In Memoriam

In memoriamÉric Dewailly (1957-2014)

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Dr. Éric Dewailly’s early professional career included a position in community health at CHUL’s Community Health Department in Quebec City, as a consulting physician (1987-1989), and then as the coordinator of the Quebec City area environmental health team until 1998. From 1998 onward, he headed the CHUQ Public Health Research Unit (CHUL). He was also a full professor in environmental health at the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine (Faculty of Medicine) at Université Laval from 1997 onward.

Dr. Dewailly’s research had several main themes: the impact of oceanic pollution on human health, such as contamination of the marine food chain and exposure of fishing communities to heavy metals and organochlorines; the effect of these contaminants on the reproductive, immune, and neurological systems; marine toxins; and other subjects. He made over 500 scientific presentations, published over 200 scientific peer-reviewed articles, and received over $80 million in grants. From 2000 to 2006, he sat on the scientific board of the CIHR Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health. He was also the director of the CIHR-funded Nasivvik Centre for Inuit Health. He had responsibilities in various scientific networks, including ArcticNet, Québec Océan, CIHR Network for autism, AquaNet, Global Health Research Initiative, FRSQ Environmental Health Research Network, and FRSQ Québec Population Health Research Network.

Dr. Dewailly participated in the Coastal GOOS Panel of UNESCO and various expert panels of the World Health Organization. He represented Canada on the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program/Human Health Expert Group, was co-chair of the environmental group of the International Union for Circumpolar Health, and headed the medical section of the International Center for Ocean and Human Health at the Bermuda Biological Station for Research (now BIOS). He was appointed 2008 adjunct professor at the Institut Louis Malardé in Papeete (French Polynesia). From 2002 onward he served as the director of the Atlantis Mobile Laboratory program funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

He earned a degree in medicine from the University of Lille (France, 1982), and then completed specialized studies in public health (CES, Amiens, 1983). After doing his residency in community health (Université Laval, 1983-1985), he earned a Master’s degree in epidemiology (Université Laval, 1987) and a Ph.D. in toxicology (Lille, 1990).

(adapted from the Council of Canadian Academies)

STILL I DON’T KNOW

A Tribute to Éric Dewailly

STILL I DON’T KNOW

Still I don’t know the exact word, the exact thing

That would convey the content of our undefined link

Friendship? Mutual amenity?

Crony? Brotherhood? Fraternity?

The closest link is from that Old Time, perhaps,

To name that which will forever last,

That which happens so seldom in a lifetime

You won’t need all the fingers of one hand

But more than five, no doubt, I’ll need

To remember where we both met and agreed

Bits and clues of an explanation

To the common course of our navigation

SCIENCE

In Ottawa, a strange trio

Imagine the moment, the tableau

The Honourable Ghislain Otis: “Oxfeuuuurd peuuuurfect English”

Then me, and my accent “Saguenay-ish”

And finally Éric, the third pal,

With his English, “Quite Frenchie-style.”

Defending all, with gravity

Our program on food security

Aftermath debriefing, among ourselves

We were laughing, convinced that on shelves

Our project should be put, for eternity,

In spite of our answers of true sincerity

We recall: “Final question for your defence:

Will your project make a difference?”

Otis began: “As foour zze jurists are concerned

Improving lââwz is at the hhearth of our more foolish dreamzz”

I said: “We will make a différennce lala”

Éric: “Becauze, for choure, will dô goudd science”

And then we got the big bucks grant!

Worked for years with hordes of students!

Often he said: “Do good science”

In front of whatever audience:

Learned societies, leaders, politicians

Research partners, colleagues, students.

He meant, I know for sure:

Rigueur, state of the art, never obscure

Mastering rules and tools of one’s science field

Shedding light under the shield

He meant, I have no doubt:

Useful questions, curtailed, cut out

From our partners’ necessity

To answer needs, right now, today!

He meant, I testify:

Multiple disciplines glaze as question justifies;

Contribute all you can but ego to content;

Leave the leadership to the most competent

LAB AND PEOPLE

First time, out of nowhere, he called me

Asking for help with household economy

Public health advice he had to make

Not knowing the impact of what was at stake

Second time, I called him back

Wishing to pursue, wishing to give back.

Broadening the scope, the team, and the linkage

Engaged to open up a new field of knowledge

Third time, he asked again

And together we designed

What was to become health and social sides

Of the ArcticNet program, which still lives

Track records are full of numbers

Diplomas, speeches, reports, and papers

But altogether they leave only silence

On the heart, the true meaning of the experience

We said, we shared, we believed

Life is too short, how ironic, not to work with those we love

Teaming up with good persons gives the joy to give

The privilege always to receive

It opens wide the doors of generosity

By which accomplishment comes to maturity

We said, we shared, we believed

Independence of our labs these values guaranteed

We created our programs not for the honours

Nor the prizes, nor to raise up the ladders

But to keep up with our values and freedom,

To work the way we believe science shall be done

THÉMIS AND STELLA POLARIS

Last time I met him by this very river

I was launching a book at our club for boaters

It was a novel, an unusual event in our circle

Of serious writers, staying far away from fable

“In that small grey matter of mine,” he said,

“A thousand short stories are being stored

That I will write down, one day

For my grandchildren, I hope I may.”

Today, his blue sailboat Thémis

Side by side with my Stella Polaris

Lie down on their dry bed for winter

We share that, too, together

STILL I DON’T KNOW

Still I don’t know the exact word, nor the exact thing

That would convey the content of our undefined link

Friendship? Mutual amenity?

Crony? Brotherhood? Fraternity?

The closest link is from that Old Time, perhaps

Binding together seagoing chaps

Or simple craftsmen under one ensign

Since we were both fellow seamen

The closest link is from that Old Time, perhaps,

To name that which will forever last,

That which happens so seldom in a lifetime

You won’t need all the fingers of one hand.

Gérard Duhaime, read on-board the AML Louis-Jolliet, October 31, 2014, 19th Inuit Studies Conference, Quebec City

Figure 1

Éric Dewailly’s sailboat Thémis

Éric Dewailly’s sailboat Thémis
Photo: Gérard Duhaime

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