Dr. Jean Rouleau on his five years at the helm of the CIHR Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health

Dr. Jean Rouleau completed his tenure as Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health on November 30, 2015, after serving in the role for five years. To mark the occasion, we sat down with him to discuss his time with the Institute.

Q: What are your proudest accomplishments from your time as Scientific Director?

R: There are three things I’m most proud of from my time with the Institute. The first is the way we were able to get buy-in from the community on CIHR’s values and priorities – things like patient engagement and training the next generation of researchers. Secondly, I’m proud of the broad alliances we were able to build with our stakeholders: charities, academic institutions, industry, provincial funding bodies. Groups like the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Lung Association have been such wonderful partners, along with many others. Lastly, I’m proud of the way we’ve been able to build up the infrastructure to make Canadian researchers competitive globally. The Networks we’ve built have allowed us to bring together the best minds and mentor a future generation of researchers.

Q: What is the significance of the Institute’s Networks?

The Institute’s Networks are hubs for attracting, training and mentoring the next generation of researchers. We have Networks focused on respiratory health, vascular health, stroke prevention, critical care, sleep, and blood diseases, among others. They are one way that we’ve been able to address the shortage of trainees and new investigators in circulatory and respiratory health. The expertise we have at CIHR is just a drop in the bucket compared to the ocean of expertise and knowledge in this country, and the Networks help us tap into that, give our young investigators a chance to work with the best and ultimately will allow us to compete internationally. Since 2013, the Networks have supported 54 young investigators, and I couldn’t be happier.

Q: What attracted you to the post of Scientific Director in the first place?

CIHR is one of the premier organizations in the country, and I wanted to take on a role where I could help attract and retain new researchers and set them up to succeed. Things are more competitive than in my day, researchers are called on to be more multi-disciplinary, and I was concerned about the shortage of new trainees working in the circulatory and respiratory health field. I knew we needed to get buy-in from our stakeholders if we were going to build a platform that would give young researchers opportunities to come together, organize themselves and compete at the highest levels.

Q: Do you have any advice for your successor?

I think there is an opportunity to expand the capacities of our Networks in the areas of discovery science and knowledge translation. There is such a wealth of research capacity residing in our communities and we need to organize them and mentor them so that Canada can compete internationally. I think there are opportunities for our networks to expand internationally, the way our stroke network has done with researchers in the US, the UK and Australia. My best piece of advice is to leverage the strength of the ideas in our community.

Q. What’s next for you?

I will continue at the Montreal Heart Institute, continue doing research, focus on mentoring and do more clinical work, of course, because that’s why I became a doctor in the first place.

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