The Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation, McGill University, the Université de Montréal and the Fondation du Dr Julien announce the creation of two chairs in social pediatrics in the community

DSC_5145The Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation, McGill University, the Université de Montréaland the Fondation du Dr Julien will establish two chairs in social pediatrics in the community, to be based in the Montreal neighbourhood of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. In a Canadian first, researchers will conduct a long-term study on social pediatrics in the community.  This clinical practice has a proven track record, thanks to its founder, Dr. Gilles Julien, who has been practicing social pediatrics in disadvantaged neighbourhoods for nearly 30 years.

The two chairs will allow researchers to measure the impact of social pediatrics on the lives of children and their families, and on the community. At the Université de Montréal, the Dr. Julien/Marcelle and Jean Coutu Foundation Chair in Social Pediatrics in the Community of the University of Montreal will seek to develop specialized knowledge in the implementation and grassroots operation of social pediatrics, and to train future professionals in the field. The Nicolas Steinmetz – Gilles Julien Chair in Social Pediatrics in the Community will be jointly held by McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine and the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation. This chair will focus chiefly on the challenges faced by disadvantaged children and the social factors that affect their health and wellbeing, as well as the defense of children’s rights and the drafting of social policies.

In a radical departure from many academic chairs, research will be done in the field, right in the heart of the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. Clinicians, researchers, children and families will be in close proximity, enabling investigators to study first-hand all of the strategies employed by the Fondation du Dr Julien staff.

Research will then spread to other communities where social-pediatrics centres have been established to improve the practice of this important discipline all over Quebec.

Donors who care about giving an equal opportunity to all children

The Marcelle and Jean Coutu Foundation supports both chairs.

“We are lucky to be able to count on two outstanding scientific communities in Montreal, and our support aims to ensure that together, they can accelerate the rate of fundamental change for children,” says Marie-Josée Coutu, of the Marcelle and Jean Coutu Foundation, who gave $3 million to the chair held by theUniversité de Montréal, and contributed $750,000 to the new McGill chair.

“The two chairs offer hope for children, their families and the community at large,” says Dr. Guy Breton,the rector of the Université de Montréal. “By joining forces, the two Montreal universities and the donors recognize the importance of the social pediatrics developed by Dr. Julien.”

The creation of the Nicolas Steinmetz – Gilles Julien Chair in Social Pediatrics in the Community was made possible thanks to donations from the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation’s important partners:  BMO Financial Group ($1.25M), Ghislaine and J. Sebastian van Berkom ($1M) and the Marcelle and Jean Coutu Foundation, for a total of $3 million.

Students at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine are taught from the first day of class to reflect on the social determinants of health and the special needs of vulnerable populations.  This message will be reinforced by the creation of the Chair in Social Pediatrics.  “It is an honour to partner with the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation to promote research that will improve the lives of children in need in Quebec,” says Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University.  “I would like to thank the Foundation’s partners for this exceptional gift, which enables McGill to advance an important area of research in parallel with our colleagues at Université de Montréal.”

“At the Foundation, we feel it’s important to support initiatives that prioritize children’s health,” says Greg Rokos, chair of the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation’s board of directors. “I would like to thank our donors for their trust in McGill and the Montreal Children’s Hospital, whose trailblazing work in social pediatrics means they are particularly well-placed to serve as an area of convergence for research.”

“We’re proud to play a role in this thriving field of investigation,” says Mr. L. Jacques Ménard, chairman of BMO Nesbitt Burns, president of BMO Financial Group, Quebec, and founder of the Groupe d’action sur la persévérance et la réussite scolaires. “In supporting the Nicolas Steinmetz – Gilles Julien Chair in Social Pediatrics in the Community, we hope to provide society with the tools to offer everyone the equal opportunity to live and thrive as productive members of society, contributing to our collective wellbeing.”

“As an entrepreneur, I believe it is very important to support the creation of two chairs of the highest caliber in order to validate the important work that Dr. Julien has developed over almost 30 years in practicing social pediatrics. Such validation will provide the credibility for his model, which can then be duplicated with much more confidence in other geographic regions in Quebec, Canada and elsewhere,” explains businessman J. Sebastian van Berkom, president and chief executive officer of Van Berkom and Associates Inc.

The role of social pediatrics

Studies clearly show that from an early age, social determinants such as income, social status, support networks and social environment have a profound impact on a child’s health, development and productivity in adulthood. Growing up under harsh living conditions produces an accumulation of toxic stress that is detrimental to a child’s brain development.

In response to these challenges, social pediatrics in the community is unique in that its diagnoses take into consideration a child`s overall health and integrates in one place a variety of disciplines and services that can respond to all the needs of children and their families.

“We know social pediatrics is effective because we see the results first-hand every day among the children and families we follow in our clinic. The data provided by our research chairs will present us with a clearer picture of our work’s impact and allow us to improve our practice even further,” explains Dr. Gilles Julien, the president and founder of the Fondation du Dr Julien.

Social pediatrics is part of the curriculum for McGill University’s young medical students and is one of the most sought-after internships in the Faculty of Medicine at the Université de MontréalDr. Nicolas Steinmetz, associate professor of pediatrics at McGill University and past executive director of the Montreal Children’s Hospital, was a pioneer in the field. “It’s great to see how far the discipline has come,” says Dr. Steinmetz. “However, many challenges lie ahead.  One of these is to increase advocacy for the health and well-being of all children because, even in Canada, their health concerns are often seen as a lower priority compared to those of adults, both in public debate and in government policy. This must change.”

Dr. Julien and Dr. Steinmetz will sit on a joint consultative committee, ensuring collaboration between the two university chairs.

February 26, 2015