April 3, 2019

A world of opportunity

Helios scholarship links CSM graduates to clinical fellowship training in a range of specialties at leading institutions

About one million Canadians are alive today with a cancer diagnosed in the previous 10 years, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. Unfortunately, many survivors don’t get the specialized rehabilitation and aftercare needed to manage and improve life-limiting physical impairments — such as musculoskeletal pain, neuropathy, frozen shoulder, or speech difficulties — resulting from the malignancy or its associated treatment.

Dr. David Langelier, MD’13, is a cancer rehabilitation specialist trying to help meet this critical gap for cancer survivors.

“Cancer patients are vastly underserved. They can experience many unique functional impairments that require specific expertise to effectively treat and improve quality of life,” says Langelier, a physiatrist who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation.

“Treatment is often left to an oncologist or family physician, who may be less familiar with these conditions or have limited time to address the patients’ functional impairments,” he says. “As cancer trained physiatrists, we are well positioned to assist the oncologist in managing these complex issues.”

Langelier is one of 12 Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) graduates awarded a Helios Medical Education Fund Scholarship in 2018. Established by Helios Wellness Centres, a non-profit wellness facility based in Calgary, the philanthropic fund allows clinical fellowship trainees to acquire additional skills at other institutions and bring their expertise back to benefit the community.

Langelier’s one-year fellowship took him to the University of Toronto’s Clinical Cancer Rehabilitation program to acquire cancer-specific expertise.

“The Helios Scholarship allows me to benefit from specialized training at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, one of the top five cancer treatment and research centres in the world,” says Langelier. It’s the only cancer rehabilitation fellowship program in North America that provides equal exposure to in-patient and out-patient populations.

“Both groups are underserved in Calgary and I’ll apply that knowledge to better meet their significantly different rehabilitation needs,” says Langelier. He’s also gaining in-depth knowledge from top clinicians on how to manage and treat a broad range of cancer-related impairments.

More than 40 CSM graduates have been supported through Helios scholarships since 2012. The 2018 recipients are doing clinical fellowship training in a range of specialties at leading institutions including the University of Toronto, Stanford University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins University and the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

“These scholarships enable local clinicians to reap medical knowledge and expertise from across the globe, bring it back, and grow our medical community and knowledge in Calgary. It plays a critical role in helping provide the highest level of evidence-based medical care to Calgarians and people in southern Alberta,” says Langelier.