WINDOW ON CANADA
The year 2002 is the 30th anniversary of the discovery of the Hormone somatostatin. This is also the year in which a Fiji-born Indian research scientist and doctor, Yogesh Patel, settled in Westmont, Quebec, who has spent almost four decades in the field, has won Canada's lifetime achievement award - Order of Canada for Health Care.
Dr Yogesh Patel is a professor of medicine, neurology and neuro-surgery and the director of endocrinology at the McGill University and the Royal Victoria and Montreal General hospitals.
Dr. Patel is also a fellow of the American College of Physicians, the Royal Australian College of Physicians and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
Yogesh felt honoured and was jubilant on getting news of the award. "This is a tribute to Canada's acceptance of immigrants and a sign that times have changed all over the world, and immigrants can achieve their dreams and receive honours for their work in different fields", he told South Asian Outlook e-Monthly. "To be given this recognition is the highest accolade in one's career. It is given to an individual to recognise a lifetime of giving to their community."
Son of an Indian businessman from Gujarat, who had moved to Fiji Islands, Yogesh was interested in medicine, while he was still at school. On graduating, he received a scholarship to study medicine in New Zealand, which was quite an achievement. He received medical degree (M.B.Ch.B) at Otego University in New Zealand and stayed there for 9 years before moving to Australia for research. He obtained a PhD from the Monash University in Australia.
"In the late 60s and early 70s, the science was just starting to become a reality and the discovery of the peptide hormone somatostatin was interesting to me," Yogesh told Marilyn Vanderstay of The Westmount Examiner, a Montreal newspaper.
After 5 years, Yogesh moved to North America. He completed a post- doctoral fellowship in endocrinology at the Tuffs, New England medical centre in Boston. After further training in cell biology at Geneva Medical School, he joined McGill in 1977 as a director of Fraser Laboratories for research in diabetes at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Yogesh was appointed the director of the neuro endocrine clinic in 1985 and the director of the McGill Centre for endocrinology studies in 1995 and assumed his present position as endocrinologist in Chief of the McGill University Health Centre (muhc) in 1996.
Yogesh’s research progress has focused on the biological and patho-physiological importance of the peptide hormone somatostatin and its receptors, a field in which he is recognized as the foremost international authority. His contributions have had a major impact on our understanding of somatostatin as a neurotransmitter substance in the brain on the discovery and characterisation of somatostatin receptors sub-types and of the direct physical interaction of somatostatin receptors with other receptors such as dopamine, which opens the door to new dry treatment for Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia and other neurological and psychiatric disorders.
Yogesh’s research has also been extended to the application of somatostatin receptors analysis in cancer and the use of somatostatin analysis for tumor diagnosis by a somatostatin receptor imaging as well as for cancer therapy.
Yogesh represents the epitome of the clinically trained physicians who have developed all of the scientific skills of the Laboratory scientists and puts them to use at the bedside for treating disease.
His publications have collectively received over 7100 citations. In recognition of his excellent research he has received various honours and rewards including the Mc Laughlin Medal of the Royal Society of Canada, the distinguished scientist award of the Canadian Medical Research Council, the distinguished Scientist reward of the Canadian Society for Clinical investigation, election to the Association of American Physicians and election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Canada.
Yogesh has served the Medical Research Council of Canada for twelve years in various capacities as a member and chain of the endocrinology grants committee, as chair of the committee for senior and distinguished scientists awards and as a member of the group grants committee. He has also contributed to the USA national institutes of health as a grant reviewer and member of the Neurology study section.
Yogesh has further served his academic community through editorships in journals (including endocrinology) and as an organizer and chair of several international symposia on somatostatin. He has frequently consulted to industry, academia and lay organization in his capacity as a physician scientist and an expert in hormone disorders.
Most important for Yogesh is however his role as a mentor to physicians/scientists who fuse the two disciplines to enhance the treatment of disorders.
Yogesh feels glad that he has trained 35 grad students and post-doctoral fellows, several of whom are now themselves prominent endocrinologists and successful medical scientists.
It his work with somatostatin that is his passion and towards that end he is planning an international conference for this science in the spring of next year.
Patel is a married man and a father of two children.