When personal hobbies and medicine intersect: Applying knowledge from clinical trials to inform practice

Dr. Paul MacDonald

Dr. Paul MacDonald, a cardiologist and head of internal medicine in Eastern Zone, is a strong proponent of the value that clinical trials bring to the delivery of safe and quality health care in Nova Scotia, for both patients and providers.

“The practice of medicine is based on knowledge obtained from clinical trials,” said Dr. MacDonald. “How I practice, and how I makes clinical decisions, is rooted in learnings from applied clinical research.”

During medical training, physicians are required to conduct research through participation in clinical trials; this really helped to solidify Dr. MacDonald’s interest in his area of study, cardiology.

It’s even better when a physician’s area of practice and study also intersects with personal hobbies.

In Dr. MacDonald’s case, it was hockey, our national sport.

“I was seeing heart attacks in men who play in a recreational league in Sydney. Individuals, by all accounts, who were relatively healthy,” said Dr. MacDonald.

In partnership with Cape Breton University, he conducted the Hockey Heart Study a number of years ago to measure cardiac abnormalities experienced by players.

“We found compelling data from this study, which has translated to inform how hockey rinks are managed across the country,” said Dr. MacDonald. “This includes having defibrillators on site and monitoring players for cardiac events during sporting events.”

This is one of many examples of why Dr. MacDonald finds it stimulating to participate in clinical research.

There is also a strong link between the availability of clinical trials and physician recruitment and retention.

“Having the capacity and capability to run clinical trials locally where you practice is really a key contributor to attracting and retaining top talent,” said Dr. MacDonald. “It’s part of my recruitment pitch to potential physicians who tour the Eastern Zone area.”

He also notes that residents of Cape Breton are also very keen to participate in studies, as they understand that it will potentially help other people in the future.

“Clinical trials enable our physicians and clinical staff to stay current on treatments, and it supports them to be able to provide the necessary care for patients.”