Photo: Owen Egan/Joni Dufour

By Matthew Brett

McGill’s Faculty of Medicine celebrated Drs. Claire Trottier, Maria Natasha Rajah, and Keiko Shikako-Thomas as the 2019 recipients of the Maude Abbott Prize, the Haile T. Debas Prize and the Rosemary Wedderburn Brown Prize respectively at a ceremony on November 25, 2019.

Each laureate shared a glimpse of their work and personal journey after having been presented with their award by Dr. David Eidelman, Vice-Principal (Health Affairs) and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.


Dr. Claire Trottier and the Maude Abbott Prize

The Maude Abbott Prize was established in 2010 by the Faculty of Medicine to recognize outstanding female faculty members with academic appointments who excel in education, research or administration in the early stages of their career.

“I am quite overwhelmed and not sure how to process it,” said Dr. Trottier on receiving the prize. “It is a really good feeling to be recognized in this way, and at the same time I know that there are ways I can continue to grow and improve. I am lucky to work with and know so many phenomenal teachers here at McGill, and like many people, I sometimes struggle with a bit of imposter syndrome.”

Dr. Trottier is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology who has been working at McGill for four years as an educator and change agent responsible for transforming the educational experience of students in her Department and more broadly at the Faculty and University level, given her active involvement in implementing the Education Strategic Plan.

“The greatest compliment I receive from students is when they tell me that they can tell that I genuinely care about them and about their learning,” Dr. Trottier said. “Our students are incredibly smart and capable, and have so many fantastic ideas.”

Dr. Trottier plans to use funds received from the prize to further educational projects in her Department.


Dr. Keiko Shikako-Thomas and the Rosemary Wedderburn Brown Faculty Prize

The Rosemary Wedderburn Brown Prize is awarded to full-time faculty members in the Faculty of Medicine’s School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Ingram School of Nursing, and School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, recognizing individuals with outstanding scholarly potential and demonstrated research excellence in the early stages of their career.

“My biggest motivation is the possibility of seeing systems changes happening in real life, and seeing real lives improved of children with disabilities and their families,” said Dr. Shikako-Thomas.

Appointed to the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy in 2015, Dr. Shikako-Thomas is now an Assistant Professor and Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Childhood Disability: Participation and Knowledge Translation (2015-2020).

She is currently an Associate Researcher at the Institute of Health and Social Policy, an Associate Member in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of General Pediatrics, and an Associate Investigator affiliated with the Child Health and Human Development Research Program at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.

“To receive this award is an honour as a researcher and shows recognition for work I’m really passionate about, but mostly it reflects the great opportunities I’ve been given to be part of a fantastic research community,” said Dr. Shikako-Thomas.

Dr. Maria Natasha Rajah and the Haile T. Debas Prize

The Haile T. Debas Prize was established in 2010 to promote equitable diversity at all levels in the Faculty of Medicine, recognizing faculty member(s) of any gender or ethnicity who help promote diversity.

“Dr. Debas is a remarkable McGill alumnus and physician who is world-renowned for his work on global health and in supporting diversity. He is an inspiration to me,” said Dr. Rajah upon receiving the prize. “I am proud to be part of a university that honours his work and supports equity, diversity and inclusivity.”

Dr. Rajah is a Full Professor in the Department of Psychiatry. She works to support equity, diversity and inclusivity in mentoring, hiring, public outreach, advocacy, policy development and implementation at McGill University.

As a member of Women in Cognitive Sciences Canada (WiCSC) and of the Centre for Research on Brain, Language and Music (CRBLM), Dr. Rajah serves as an academic mentor to trainees and early career investigators from under-represented groups in academia.

Dr. Rajah started the Montreal Pod for the 500 Women Scientists organization in January 2018. The #MeToo movement was at its peak at that time, and Dr. Rajah felt it was important to have a safe space for women in Montreal at various career stages in science to meet with mentors and peers to discuss these issues and develop strategies to address sexual biases at work.

“To truly make advances in diversity we need to work towards equity in training, recruitment and retention/promotion,” said Dr. Rajah. “Equity keeps in mind that not everyone has the same benefits or privileges in life. Therefore, different support structures, training and evaluation methods may be needed to promote academic and scientific success in diverse groups.”

Congratulations to all three laureates!



November 28, 2019