The Neuromuscular Disease Network for Canada

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Dr. Kristina Joyal’s Blog

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About Dr. Joyal

Dr. Kristina Joyal grew up in rural Manitoba, did a BSc in Neuroscience at McGill, obtained her MD at the University of Manitoba, and is currently finishing her residency in Pediatric Neurology at the University of Ottawa / Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. She is doing her pediatric neuromuscular training with Dr. Hugh McMillan, and has been fortunate to learn from the adult neuromuscular neurologists in Ottawa as well. She obtained her EMG certification during residency, will be writing the Royal College exam in September and in December 2020 will be starting as a community pediatric neurologist in Winnipeg, Manitoba with a focus in neuromuscular disease, as the only EMG-certified pediatric neurologist in the province.

Dr. Joyal's blog

What motivates us to do what we do? As I reflect on these last few weeks, walking alongside a young family whose long-awaited firstborn was diagnosed with SMA by newborn screening as they struggle with the diagnosis and stress of lumbar punctures every 2 weeks in addition to the challenges of being new parents; the flood of social media requests for funding for expensive neuromuscular treatments; or disclosing a life-altering, life-limiting diagnosis to a teenager for which I have to counsel that there is no cure or disease modifying treatment, I hug my own toddler tightly and gain renewed motivation to find ways of bringing hope to these families.

My path is a bit different than most. I am still quite junior in my training, with a few months remaining in my residency training, and I have come to neuromuscular neurology only within the last 3 years. I am fortunate that my residency program and pediatric neuromuscular mentor (Dr. McMillan) have been flexible to allow me a mini neuromuscular “fellowship” during my residency training. I will be continuing as a community pediatric neurologist, but still taking over as the primary neuromuscular pediatric neurologist for the province of Manitoba. How will I remain connected and contributing to the exciting advances in neuromuscular neurology while in the community? That remains to be determined, but I cannot care for the patients I described above without striving to bring hope of new understanding and treatment for the diseases they are affected by.  My message to other trainees is this: we are human, and not all of us can follow the typical academic medicine path. That’s OK. We are still educated, caring physicians who can collaborate with the research clinicians towards the same common goal of advancing the treatments and care provided to our patients. I look forward to what this collaboration will look like in my future.