I’ve been a leading scientist in preventing heart disease for more than 20 years and more recently, I have been diagnosed with heart disease myself. This article is a brief summary of my story and why I am starting this blog.
Ever since I was in high school I’ve wanted to have a career in health research. There was just some aspect that attracted me to it; maybe being part of something that can help people and have an impact was the attraction. As a first step, I set out to enrol in a health focused degree. I had heard about a kinesiology program at the University of Waterloo, which had a good reputation and then I later learned that Simon Fraser University had a similar program just outside of Vancouver. After looking into both exceptional programs, the call of the oceans and mountains won and as a 19-year old I moved out west.
The kinesiology program did not disappoint. I learned about human physiology, exercise science, and aspects related to health and fitness. My interests soon turned towards cardiac physiology as I was fascinated by the heart as the engine of the body. I then went on to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of British Columbia. I was fortunate to find a research-focused physician working in the Healthy Heart Program, a cardiac rehabilitation program at St. Paul’s Hospital. This was ideal as it allowed me to work directly with patients and people for my research, and not in a traditional lab.
During my PhD I worked with some of the leading minds in this area. I also spent time at Stanford University and received my American College of Sports Medicine Exercise Specialist certification.
After completing my degree I began work as a professor at Simon Fraser University (http://www.sfu.ca/fhs/people/profiles/scott-lear.html) and was later awarded the Pfizer/Heart and Stroke Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research at St. Paul’s Hospital in recognition of my research contributions.
Over the past two decades my research has helped people get healthier and get more out of the health care system. Working alongside patients, doctors and health care administrators, I have used simple technology to solve challenges in the health care system to deliver heart health care to patients living in small urban and rural areas (www.BCATPR.ca), demonstrated links between our environment and behaviours such as physical activity and nutrition, and investigated the relationship between obesity and heart disease (www.coheart.ca).
In February 2017 (at the age of 47) I was diagnosed with coronary artery disease (a 20% blockage in one of my main arteries in my heart). This was a total shock to me as I was being investigated for a somewhat common occurrence of palpitations during exercise, and I’ve also spent my whole career life trying to prevent heart disease through my research. Needless to say, this added a new perspective into the work I do.
Since I know a lot (maybe too much for my own good?) about heart disease, my new diagnosis made me reflect on my own life (family, friends, work) and what I want to continue to do for the remainder of it. Much of my research has been published in medical journals that impress my colleagues and superiors, but does very little to reach the people like you who would most benefit from it. As I got into this field to help people stay healthy I thought starting a blog would be a great way to share my knowledge and experience.
In this blog, I will draw on my scientific expertise and patient experience to write about issues pertinent to maintaining a healthy lifestyle for general well-being, and for the prevention and management of many common conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Specific topics will cover areas like physical activity/exercise and healthy nutrition. In addition, I will also focus on areas regarding the health care system and how we as patients can get the most out of it. This will include topics such as navigating through the health care system, interacting with your providers, and identifying challenges and solutions we face in health care. I will also write about recent advances in these and other relevant areas as new knowledge comes out.
I hope you will enjoy reading my blog and find this knowledge helpful in your daily life.
Scott Lear, PhD