Dr. Davinder Jassal

FEATURED INTERVIEW: Dr. Davinder Jassal Research Mentor in Profile

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Davinder S Jassal, MD FACC FRCPC
Associate Professor, University of Manitoba

Dr. Davinder S. Jassal was born in Thompson, Manitoba, obtained an International Baccalaureate Degree at Sisler High School in Winnipeg, and graduated from the University of Manitoba with an MD in 1998. He completed a residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Manitoba from 1998-2001 and then a residency in Cardiology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada from 2001-2004. Subsequently, he completed a clinical and research fellowship in multimodality cardiac imaging from 2004-2006, specializing in echocardiography, computed tomography, and MRI at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, US.

Dr. Jassal joined the University of Manitoba in 2006 as an Academic Clinician Scientist, where half of his time is devoted to patient care in the Coronary Care Unit and cardiac imaging and the other half devoted to translational research. Currently, as a distinguished contributor to the field of noninvasive cardiovascular imaging, he holds numerous academic and administrative positions at the University of Manitoba. Dr. Jassal is Associate Professor of Medicine, Radiology and Physiology; Principal Investigator of the Cardiovascular Imaging Laboratory in the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at the St. Boniface General Hospital and Research Centre; Program Director of the Adult Cardiology Residency Training Program; Medical Director of the WRHA Coronary Care Unit; Co-director of the WRHA Cardiac CT and MRI programs; and Postgraduate Cardiology Research Director. Additionally, Dr. Jassal holds affiliated scientist positions with both the Institute of Biodiagnostics at the National Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM), and is a cofounder of the Cardiovascular Research and Health Outcomes in Manitoba (CHARM) research group.

Dr. Jassal holds the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada New Investigator. He was recently nationally awarded the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada Mentor of the Year Award, Canadian Cardiovascular Society Young Investigator Award, the Liam Murphy Young Investigator Award from the Department of Internal Medicine, and the University of Manitoba Rh Award for Outstanding Contributions to Scholarship and Research in the Health Sciences Category. Dr. Jassal has secured grant support from a total of 26 local, provincial and federal agencies amounting to 3.0 million dollars in funding. With over 350 peer reviewed publications consisting of original research, editorials, chapters, and abstracts, he has published in high impact journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, Circulation, Journal American College of Cardiology, and the European Heart Journal.

Can you tell us about one of your current projects?
My interests lie in the novel field of Cardio-Oncology. I am currently doing a translational research study evaluating the use of cardiac biomarkers and tissue Doppler imaging (TDI) using echocardiography for the early detection of cardiac dysfunction due to the anti-cancer drugs bevacizumab and sunitinib. In a murine model, we have confirmed the utility of TDI for the early detection of cardiotoxicity due to these biological agents and are currently translating this exciting finding to the clinical setting. In collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, the Avastin and Stent Induced Cardiotoxicity study is evaluating the use of serial cardiac biomarkers and TDI for the early detection of cardiotoxicity in the colorectal and renal cancer populations.
How did you first get acquainted with clinical research?

My first exposure to research was as an undergraduate student at the University of Manitoba when I was hired by Dr. Ian Dixon at the St. Boniface Research Centre. In my training in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Manitoba, Dalhousie University, and Harvard University, I have been fortunate to have been mentored by exceptional Clinician-Scientists who have left me “infected with a research bug” that continues to fuel my intellectual curiosity on a daily basis.

What role did your mentors play in shaping your career path?
I was first exposed to research early in my undergraduate years including the BSc Med program at the University of Manitoba. The B.Sc. (Med.) program provides medical students an opportunity to engage in original research, either in basic medical sciences or clinical or community health, under the supervision of a member of the Medical Faculty. In my case, it was Dr. Ian Dixon at the St. Boniface Research Centre who served as my mentor. The aim of the program is to provide medical students with the opportunity to:
    • Develop skills at research design, hypothesis testing, critical evaluation of data and effective communication of results.
    • Discover whether they would like to continue as a researcher, either through continuing into a formal graduate program during or after medical school or as a clinician researcher.

This program was instrumental in my future aspirations of becoming a Clinician Scientist.

How do you balance providing clinical and research duties?
If there is any advice that I can provide to new Faculty members joining an Academic position, is that to truly succeed in the field of research, one must secure adequate protected research time and to be able to network with colleagues locally, nationally, and internationally to be successful.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
In the competitive realm of peer-reviewed grant funding from national bodies including CIHR and HSFC with reductions in overall financial support, the most challenging part of a Clinician-Scientist would be adequate funds to support day-to-day operations.

What do you like the most about being a clinician-researcher?

I enjoy working with both graduate students (Masters, PhD, and post docs) and clinical trainees (medical students, residents, and fellows) to narrow the gap between the basic science and clinical worlds.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself continuing to mentor future graduate students and clinical trainees in their quest of becoming Principal Investigators and/or Clinician Scientists.

How did you ultimately settle on your current research area of focus?
During my training at Harvard University from 2004-2006, I was fortunate to work with mentors in the field of Cardio-Oncology who helped shape my current research area of focus.

Do you have any practical tips for a young trainee who is about to embark on a first research project?


 Two things:

  • Time commitment: you will need protected time to be able to complete your project from beginning to end.
  • Perseverance: research has its ups and downs; it is not as easy and rewarding as making a clinical diagnosis at the bedside; stick with your hypothesis and in the end you will learn from the exercise of writing a proposal/performing experiments/presenting the findings; this experience is invaluable!
What do you think will be required in terms of experience and qualifications to be a clinician-researcher in the next generation?
The next generation of Clinician-Scientists will need to learn how to network and create a team approach to succeed in research. The era of isolated “silos” and individual grants will become a thought of the past.

Is there anything in your career path that you would like to “do over”

If I could “do over” one thing from the past, I would seek advice from my former mentors teach me “how to write a grant”.