Dr. Marquis-Gravel: a bright hope for the future of interventional cardiology

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Dr. Guillaume Marquis-Gravel has been working for a year and a half as a cardiologist at the Montreal Heart Institute. Passionate about research and motivated by a desire to improve people’s lives, he shares his recent accomplishments and deepest aspirations with us.

Medicine and research: complementary disciplines

In 2011, Guillaume Marquis-Gravel received his doctorate of medicine from the Université de Montréal, then specialized in cardiology. From 2017 to 2020, he pursued a fellowship at Duke University, in North Carolina, obtaining a subspecialization in interventional cardiology and a post-doctorate in clinical research. Drawing on his rich expertise, this clinician scientist now divides his time between research projects and clinical care at the Montreal Heart Institute.

A balanced career in cardiology

Dedicated to both scientific research and putting its results into action, Dr. Guillaume Marquis-Gravel is exactly where he has always wanted to be. As a child he watched his father, a family physician, treating patients every day. He also remembers days spent in the lab with his biochemist uncle, where he performed all kinds of scientific experiments. Driven by a great love of learning, dressed in his oversized lab coat and protective glasses, he dreamed of becoming a researcher like his uncle. Two precious models whose expertise he has combined to make his own.

When asked why he chose medicine, the answer comes easily: “I have always been curious about things, with a desire to make discoveries and better understand science and the human body. Medicine gives me the best of both worlds because it allows me to move research forward, and most importantly, to apply it to helping others. Cardiology is a field in which research is very active and the opportunities are as interesting as they are varied. That’s why I have always been attracted to it.”

A day in the life of an interventional cardiologist

On a daily basis, Dr. Guillaume Marquis-Gravel performs percutaneous coronary interventions. These include non-surgical procedures using catheters. These procedures consist of installing a tiny support stake in the vessels where there is rigidity caused by the accumulation of fatty deposits that form plaques. This support opens the heart’s blood vessels that have been constricted by coronary artery disease, also called “atherosclerosis”.

“An interventional cardiologist wakes early and, if you’re on call, sometimes you don’t go to sleep at night. At any time, patients can present with a heart attack or cardiac arrest. You never know what to expect. As a clinician scientist, my work days are usually divided in two: one half is devoted to research, and the other half to work in the interventional cardiology lab.”

The Montreal Heart Institute: the perfect place for those who are passionate about research

The Montreal Heart Institute stands out through the stimulating environment it offers its researchers. There are many opportunities to be seized and the support provided by the Research Centre’s executive team is exceptional. Evolving within a team of highly competent experts in fields related to his own, cardiologist Guillaume Marquis-Gravel has all the resources necessary to fully develop as a researcher. “The Institute for me is like family. I have a strong sense of belonging for this institution, which has seen me grow professionally.”

The Montreal Heart Institute Foundation supports innovation

Dr. Marquis-Gravel is convinced: without the support of the Montreal Heart Institute Foundation, many medical innovations would never have seen the light of day. It is, among other things, thanks to generous donors that this cardiologist could seek a subspecialization abroad and perform Quebec’s first orbital atherectomy in December 2021. “The doctors who pursue additional training abroad thanks to support from the Foundation come back here with something new to offer, and the patients of Quebec as a whole benefit from it. In addition to their clinical value, the Foundation’s research grants allow us to advance science and our practices while also helping more people.”

A first orbital atherectomy carried out by Dr. Marquis-Gravel

On December 14, 2021, Dr. Guillaume Marquis-Gravel, accompanied by Dr. Mohamed Nosair and Dr. Hung Ly, performed an orbital atherectomy on a patient at the Institute, first in Quebec. “This minimally invasive procedure serves to unblock severely blocked arteries in the heart, with the presence of calcifications. Using this new device, a stent resembling a metal spring is inserted to keep the artery open. By turning very quickly, this new device breaks up the calcium, which then turns into sand. The stent can then be easily installed in place.”

Team strength: The key to successful innovation

With great determination, the cardiologist and his colleagues were able to successfully bring this new procedure to Quebec. “The device had been in use in the United States for a while, but we had to be persistent to get it approved here. It took a lot of teamwork to bring the machine here. Dr. Jean-François Tanguay, head of the Hemodynamics Service, has been very supportive of bringing this technology to the Institute. Training sessions were then offered to nurses, and patients with severe calcifications were selected. As each step is critical during a first procedure, a team of three cardiologists was required. From the beginning to the end of this long process, the nursing staff’s enthusiasm was obvious.”

A new procedure for patients with coronary artery disease

For Dr. Marquis-Gravel, the prospect of benefits resulting from this new procedure is very interesting. “We will be able to open arteries that previously could not be opened, and we will be able to place stents more efficiently. Patients will see their angina diminish or even disappear. It is believed that the intervention will also reduce the risk of heart attack and death; a study is underway on the subject. Three or four patients at the Institute will be able to benefit from this new procedure every week. That’s huge.”

Research: building a hopeful future for patients

Looking to the future, the young cardiologist is already developing new treatment strategies in interventional cardiology from which the entire population will benefit. As he puts it so well, “The results of cardiology research have an impact on thousands of patients at a time.” And contributing to this through his work is a source of pride. “We see it on a daily basis: people who are initially sick leave in good health and resume their lives as if everything were normal. To continue to improve all of these people’s lives is something I aspire to.”

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