It’s hard to believe my 5 years with the Lawson Foundation as a Junior Research Chair grantee came to an end in August 2015! Time flies, but looking back at this unique and exciting journey reminds me how much I was able to accomplish in such a short period of time. When I decided to apply for this position in 2010, I was in the middle of my postdoctoral training at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark). I flew from Copenhagen to Ottawa for the interview, and was so excited when I was offered the job! I started my position in September 2010 with the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (HALO) at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, and since the very beginning I have strived to push the boundaries of our knowledge in hopes of making a difference in the lives of children and their families.
Junior Research Chairs Program: Increasing Canadian Capacity for Pediatric Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research.
This grant, jointly funded by the Lawson Foundation and the CHEO Foundation, supported a training program for young researchers interested in prevention to eventually reduce and reverse the trends in unhealthy living behaviours that precipitate childhood obesity and premature cardio-metabolic disease. This investment in research and leadership capacity focused on increasing the prevalence of healthy behaviours in all children to keep healthy kids healthy, to mitigate the inactivity and obesity crisis, and to help shift the public’s current focus on obesity to an interest in health promotion.
For a young scientist like myself, the ability to dedicate 100% of my time to research has been incredibly rewarding. This privilege has allowed me to develop a very strong and competitive research program including professional activities, student training, and international collaborations. Over the past 5 years, I published more than 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts, gave over 100 lectures around the world, won several research awards, supervised 9 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and secured sufficient funds for my team. Such a high level of productivity would not have been possible with a typical tenure-track position. More details can be found on my profile on the HALO website and its annual reports.
In my opinion, the 5 most impactful publications as a Junior Research Chair grantee are:
- Gribbon A, McNeil J, Jay O, Tremblay MS, Chaput JP. Active video games and energy balance in male adolescents: a randomized crossover trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2015; 101: 1126-1134.
- Chaput JP, Leduc G, Boyer C, Bélanger P, LeBlanc AG, Borghese MM, Tremblay MS. Electronic screens in children’s bedrooms and adiposity, physical activity and sleep: do the number and type of electronic devices matter? Canadian Journal of Public Health 2014; 105: e273-e279.
- Chaput JP. Sleep patterns, diet quality and energy balance. Physiology & Behavior 2014; 134: 86-91.
- Chaput JP, Leduc G, Boyer C, Bélanger P, LeBlanc AG, Borghese MM, Tremblay MS. Objectively measured physical activity, sedentary time and sleep duration: independent and combined associations with adiposity in Canadian children. Nutrition and Diabetes 2014; 4: e117.
- Chaput JP, LeBlanc AG, McFarlane A, Colley RC, Thivel D, Biddle SJH, Maddison R, Leatherdale ST, Tremblay MS. Active Healthy Kids Canada’s Position on Active Video Games for Children and Youth. Paediatrics & Child Health 2013; 18: 529-532.
The 3 most prestigious research awards I received are:
- Roger Broughton Young Investigator Award, 2015 Canadian Sleep Society Conference, Toronto, Canada. This award is in recognition for significant early career contributions to the field of sleep research in Canada.
- International Journal of Obesity New Faculty Award, 2014 International Congress on Obesity, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This award recognizes exceptional research in population health based on innovation, quality of science, research design, and quality of writing. It is awarded every 4 years by World Obesity.
- 2011 Sport Information Resource Centre (SIRC) Research Award. This award recognizes outstanding sport research in Canada and acknowledges how sport research benefits the Canadian sporting community.
The main objective of the Junior Research Chair program was to develop leaders of tomorrow in pediatric healthy active living and obesity prevention. The fertile research environment at HALO helped me to network and collaborate with well-accomplished leaders in the field to stimulate my creativity and critical thinking. Among my key accomplishments, I have made novel contributions demonstrating that lack of sleep is stressful for the human body and should be avoided for good health. I have also reported for the first time in the literature that getting more sleep can protect against weight gain, and provided new evidence that adequate sleep is important in the treatment of obesity. Even the Canadian Obesity Network (the largest obesity organization in the world) now includes “sleep” as part of their practitioner tool – the 5As of Obesity Management.
During the past 5 years, I have also learned that research doesn’t end by simply publishing in academic journals. Publishing scientific papers alone will not result in meaningful changes in the lives of children if our discoveries are not translated to the general public. As it stands, scientific publications are not accessible for the average Canadian and therefore, I have dedicated a large part of my work to knowledge translation activities, including media interviews, youth outreach activities, blogs and social media. Good science doesn’t matter if it doesn’t ultimately impact the lives of people.
Overall, I feel very privileged to have had this unique and amazing experience over the past 5 years and wish that other Junior Research Chair programs will become available for young investigators in the future. This position allowed me to become a sought-after candidate and I received many job offers. I made a decision to stay in Ottawa with the HALO group (5 year extension to my contract funded going forward by the CHEO Research Institute) because I feel I am well positioned to have an impact and make a difference. And I am happy here!
To continue the conversation, feel free to reach out to me, follow me on Twitter (@DrJPChaput), and check out all the research activity on the HALO website.