Nov. 22, 2021
New education director brings experience to portfolio
Clinician-researcher Dr. Satish Raj, MD, has taken on the role of Education Director for the Libin Cardiovascular Institute.
Raj, a cardiac electrophysiologist, has a research and clinical interest in dysfunction of the autonomic system, and is well known for his contributions to the field. He is the founder of the Calgary Autonomic Investigation & Management Clinic.
Raj received his internal medicine and cardiology training at Queen’s University and his cardiac electrophysiology training at the University of Calgary. He completed a research fellowship at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, where he spent 12 years working at the Vanderbilt Autonomic Dysfunction Center.
A professor in the Dept. of Cardiac Science at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute and the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, Raj maintains a busy lab where he works with students at all levels ranging from high school summer students to postdoctoral fellows.
He is excited about his new role.
“The Libin Cardiovascular Institute is unique because it has both a research and clinical component,” he says. “We have the ability to pair those who conduct research with those who can implement the science.”
Raj’s interest in education began early in his career. His first foray into academia was teaching the MSc in Clinical Investigation program at Vanderbilt. This ignited a passion for training clinicians about research and research methodology that motivated him to lead the creation of a two-week elective rotation focusing on research for Vanderbilt’s internal medicine training program.
“This provided exposure to different types of research, such as health services and outcomes research and basic research, for clinicians,” he said.
Fundamental research skills are something Raj believes all clinicians should at least be exposed to.
“In clinical training we aren’t taught about research and research methodology,” he says. “But patients get the best care when health care providers are at least thinking about research. As a society, we are going to do better if we can get everyone to be a bit of a clinical researcher in the context of caring for patients.”
In addition to teaching courses, Raj has mentored numerous students over the years, both formally as a supervisor and informally. Doing so brings him great satisfaction.
“There is nothing better than seeing your students evolve to where they are really experts in their area, to where they truly transform themselves,” he says. “Their success starts to become the most important thing.”
Kate Bourne is an award-winning PhD student who has been working with Raj for about four years. She says he goes above and beyond to support his trainees.
“Dr. Raj is an extraordinary mentor and supervisor,” she says. “He has challenged me to develop my research skills, while creating opportunities for me to succeed. Recently, I was selected as a Vanier Scholar and accepted into Cumming School of Medicine, two achievements that would not have been possible without Dr. Raj.”
Dr. Jacquie Baker, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Raj who recently won the prestigious Alice Wilson Award from the Royal Society of Canada, says her mentor strives to provide unique learning opportunities.
“Dr. Raj is a fantastic advocate for trainee development, education, recognition and career advancement,” she says. “I know he will bring the same passion and commitment as the new director of education and will continue to be a strong voice for all trainees.”
Philosophy of education
Raj believes both formal and informal training in multiple settings, such as the classroom and lab, are critical to research success. He has been both a mentor and a mentee and believes much knowledge can be gained in both giving and receiving feedback.
“There is value in one-on-one and group learning environments,” says Raj. “But the bulk of the learning our students receive is in the lab from their supervisor and lab mates. Throughout this apprenticeship model, there is tiered mentorship: everyone comes in at different stages and both learn from and teach others.”
Raj not only encourages his students to be leaders, but also coaches them in key areas, such as understanding the importance of biostatistics and data security, being a successful writer and learning how to communicate their research to numerous audiences. He is also pragmatic.
“Part of the life of a researcher is dealing with rejection,” he says. “Being able to take the rejection and not allowing it to crush you is key. You have to learn to turn the negative feedback into something positive.”
Libin education portfolio
Raj believes the Libin has a great foundation when it comes to clinical and research training. His first task is to engage with students and their supervisors to find what is working and what needs improvement and “tweak accordingly.”
He hopes to continue encouraging student leadership, an initiative that began under the leadership of former Libin Education Director Dr. Jennifer Thompson, PhD.
Under Raj’s leadership, the Libin Institute is also part of a pilot project being undertaken by the Faculty of Graduate Studies looking to simplify the graduate scholarship application process.
“Ultimately, our goal is to use the resources we have to help make our members and students more successful,” says Raj.
If you have feedback regarding the education portfolio at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute, contact Judy Siu at email@example.com