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Honorary degree citation - Rémi Quirion

By: Peter Shizgal, June 2011

Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you Dr. Rémi Quirion, leader and innovator in mental-health research, education, advocacy, and administration.

Dr. Quirion’s remarkable energy, talent, and commitment are illustrated by the importance, diversity and sheer number of responsibilities with which he is currently entrusted: He is Vice-Dean (Life Sciences and Strategic Initiatives) of McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, Senior University Advisor (for Health Sciences Research), and Scientific Director of the Research Centre of the Douglas Hospital Institute. Dr. Quirion is also Executive Director of the International Collaborative Research Strategy for Alzheimer's Disease, an initiative of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Dr. Quirion is one of the most prolific and highly cited researchers in neuroscience and mental health. An international leader in the study of degenerative brain disease and chemical communication in the nervous system, his interests include the brain mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s Disease, pain, schizophrenia, anxiety and depression. His research on Alzheimer ’s disease typifies both the multifaceted approach of his research team and the integration of fundamental research on brain and behavior with the search for ways to reduce the terrible suffering and distress caused by brain disorders. Degenerative changes in Alzheimer ’s disease are most severe in particular types of brain cells, such as those that use the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, and in particular brain regions, such as the hippocampus. Dr. Quirion and his research team study the role of acetylcholine signaling in learning and memory; they are investigating how drugs and growth factors that target this system may slow or reverse degenerative changes seen in aging and dementia. Their search for novel approaches toward treating or preventing age-associated memory impairments is unflagging, and they are now investigating the potentially neuroprotective actions of compounds found in tea and red wine. Their research on the hippocampus is aimed at finding early markers for Alzheimer’s disease that can be detected before memory loss is apparent and thus aide in diagnosis, prediction, and treatment.

D’autres programmes de recherche au laboratoire de M. Quirion visent à comprendre comment les molécules de signalisation, appelées neuropeptides, et les récepteurs sur lesquels elles agissent, influent sur l’apprentissage, la mémoire, l’humeur et la douleur. L’équipe de M.  Quirion a également mené des travaux remarquables sur les mécanismes du cerveau responsables du développement de la schizophrénie et sur l’utilisation de modèles animaux afin de faire la lumière sur ce trouble dévastateur.

Chercheur émérite, M. Quirion est aussi un mentor et un professeur accompli. En effet, depuis son entrée au service du Centre de recherche de l’Institut Douglas, en 1983, il a formé plus de 70 étudiants et stagiaires postdoctoraux venus du monde entier.

Yet another facet of Dr. Quirion’s career is his remarkable record of accomplishment in institution building and scientific administration. Under his inspired leadership, the Douglas Hospital Research Centre has become a premier research facility in neurosciences and mental health, recognized nationally and internationally for its scientific excellence. It was thus natural for the Canadian neuroscience community to turn to Dr. Quirion to serve as the inaugural scientific director of the Canadian Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction. From 2000-2009, he served at this demanding and important post with distinction, vision, and great success.

M. Quirion fait partie du conseil consultatif d’une quinzaine de revues scientifiques traitant de psychiatrie, de pharmacologie ou de neurosciences. Il a reçu de multiples distinctions scientifiques et publiques, notamment le prix Wilder-Penfield (Prix du Québec, la plus haute distinction québécoise en
recherche biomédicale) et la médaille du Collège canadien de neuropsychopharmacologie. Il est en outre officier de l’Ordre du Canada, chevalier de l’Ordre national du Québec ainsi que membre de la Société royale du Canada et de l’Académie canadienne des sciences de la santé.

Dr. Quirion’s remarkable contributions as a scientist, mentor, institution builder, and research administrator are surpassed only by his commitment to increasing public understanding of and compassion for those afflicted with mental illness. Dr. Quirion has not only led and championed mental health research but has also been an eloquent advocate, in lay interviews and articles, for deeper understanding and greater sensitivity towards the victims of brain diseases and towards their families and caregivers.

Monsieur le chancelier, au nom du sénat et du conseil d’administration, j’ai l’honneur de vous demander de conférer à M. Quirion le grade de Docteur en droit honoris causa.

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