Trainee Spotlight: Q&A with Marc Bedard

Friday, November 22, 2019

        

Marc is a fourth-year doctoral student studying clinical psychology at the University of Ottawa.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your path before joining the CLSA team? 

My name is Marc Bedard, and I am currently a fourth-year doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Ottawa. It’s hard to fathom at this stage of my career, but I have officially spent over 10 years in post-secondary education. I grew up in Ottawa, and when I was in high school I knew that I wanted to enter into the sciences of some kind, but I had no idea where that would lead me. I started off in a general sciences degree in undergrad, but became really interested in psychology as a subject. It was at that moment that I knew I had to pursue the field further. I became involved in a cognitive psychology lab, which examined neuropsychological outcomes of breast cancer survivors. This provided me with a lot of exposure to clinical research, and with face-to-face experiences with a number of patients. It was truly life changing.

I continued the same line of research in my master’s at Carleton University, but transitioned to integrated neuroscience work, looking at the role of the immune system in predicting cognitive dysfunction following chemotherapy in breast cancer. I also had a hand in a number of projects outside my thesis that had me examine the role of genetics and stressors in understanding who may be more likely to experience depressive symptoms. It was while engaged in these simultaneous projects that I realized that I wanted to integrate my passion for both research and for clinical intervention. I subsequently applied to and started my PhD in clinical psychology, which provides   both research and clinical experiences. This allows me to see the downstream benefits of research, but also helps to inform my research investigations through interactions with patients. In the future I am aiming to become a clinical psychologist, focusing not only on therapy for mood and anxiety disorders, but also a neuropsychologist in which I play a roll in assessing and diagnosing neuropsychological difficulties, which include memory problems to traumatic brain injuries

What interested you about the CLSA?

I have the pleasure of working with Dr. Vanessa Taler, who is my supervisor at the University of Ottawa. I had read very briefly of the work she has been doing with the CLSA prior to applying for my PhD, and I became fascinated with not only the large-scale organization of the CLSA, but also the variety of clinical questions that can be asked of  the data. My research interests do truly span across a number of health concerns. My doctoral project is centered on understanding neuropsychological functioning long after concussion, but through collaborative work I have been immersed in a wide range of different health conditions.

What type of research are you doing with CLSA data? Have you published? If so, what are the findings (in lay terms)?

I have been fortunate to have some of my CLSA work published. Somewhat counter to the prevailing view that people recover cognitive abilities following a concussion, I have been helping to expose the perspective that there is a minority of people that seem to experience longstanding difficulty. I have been unfortunate to not only experience this first-hand in my clinical practice, but this also seems to translate in the research findings.

What is the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve learned working at the CLSA? How do you think the CLSA will help you grow as a student or in your future?

There are so many passionate people working within the CLSA. I had no idea to such an extent that not only the governing committee of researchers, but also external researchers are so involved and driven by this work. Large-scale national data are such a treasure to have. Given that the CLSA is projected to run for a total of 20 years, I can only imagine that some of my early findings will give way to future questions and investigations.

How do you think the findings using CLSA data will be useful to you, or others, in the future?

I consider myself a pragmatic person. As a scientist-practitioner I do seek answers to some of my clinical questions. As my experiences in both research and clinical practice grow, I can only imagine the benefit that CLSA findings may provide. My research interests are, of course, such a small component of the larger body of investigations. I encourage anyone interested to have a look at some of the project titles – there are some really interesting research investigations currently underway!

Do you have any idea about what kind of job you’d like to do when you finish school?

As a future clinical psychologist, I will be looking for work that can allow me to do both clinical practice and research. I imagine that this will likely entail work in private practice, but also likely some sort of affiliation with a research organization, like a university or hospital.

What is a non-career related thing that you are grateful for because of your work with the CLSA?

Friendships built through collaborations. Life sure is way more fun and interesting when you can spend it with fun and interesting people.

 

The CLSA is dedicated to establishing an innovative, interdisciplinary training environment for the ongoing engagement of new and emerging researchers, as well as maximizing the use of the CLSA platform as a rich resource of data for the next generation of researchers in health and aging.