Dr. Hélène Héon receives the CRCHUM's Bâtisseur Award

- 4 min
Dr Vincent Poitout et Dre Hélène Héon

Dr. Vincent Poitout and Dr. Hélène Héon

On June 13, at an official ceremony, Dr. Hélène Héon, Head of Scientific and Veterinary Services at Université de Montréal's affiliated hospital research centre (CRCHUM) animal facility until September 2023, received the CRCHUM’s Bâtisseur Award.

This prestigious award was presented in front of an audience of some sixty people, by Dr. Vincent Poitout, another veterinarian by training and researcher, who is currently Director of Research at the CHUM and Scientific Director at the CRCHUM.

The entire CRCHUM management team is proud to recognize Dr. Héon's exceptional career with this award. She is an outstanding figure in veterinary medicine.

Through her actions and commitment, this builder has made a significant contribution to the research centre’s scientific influence in Canada.

A humble and respected figure in the shadows

In Canada, there is no denying Héon’s reputation in the fields of pain prevention and the promotion of animal health and well-being.

Her ongoing scientific involvement with various committees of the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) has enabled her to play an active role in setting high standards for animal ethics and research animal care.

"Thanks to the support of management and the work of the ethics committee we have been able to set up an exceptional care program at the CRCHUM, supported on a daily basis by the animal facility staff," explains Dr. Héon.

"Research teams have always acknowledged my team and me as part of their research's success. And there's no shortage of scientific challenges at the CRCHUM. A good example is the successful introduction of axenic mice, a new animal model for the teams of Dr. Bertrand Routy and Manuela Santos. Without the hard work of my entire team, we would never have succeeded!”

As researcher Emmanuelle Brochiero, Head of the Immunopathology Research Theme, so aptly pointed out: "Hélène is, first and foremost, a researcher. She has always been ready to help research teams and propose solutions to their scientific challenges, with a review of scientific literature to back it up!”

A priceless scientific legacy

For Dr. Maryse Boulay, current Head of Scientific and Veterinary Services, Dr. Héon was a mentor.

"When I returned to Canada, I kept hearing Dr. Hélène Héon's name. I understood why the day I met her. Her quest to surpass herself, her ingenuity, her scientific rigour, her empathetic and caring approach, and her dedication all make Hélène a remarkable person.” —Dr. Maryse Boulay

Today, Héon's legacy is still felt by the entire animal facility team, where over 45 people are dedicated to and working toward animal welfare and the integrity of research models.

Thanks to the support of this team, and many others from the core facilities, and infrastructure essential to our research activities, the heart of the CRCHUM beats at a steady pace.

"Hélène has given a great deal to the CRCHUM and the animal facility. When I’d tell her to take care of herself, she'd say, "I'm not important. My team and the animals come first!” —Cordélia Cadieux, Animal Health Technician and Infrastructure Coordinator

Dr. Hélène Héon's involvement went far beyond her department and resonated throughout the entire CRCHUM community.

For Céline Coderre, Scientific Performance Principal Manager, Héon will always be an exceptional collaborator, particularly for her work on the core facilities' social committee and developing training on responsible research conduct.

A quiet strength during COVID-19

Considered an essential service during the pandemic, the CRCHUM's animal facility never ceased its operations.

In an article published in September 2021, Dr. Héon fondly recalls, "The first month was pretty tough going."

"After the initial shock, we had to reorganize the work of the animal facility, put prevention measures in place and continue our activities despite limited supplies of protective equipment and disinfectant, indispensable for our services. In this very special early-pandemic context, we had to focus on the care and welfare of the animals and on the needs of our staff so that we could work safely.”

Physical distancing, new hygiene procedures and indications for directional flow through the premises were among the arrangements that quickly became part of the routine of the animal facility staff.

To maintain care quality, Dr. Héon and her team took a close look at the way their department operated and checked to see if it was possible to optimize it, given the circumstances. According to Héon, “After an in-depth analysis of different catastrophic scenarios, we realized that our procedures were efficient and that we were already working in optimal conditions. That’s good quality control!”

It is true that the CRCHUM holds a Certificate of Good Animal Practice from the CCAC, a national organization responsible for the development, implementation and oversight of high standards for animal ethics and care in science in Canada.

Fortunately, neither the animal facility nor the research experienced any down time. As for the animals, they benefited from the ever attentive and devoted care of a strong team where mutual assistance took precedence in spite of their fatigue.

Remise du Prix Bâtisseur à Hélène Héon

Key dates

  • In June 1994, Dr. Hélène Héon joined the CRCHUM as a veterinarian.
  • In January 2011, she was promoted to Head of Veterinary Services.
  • Between 2011 and 2014, she and her team organized the animal facility of the current CRCHUM, which for the first time centralized the four animal facilities of the CRCHUM laboratories that were spread over different sites until 2013.
  • In September 2023, Dr. Héon retired after 29 years of service.

For more information

The Bâtisseur Award honours a CRCHUM researcher for their contribution to the development of the research centre.

Dr. Héon thus joins the ranks of illustrious builders who came before her: Jacques Turgeon in 2015; Dr. Pavel Hamet in 2017; Anne-Marie Mes-Masson, Dr. Diane Provencher and Morag Park in 2019; Dr. Pierre Duquette in 2021; and Jacques de Guise in 2023.

Dr. Hélène Héon receives the CRCHUM's Bâtisseur Award