The Canadian Arts Council awards the Killam prize to scholars who have made significant contributions to society, and this year, Western University’s own Dr. Vladimir Hachinski is among the recipients.

To add to this great honor, Dr. Hachinski has been inducted to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. Fuse had an opportunity to speak with him.

“It came as a total surprise,” exclaims Dr. Hachinski when asked about how he felt about receiving this prize. “It is an absolute delight”.

He sees the Killam prize as a platform to promote research not limited to the field of neurology. He believes the prize not only provides recognition for himself as a researcher, but everyone who has contributed in his journey.

Revolutionary thinking

He had been recognized due to his ground-breaking work through his research on dementia. Through collaborative research applying Alzheimer’s based research to dementia, Dr. Hachinski has theorized that the cause of dementia may lie in infarctions (a lack of oxygen supply) and not due to blood vessels hardening with age, as previously thought.

Dr. Hachinski’s list of achievements is impressive, one of which is having the Hachinski ischemic Score named after him.  He has also received awards such as the Ontario Premier’s Discovery Award, International BIAL Merit Award, The International Association of Gerontology Sandoz Prize, and the first ever Trillium Clinical Scientist Award.

"Find work that makes your eyes shine..." -Dr Vladimir Hachinski.
“Find work that makes your eyes shine…” -Dr Vladimir Hachinski.

Hachinkski held many esteemed positions in the medical world, including being the first Canadian President of the World Federation of Neurology, and the founding chair of the World Brain Alliance.

He has worked to share his wealth of knowledge through multiple facets, mentoring more than 100 physicians and surgeons, who have grown to be giants in the field. He has worked as the Editor-in-Chief of the journal STROKE.

Chance rotation

Dr. Hachinski began his career in medicine at the University of Toronto, initially with the ambition to practice family medicine in Ajax. However, upon closure of the investigative radiology department, a chance rotation in the neurology department at Montreal Neurological Institute altered his career path permanently.

His prowess in neurology was immediately apparent. He received the nickname “wizard” after a remarkable diagnosis of syphilis from an irregularity on the patient’s foot, which had baffled many resident doctors. Dr. Hachinski was determined to live up to this name, and quickly grew a strong interest in stroke research.

He was still a long way from getting his start in dementia. The English did not consider strokes to be a neurological disease.  He was given an ultimatum when he got to England, he had to study dementia or come back to Canada.

“So I didn’t choose dementia,” concludes Dr. Hachinski. “It chose me.”

After his work in England, Dr. Hachinski came back with a new love of research in dementia.

Constant improvement

Dr Hachinski believes in the broad definition of research, where anything anyone is doing can be done better. That process is what we look at as research.

“You can always be better-never perfect,” Dr. Hachinski said. “We are all researchers.”

“Find out what turns you on,” Dr. Hachinski says when questioned about advice for those pursuing research. “Ask yourself what makes your eyes shine?”

He encourages young scientists to recognize their strength and stay with it.

According to him, passion is the most important aspect of the work he does.

There seems to be little that doesn’t intrigue Dr. Hachinski. His passion and enthusiasm are infectious. He believes that the world is a great big laboratory for us to study and improve. Through a short conversation and a bit of research it was clear why the Arts Council had made this decision.

 

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