Supervisor: Michael Khoury
Project: High-intensity interval training in youth who have received heart transplants
Doctor of Medicine
Why did you choose the degree program you are in?
I was one of those kids who always wanted to be a doctor. I have many personal experiences with the medical system; however, it wasn't until I went through university that I also discovered my passion for science, understanding human physiology and life-long learning. I am thankful for the opportunity to train in a profession that is always striving towards making a positive impact on the world through practice and research.
What's been the best part of your experience so far?
The best part of my experience is having the opportunity to incorporate my growing medical knowledge into a clinical project. My previous research background has involved bench-side projects, so having exposure to the behind-the-scenes of a clinical trial has been very informative. Also, although we were unable to start the original project until late in the summer, I have had the opportunity to learn how to write a systematic review. Overall, I appreciate being able to see the impact of medical research on the lives of patients and I am excited to be involved in clinical research in the future.
What impact do you hope this project makes once completed? How will this contribute to improving the health of children?
We hope that by providing families with a safe and engaging form of cardiac rehabilitation, children post-transplant will gain an increase in both exercise capacity and quality of life. Being able to have real-time monitoring of an exercise session by a physician/exercise physiologist provides parents and children with constant feedback and security without having to travel to and from the hospital. This will hopefully result in a feasible and accessible alternative exercise program for pediatric heart transplant recipients.
What's one piece of advice you received from your supervisor/mentor that resonated with you?
One piece of advice that resonated with me was how to handle new situations or projects. My supervisor always recommended we ask experts in their respective fields if we were unsure about how to approach something. For example, during our systematic reviews, we consulted with librarians for how to construct our literature search strategies and with other researchers about the correct methodology. This concept is especially true in medicine, where it's impossible to know everything. Learning to ask other practitioners their opinion on a case or idea is an invaluable part of being on a healthcare or research team and I will definitely use this advice in my future practice.
What has the support from WCHRI and the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation meant to you?
I am very grateful for the financial and academic support provided by the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation through WCHRI. This summer studentship has provided me with an opportunity to further develop my skills as a researcher and future physician. I have gained insight into how to improve my academic writing, what is involved in a clinical research project and the role research plays in medical practice. Finally, through this program, I have been inspired to become more involved in pediatric-centred research in my future career.
Children who have undergone heart transplants (HT) have reduced fitness levels (exercise capacity) compared with the general population. Exercise programs in children who have received HTs, however, have not been well studied. At the University of Alberta, a home-based, video-game linked exercise bike that allows for a live video feed along with heart tracing and oxygen saturation monitoring (the MedBIKE™) has been developed and studied in children born with severe forms of heart disease.
We are now seeking to study this in children who have received HTs. To do this, we will include children aged 10 to 18 years old who are at least 6-months post-HT. Participants will undergo an exercise stress test to determine their baseline fitness levels. A MedBIKE™ will then be installed in their home and a 36-session, 12-week home-based high-intensity interval training (HIIT) program will begin. Each session will be supervised by a cardiologist or exercise physiologist and the difficulty of each session can be modified by the supervisor as needed. After completion of the program, participants will return for a follow-up exercise stress test to evaluate changes in fitness levels as a result of the program. We will also be measuring changes in physical activity and attitudes towards exercise as a result of the MedBIKE™ program. This study will be the first to evaluate a home-based, yet supervised exercise program in children who have undergone HT. It is our hope that these findings will help promote strategies to support active, healthy living in young HT recipients.