By John Bergeron
Professor of medicine at McGill University

Late last year, Canada was once again shut out of the Nobel Prizes for Medicine. The one and only recognition to Canada’s accomplishments in medicine was in 1923 for the discovery of insulin at the University of Toronto. But just last week, to much fanfare, Canada announced its lineup of all-star talent for the men’s Olympic hockey squad that will compete for gold in Sochi. Are there any lessons to be learned from how Canada matched achievements and recognition for its talent in hockey in comparison to the drought in biomedical research achievements?

In 1961, the Trail Smoke Eaters, a team from British Columbia, won the world championship in hockey. Canada was then shut out for the following 33 years. During this time, a realization took place that international hockey was genuinely competitive and a mechanism to bring together the best talent would be necessary. This led eventually to Team Canada and the astonishing accomplishments that followed.

Has a comparable realization taken place for biomedical research achievements? Canada’s ability to generate the necessary talent for Nobel Prize recognition has never been questioned; besides the University of Toronto’s Dr. Banting, at least 4 other Canadians have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. But, these Canadians did their work in the U.S. and represent the leading edge of the exodus of our most talented that have repeatedly found that their highest achievements can only be realized for their accomplishments outside Canada.

Is it reasonable to compare our 33-year hiatus in international hockey accomplishments with that in biomedical research?

Read the full article in the National Post.





January 13, 2014