everyone by not “complaining” about the situation or finding excuses, and solely aiming at and achieving scientific excellence.
What advice would you give your younger self?
- Trust yourself and your ideas. It is okay not to follow all the advice that you are given, and it is okay to follow your instincts as well.
- Stay away from those who do not bring constructive elements or comments to your career. Similarly, do not ask advice from people from whom you do not want to receive advice, even if they are the best researcher in your field or in the universe!
- Focus on your research to become the expert in your niche; do not forget that it takes time.
Highlight your most significant research contributions and publications (3-5) – if relevant to you.
The first three are from experimental work and the latest two are clinical research which hypotheses were directly derived from the experimental work my group and others contributed to.
1. Yzydorczyk C, Comte B, Cambonie G, Lavoie JC, Germain N, Shun YT, Wolff J, Deschepper C, Touyz RM, Lelievre-Pegorier M, Nuyt AM. Neonatal oxygen exposure in rats leads to cardiovascular and renal alterations in adulthood. Hypertension 2008;52:889–895 (accompanied by an editorial commentary).
2. Bertagnolli M, Huyard F, Cloutier A, Anstey Z, Huot-Marchand JE, Fallaha C, Paradis P, Schiffrin E, deBlois D, Nuyt AM. Transient neonatal high oxygen exposure leads to early adult cardiac dysfunction, remodeling and activation of the renin angiotensin system. Hypertension. 2014 Jan;63(1):143-50.
3. Bertagnolli M, Dios A, Beland Bonenfant S, Gascon G, Sutherland M, Lukaszewski MA, Cloutier A, Paradis P, Schiffrin E, Nuyt AM. Activation of the cardiac renin-angiotensin system in high oxygen-exposed newborn rats: Angiotensin receptor blockade prevents the developmental programming of cardiac dysfunction. Hypertension. 2016 Apr;67(4):774-82.
4. Boivin A, Luo ZC, Audibert F, Mâsse B, Lefebvre F, Tessier R, Nuyt AM. Pregnancy complications in women born preterm. CMAJ 2012;184(16):1777-84.
5. Boivin A, Luo ZC, Audibert F, Mâsse M, Lefebvre F, Tessier R, Nuyt AM. Risk for preterm and very preterm delivery in women born preterm. Obstet Gynecol. 2015;125(5):1177-84.
Have you had any significant career mentors? If yes, please provide further details.
At different steps of my career, key people have played determinant roles. After many years for some of them, I still look forward to the opportunity of discussing with and learning from each one of them.
- Dr Claude Paré (Pediatric department head during residency at Université de Sherbrooke, Canada) and Dr Apostolos Papageorgiou (Program Director Neonatal perinatal medicine McGill University): they taught me what is academic medicine, what is an academic career and they guided me through my first career choices (i.e. choosing a post-residency research training).
- Dr Jean E Robillard (U of Iowa) and Dr Catherine Llorens-Cortès (Collège de France-INSERM Paris) taught me science (starting with what is a good hypothesis) and how to lead a team efficiently and constructively.
- Dr Harry Bard (Division head when I started my career as an independent investigator) taught me how to write a grant and to never lose sight of common sense in science as well as in daily hospital and university lives.
- Dr Rhian Touyz (Director, Institute of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences, Glasgow): She taught me to trust myself and to allow me to be proud, whilst never aiming for less than the best possible science. She gave me key experimental and career advice, and opportunities to meet other scientists who have positively influenced her career (i.e. network). Dr Touyz is an amazing source of inspiration professionally and scientifically.
- Dr Thierry Lacaze (Division Head-Neonatology, Clinician Scientist, University of Ottawa): His clear vision of both science and academia (institutions and politics) for clinician scientists, his respect for all the people in a team and his careful consideration of all opinions are guiding references to me.
How can we support the next generation of women scientists?
Provide them with opportunities to meet, discuss, network, present at conferences, be part of committees (grant review, conference organization), and to recruit high quality graduate students.