Seventy-eight years is not a long time, in the scope of Montreal’s history or McGill’s history. But for the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (MNI), affectionately referred to as the Neuro, 78 years is all it has taken to effectively build an international reputation. The Neuro points to its successes – the words and names that stick out of its history in bold-faced type, like Wilder Penfield, the Montreal procedure, Brenda Milner, and neuropsychology – as stemming from a successful collaboration between a research institute and a clinical treatment centre. With the appointment of a new director, Dr. Guy Rouleau, previously of the Université de Montréal (UdeM), and with an upcoming relocation planned, the Neuro now looks toward the future.
McGill Daily (MD): First of all, congratulations on your recent appointment as the director of the MNI. How do you think your research background and experience will shape your vision for where the Neuro will go in the future as both a research institution and a hospital?
Guy Rouleau (GR): I’m a clinical neurologist, and I do research […] in neurology […] and neurosurgery, but applied. In other words, I’m interested in clinical questions and I use basic methods to investigate the clinical questions. This is what the Neuro was built on and this is what a lot of the Neuro does, and I think that the future of the Neuro is that kind of research. The idea is that we’re in a hospital. If we were going to do basic neuroscience, we could do that, but that’s the basic neuroscience institute; that’s not who we are. We combine the clinical and the research; that’s basically the vision for the place. It’s been [doing] what it’s supposed to be doing since it was created. I think there may have been all kinds of changes of directions […] but that’s got to be the direction we go in. That’s what I’ve done all my life, so I kind of understand it and I believe in it.
MD: Do you see any particular focuses?
GR: I think there will be focuses, because there are too many diseases and too many things to do. We’re going to do an exercise where we’re going to look to see, what are we really good at? And we will have the focus of development on those things [that] we identify we’re very good at. We’ve got to be very good at it, and it has to have a future. There’s no use focusing on a disease that’s disappearing. We’ll focus on diseases that are important problems and will continue to be important problems, where we have a lot of expertise and where we could do better. […] There’s going to be a list that’s going to be drawn out […] We’ll probably get groups together to do some thinking…and I’ll invite all the different groups to think about their strengths, their weaknesses, and what they want to do. We’ll have an outside committee come and look as well.
MD: Do you think this might lead to a bit of restructuring as to how the Neuro goes about its business?
GR: I mean, restructuring is a big word; I think it’ll be a refocusing. The Neuro is a very good place, and it works well…so we don’t need to do major surgery here. It’s just fine tuning and deciding where it is we want to invest the most time.
MD: In Principal Heather Munroe-Blum’s message announcing your appointment, she mentioned the goals of “creating and strengthening ties with the community, academic institutions and hospitals around Quebec.” How do you hope to do this and what does the Neuro hope to gain from such ties?
GR: The Neuro exists within the province and the patients are patients in the province, largely, and there are certain subgroups that we have particular missions to serve, for example the Inuit. It’s not a large population but it’s an important population. We want to further develop our links with these special groups. They have special health problems that are [neurological] and we have expertise in the field, and [we want to] better serve them. At the same time, good medicine moves with good research, so we’ll probably combine the two … to refine [our practices]. The obvious institution is the MUHC [McGill University Health Centre] that we’re a part of and a little separate [from]. We’re going to develop well how we work with them and deal with them and provide the services – that’s mostly the hospital part. And we’re going to develop links also with the University of Montreal. There’s a notion of “Neuro Montreal”…in the air. If you take where the most neuroscience is done in Canada, it’s in Montreal; half is at the UdeM and half here. So if we work together […]we’ll be able to do better things and be more competitive. […] There is a Parkinson’s disease network being created and that includes UdeM and McGill and the MNI. The idea is to work together and be more competitive.
MD: Is outreach toward the students of McGill University a goal for the Neuro, in addition to outreach to other institutions?
GR: Yes, actually I just met one of the people here who’s really dedicated to outreach and education. So there are a number of things we’re thinking of. There could be public lectures, not targeted directly for McGill students. But public lectures could interest students who are not in neurology, and could interest anyone who wants to learn about [neuroscience]. And the department of Neurology runs the Integrated Program in Neuroscience, and that’s the largest graduate program at…McGill.
MD: Will the Neuro also be moving to the Glen site [in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce] when it is completed?
GR: Yes, we have approval from the ministry and the decision has been made between the MUHC and McGill. So everybody agrees that that is what needs to be done. There are very practical reasons why that should be so. For example, the MUHC that’s being built down at the Glen site has no neurology or neurosurgery beds. So it would make sense to have a Neuro there. And again, we want to keep the neurology research and clinical integrated at one site.
MD: How will being in a non-central location (at least, relative to McGill campus) affect the Neuro’s relationship to the educational side of McGill?
GR: You know, I don’t think it’ll change anything. It might be inconvenient to be so far from the main campus, I agree, for students and for teachers, but I don’t think it’ll change anything.