Historically, medicine was a very hierarchical system where the doctor was at the top of the pyramid, and everyone else was below that. That has changed dramatically in both competence and authority, opening up potential ways of contribution that are both meaningful and professional; ways that 20 years ago, few people imagined possible. These changes in the healthcare profession has created an opportunity for young people to fill exciting, creative positions in the industry in much more dynamic ways. The increasing variety in disciplines is also advantageous to research, because people are looking at problems from different angles. Physicists, biologists, and chemists apply different types of knowledge.

Discoveries in the areas of the computing, stem cell research, and imaging that has allowed us to undertake virtual non-surgical explorations of our brains or hearts and genomic research has literally revolutionized the future of medicine.

In the coming decades, there will be a much stronger connection to science within university and research institutes. A similarly dynamic intersection between the private sector and these academic and research institutes will also become visible to the point of absolute porousness. Discoveries in the areas of the computing, stem cell research, and imaging that has allowed us to undertake virtual non-surgical explorations of our brains or hearts and genomic research has literally revolutionized the future of medicine.

David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada has emphasized: “keener minds, kinder hearts.” If his vision comes to pass, in the future one will be able to say: You know what is it that characterizes a Canadian? It’s an individual who has culturally nurtured their way to a kinder heart, and through their educational system has developed a keener mind. That successful combination, I think, will lead Canada to outperform other countries in a significant way in the next 30–40 years. That will come by way of the strength of our institutions, the percentage of young people who go into post-secondary education, and the immigration policy that continues to nurture and add to the strength of the fabric of Canada. Though the United States is known for creativity and entrepreneurship, Canada because of its welcoming environment to the best immigrants and its emphasis on education and learning will have a greater chance than ever of advancing in these areas.

To succeed in biotech research in coming years, a science-based background is absolutely critical. The second is a foundation and experience in the pragmatics of business. The third is an understanding of human need. That can be achieved firsthand through community endeavors in the developing world.

Hard work, curiosity, integrity, ambition, and the ability to work with people as soft skills will help guide your formal educational training. Solo occupational tasks are rapidly leaving us. You are integrated virtually through your computer, so the ability to work with people is absolutely critical. The best possible training can come through choosing the right mentor—not the right institution. Your mentors really count. Prepare for the future: learn to skate where the puck is going to be, not where it now is. That has to do with not only your practical day of work; but get above the traffic and project where the industry is taking you.

About the author

Calvin Stiller

Epitomizing the intersection of medicine and business, Dr. Calvin Stiller is the founder and co-founder of the Canadian Medical Discovery Fund, a mutual fund for research and development in life sciences; the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research; and the MaRS Discovery District, a non-profit dedicated to commercializing publicly funded research, among others. As a scientist, he helped propel organ transplantation into prevalence through popularizing the drug cyclosporine.