Samuel Blais

I am a 2nd year Master's degree student in Health Sciences Research in the Pediatric Cardiology departement.

Tell us about yourself

Hi, I am 23 years old and I study health science research in Sherbrooke, near Montreal, Quebec. I chose The University of Sherbrooke to pursue a bachelor degree in pharmacology which is the study of the interactions between a drug and a living organism. I am now doing research in pediatric cardiology and I love it! In my spare time, I play tennis and I snowboard.

What is your research about?

I specialize in the epidemiology of congenital heart disease. It means that a use large databases with sometimes thousands of patients to identify risk factors for cardiac related diseases in order to improve patient care. For example; my most recent project aims at improving the timing of a surgical intervention in children with a native heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot. I also work on several projects concerning the exercise tolerance in patients with congenital heart defects. I work on the validation of normal values on a statistical level. As you can see, a lot of my projects involve statistical programming on computers.

What have you enjoyed the most about your research?

What I love most about my work is knowing that results I obtain are going to benefit sick children around the world. Doing research is often a team effort and I really enjoy working with a diverse group of health professionals that all have the same goal: improving patient care.

What have you found most challenging about your research?

I think that most of researchers will share my biggest frustration in research: FUNDING. Finding money to fund research projects is challenging. The process requires patience and dedication since it is usually very long. The secret is finding a subject you are very passionate about in research. Once I found cardiology, the time spent writing research proposals did not seem so bad after all.

How has your research experience influenced your career path?

For the next few years, I will definitely keep working in research. I plan to go on to the Ph.D right after the master’s because I realize I still have so much to learn! Sometimes we think we know everything on a particular subject, but once you start working in research you realize how little you know and it is really a motivation to keep pushing forward.

”The secret is finding a subject you are very passionate about in research“

How has your research impacted the world?

Imagine that your best friend has a congenital heart defect; you would want him to receive the best care he possibly can so that he can live a normal life, right? In epidemiological research, it is unusual to perceive your advancements first hand in everyday life, but just knowing that kids around the world receive a better health care because of projects you did or participated to, is the best reward there is.

What do you predict will be the next big breakthrough in your field of research?

I think that future research should aim at preventing the occurrence of diseases, especially in cardiology, where lifestyle has a tremendous influence on cardiovascular health. Hopefully, the next breakthrough will be in prevention of heart diseases. Nowadays, huge progress is made in cardiology; recently, researchers and surgeons from France even implanted a prosthetic heart on a patient with heart failure!

What motivates you to do research?

When I was in high school, I mainly focused on sports, and did not know what I wanted to do for a living (which is okay!). To be honest, I did not plan on doing research until I was in my second year of undergrad and I had to choose an internship. At this moment, I decided to try research and it has been part of my life ever since. What influenced me to continue in this path is he proximity of patient-care and direct clinical applicability of the results I obtain.

Tell us about your 'Eureka' moment

Sometimes, I have problems with codes in statistical programming that can take me hours and days to resolve. It is often when I am not thinking about it directly that the answer to the problem occurs to me. Luckily, grad school is a great moment in life, with financial stability and time to have various extracurricular activities. For example, I once found a solution to a programming problem while I was out with friends past midnight! In conclusion, I think it is very important to have a good balance between personal and professional life, and to keep time for hobbies or sports you like.

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