Oct. 27, 2021

Clinical researcher designs ways to tackle unsolved problems in health care

2021 Top 40 Under 40: Dr. Jason Weatherald, MD
Jason Weatherald
Jason Weatherald Jared Sych, Avenue magazine

It’s easy to understand why Dr. Jason Weatherald, MD, 37, has been living in overdrive for the past 19 months. Not only has been on the front lines treating patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but he is co-leading an international clinical trial looking to improve outcomes for hospitalized patients with COVID and low oxygen levels. He also established the post-COVID clinic at Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary for patients experiencing prolonged effects from the virus (a condition called Long COVID).

Dr. Weatherald is an assistant professor of medicine, University of Calgary, and respirologist, researcher, and clinic lead for patients with Long COVID

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?

The year I spent on a research fellowship in Paris, France, in 2016-2017. This not only catalyzed my research career, but was a rewarding and transformative experience on a personal level. I became fluent in French, travelled around France and Europe with my wife, and worked with incredible and inspiring mentors and friends from around the world, with whom I continue to collaborate today. I am very proud of the research we did in Paris, which has improved the way clinicians assess risk in patients with pulmonary hypertension. This allows doctors to make more accurate recommendations about treatment and prognosis.

How has COVID-19 impacted your day-to-day work?

It has had a huge impact on my work. In addition to taking care of hospitalized patients with COVID-19, it has created new challenges in delivering care to my regular practice, who are vulnerable patients with pulmonary hypertension. It has led to some innovations in how we provide health care, but has also resulted in care deficits for some of our patients. COVID-19 also provided new opportunities for research as I pivoted much of my research program to address questions and challenges posed by the pandemic.

What is the most satisfying thing about your job?

The most satisfying thing is the variety that an academic medicine career can provide. Every day is different, and every week is different. I love being a doctor and providing patient care to people with lung problems. It is rewarding and humbling to bring answers to patients and treatment options when many have struggled without a diagnosis for months or years. Being a clinical researcher, I have the unique opportunity to think about unanswered problems that affect my patients, design ways of addressing those problems, then applying it in practice. Research provides the opportunity to work with brilliant colleagues here in Calgary and around the world.

If you were to go back to school, what would you take?

I would study computer science or data science, as I think this will be the most useful skill in society and medicine in the future. I would also minor in art history.

What are your biggest regrets?

I wish that I had spent two years doing research in Paris instead of just one. It took a while to settle in and build momentum with our projects. Just when things were starting to take off, I moved back to Calgary. So, one more year there would have been incredible!

Any advice for students or new grads? 

Find the right mentor and find multiple mentors. Find people to champion you and who care as much about your mental and physical well-being as they do about your success.

When you are not working, what do you do? 

I have two young boys under four years old. So, when I’m not working, I try to spend as much time as I can with them.

With files from Avenue Magazine.