The Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM) originates from one of Dr. Jacques Genest’s ideas. In 1951, after turning down an offer to manage the Rosemont Sanatorium, a new 500-bed hospital, Dr. Genest is convinced that Quebec needed research facilities rather than additional beds. “We would be better off building a diagnostic centre that would bring together all the medical disciplines with a strong scientific component, as developed at the Mayo Clinic in the United States.”
According to him, the future of Quebec medicine is in the hands of the younger generation of physicians, who would combine their clinical skills with their knowledge of biochemistry, molecular biology, electronics and nuclear medicine. In 1952, he joins forces with Montréal lawyer Marcel Piché by establishing a corporation called the Centre médical Claude-Bernard, in order to set up an eventual clinical research centre.
THE BEGINNINGS OF CLINICAL RESEARCH
In 1952, having noted the emergence of research in avant-garde hospitals, Sister Marie-Louise Allard, Director General of the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Montréal, makes provisions for research facilities in the new building under construction on de Bullion Street. Aware of Jacques Genest’s leadership qualities, she offers to set up a clinical research department within the hospital under his management. Dr. Genest accepts the offer on certain conditions: autonomy, academic freedom and access to patients for research purposes.
The project, welcomed by the hospital’s executive committee, received a rather cold reception from the council of physicians. For the first time, a clinical researcher at the hospital is also a salaried physician, which is very unusual at the time. However, the situation freed him from the constraints of his medical practice and allowed him to focus instead on research. While his status is badly perceived by the medical profession, Dr. Genest does not back down.