An Introduction to SNACC’s 2020 Annual Meeting Keynote Speaker, Edith Hamel, PhD

By Tasha L. Welch, MD

Dr. Welch
Tasha L. Welch, MD

SNACC’s Virtual Meeting attendees will have the distinct pleasure of listening to Dr. Edith Hamel, an accomplished neuroscientist speak about her work on the modulation of cerebral hemodynamic responses by brain states and pathology.  Dr. Hamel received her PhD in Clinical Sciences (neurobiology) from the University of Montreal. She continued with post-doctoral training at City of Hope (California, USA), the Montréal Neurological Institute (McGill University, Montréal, Canada), and Synthélabo (now Sanofi-Aventis, France) before returning to the Montréal Neurological Institute where she still runs her own laboratory.

Dr. Hamel
Edith Hamel, PhD

Following her training, she has held many esteemed positions at Montréal Neurological Institute, McGill University.  She is currently Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University, French spokesperson of the Montréal Neurological Institute, and chair of the Montréal Neurological Institute Fellowship committee.  Throughout her career she has earned many awards and accolades.  Dr. Hamel is an accomplished teacher with an impressive list of mentees ranging from summer students to post-doctoral fellows and visiting scientists.  She continues to share her work through the process of mentoring fellow scientists. Her accolades continue as she has been an invited and keynote speaker at many international events and meetings. Additionally, she received the prestigious Blaise Pascal International Research Chair from the French government (2001) and was President of the International Society of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism (2013-2015).

Recently, Dr. Hamel was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (2017), and she received the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism.

Dr. Hamel focuses her research efforts on neurovascular coupling with a goal to understanding how interactions between neurons, astrocytes, and the brain microcirculation are altered in pathological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  Her lab uses cutting-edge technology to record changes in neuronal and hemodynamic responses and gain insight into how specific populations of neurons control the local microvessels and how brain states and brain diseases can affect the intricate functioning of the neurovascular unit.

When asked what sparked her interest in neuroscience, Dr. Hamel replied, “I have always been interested in science in general from biology to mathematics, but I think that it is at the BSc level that one of my teachers really spurred my interest about the brain with lectures on excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters that would dictate the final decision of the neurons. Particularly, the inhibitory transmitter GABA fascinated my attention by its ability to nail down the activity of the excitatory neurons. I believe this class significantly contributed to my decision to pursue graduate studies in neuroscience. I started looking into possible labs and requesting studentship salary awards towards this endeavor. I finally landed in a laboratory of neurobiology working on Friedreich’s ataxia and amino acid metabolism! And, my first post-doc was on GABA and the cerebral circulation, a research topic that I am still exploring today! So, I guess that this first class on neurochemistry really sparked a long-lasting interest!”

Dr. Hamel clearly has passion and works diligently to enjoy a successful and rewarding career. When asked what the most rewarding part of her career is thus far she replied, “Beyond the satisfaction of having contributed a bit of new knowledge related to migraine, regulation of brain hemodynamics and the cerebrovascular pathology in Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, the most rewarding aspect of my career is really when young(er) women tell me that I inspired their decision to become neuroscientists working in cerebrovascular research after seeing one of my seminars or lectures. This is by far the most cherished, rewarding and unexpected aspect of my career. We clearly need more woman scientists, and I am really happy if I contributed even just a little bit in bringing some of the most talented ones in our field of research.”

Dr. Hamel’s research, expertise, and passion will be a highlight of the SNACC’s Annual Meeting.  I’d like to extend a sincere thank you to Dr. Hamel for her time and contributions to this article.

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