Pediatric cardiology resident sets his sights out of this world

Tamara Vineberg with files from the Professional Association of Resident Physicians of Alberta - 23 February 2021

Resident Guillaume Leclair spends his free time brushing up on his photography skills when he isn't training to be a pediatric cardiologist.

Guillaume Leclair is finishing his subspecialty residency in pediatric cardiology this June with Edythe Tham as his program director. He previously trained at the University of Saskatchewan. He discussed his residency experience with the Professional Association of Resident Physicians of Alberta and talked to us about his love of photography.

What attracted you to medicine?
While I have always been interested in general sciences, I credit my grade nine biology teacher who drove me to go beyond the intended class material and fueled my interest in human biology and pathophysiology. The human contact component of medicine caused me to decide that this was my preferred field; it’s much more fun than spending time in a lab!

What attracted you to your specialty?
The most attractive piece for me was that pediatric cardiologists tailor every intervention to the patient; it requires a proper understanding of the pathophysiology at play to determine the best surgical or medical procedure. There is no “one size fits all”, as all our patients have unique lesions. I also liked that pediatric cardiology is a very broad field; it has components of medicine, diagnostic imaging, and interventional procedures. The hands-on diagnostic investigations and therapeutic interventions we perform allow me to keep my hands busy.

What do you find the most rewarding in your residency training?
Seeing kids grow up! Sometimes it’s daunting when they are so sick during their hospitalizations, but then it’s all worth it when you look at them enjoying life outside the hospital with their loved ones.

What do you find the most challenging in your residency training?
The learning curve is very steep when switching from general pediatrics to pediatric cardiology. While it’s one of the longest residency programs, the amount of knowledge can overwhelm someone to accumulate in such a “short” period! We all undergo years of training, and it’s occasionally difficult to detect the light at the end of the tunnel.

What energizes you outside of residency?
Getting to spend the weekend skiing in Alberta’s Rockies, photography, a walk or bike ride in the river valley or just a night doing some stargazing. Enjoying this with friends and colleagues makes it all better!

How did you become involved with photography?
I've wanted to get a suitable camera since I purchased my first telescope when I was 16 years old, but only bought it in my second year of residency. A phone camera can take pleasant pictures, but you need to step things up a notch to capture pictures at night. One of my attendings would often show us landscape pictures during the academic half-day and I wished to take some of those gorgeous shots too.

What types of photography do you enjoy, and why?
I enjoy landscape photography, wide-field astrophotography which means landscapes at night with the stars, northern lights, or comets such as the comet NEOWISE we had this fall. But the most rewarding and time-consuming is deep sky astro-photography, which are pictures through a telescope looking at galaxies, nebulas, and planets.

Why do you love photography?
I appreciate that It's a way to keep memories alive and share those exciting moments with my friends, family, and colleagues. I still feel like I am focusing (pun intended) on one thing when I am out in the mountains or doing astrophotography, and it lifts the stress of work for these brief occasions. I also enjoy taking those iconic shots you can find in calendars or in art galleries, and while my pictures might not be as good, I get much better satisfaction and pride knowing I took that picture myself. Cardiology is a specialty that involves a lot of imaging and some principles do come together with the photography I do as a hobby.

How have you been honing your photography skills?
It's a learning process and lots of trial and error, but there is an amazing community of imagers and astro-imagers online that are invariably happy to help and teach newcomers, and I am very thankful to them.

Where can others see your photography?
I am relatively quiet about my hobby. I will periodically post my best shots for my friends and colleagues on social media, or use them during presentations, or you can just ask. My phone has a few photos that I can show around.

View his photos