Winter 2020 (Volume 30, Number 4)

Passing the Baton of Arthritis Research Canada’s Scientific Leadership – Celebrating the Legacy of a Visionary Leader

By Diane Lacaille, MD, FRCPC, MHSc

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On July 1st, after 21 years at the helm, Dr. John Esdaile retired as Scientific Director of Arthritis Research Canada/Arthrite-recherche Canada (ARC). I am deeply honoured to have been handed over the scientific leadership of this amazing organization. Dr. Esdaile was a visionary leader who leaves behind an incredible legacy, not only from his own personal research achievements, but also because of what he built.

From its roots in 1999 as a single centre with himself, one scientist, one graduate student, and an administrative staff member, Arthritis Research Canada has evolved into a leading arthritis clinical research organization, with a team of more than 100 research scientists, trainees, and staff. Our centres are located across three provinces, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, with scientists affiliated with five major universities, University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, Université Laval, and McGill University. Dr. Esdaile assembled a team of research scientists with a breadth of expertise to conduct research across the disciplines relevant to arthritis. Our team of 41 scientists spans the disciplines of rheumatology, orthopedics, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, pharmaceutical sciences, biostatistics, epidemiology, health services research, public health, health psychology and behavioural change, health economics, health systems assessment, and knowledge translation. Beyond what can be measured by numbers, Dr. Esdaile created a culture of scientific rigour and excellence, of innovation, pushing boundaries for new discoveries, and fostered an environment of collegiality and collaboration, which has been key to Arthritis Research Canada’s success.

Dr. Esdaile has always been a strong advocate of supporting the next generation of arthritis researchers, making supporting trainees and mentoring new scientists one of Arthritis Research Canada’s top priorities. The many established scientists, previously mentored by him, who contribute to advancing rheumatology research across Canada and the U.S. are another important part of his legacy. I, myself, have had the privilege of benefiting from his mentorship over many years, from the time he supervised my summer studentship as a medical student, through being a graduate student when Arthritis Research Canada was founded, until today as I am following in his footsteps as the newly appointed Scientific Director. I can speak first-hand to the amazing mentor that he is!

Dr. Esdaile has also been a champion of meaningful engagement of patients in research well over a decade before it became popular. He had the vision of ensuring the patient voice is represented in all facets of our organization and that patients are engaged in all aspects of research. Instrumental to this was the creation of Arthritis Research Canada’s Arthritis Patient Advisory Board. His commitment to ensuring the patient voice be heard has always been at the forefront of all we do. At Arthritis Research Canada, we will continue to work for and with patients to make sure our research is relevant, meaningful and helpful.

I look forward to leading the organization over the next decade. I deeply value the research conducted at Arthritis Research Canada/Arthrite-recherche Canada because of the impact it has on the everyday lives of people with arthritis. I am inspired by the incredible resilience of arthritis patients, the dedication of the research scientists and staff, the innovative ideas of my colleagues, and the sharp inquisitive minds of our trainees. I am excited at the thought of the future discoveries that will transform how health care is delivered and change how people with arthritis live their lives. These are exciting times. At Arthritis Research Canada, we will continue to expand the breadth of expertise of our research team in order to respond to the evolving needs of patients, and to harness the opportunities that arise from new trends, such as big data, artificial intelligence, and smart technologies. We will also continue to tackle health inequities affecting people living with arthritis, especially Indigenous peoples, so that all Canadians regardless of race, ethnicity, or social circumstances, have access to the care they need and the best care available. And of course, we will continue to invest in the future of arthritis research by training and mentoring the next generation of arthritis research scientists.

Dr. Diane Lacaille

Dr. John Esdaile

Diane Lacaille, MD, FRCPC, MHSc
Mary Pack Chair in Rheumatology Research
Professor of Rheumatology,
University of British Columbia
Senior Research Scientist,
Scientific Director,
Arthritis Research Canada
Richmond, British Columbia

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