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June 4, 2019
In nearly every life, there is a key person who knowingly or not, shapes our future. Dr. Jennifer Landry, a respiratory specialist at the Montreal Chest Institute (MCI) of the McGill University Health Centre decided to devote her life to helping people with respiratory diseases after meeting Stephanie, a young woman living with cystic fibrosis (CF). CF is the most common fatal genetic disease affecting Canadian children and young adults. The disease has a significant impact on their breathing and digestion. There is still no cure.
“Stephanie was about my age. We met when I was in medical school,” recalls Dr. Landry, “CF is a difficult disease, but she took it in stride. She didn’t make a big deal about it. She lived as normal a life as possible without complaint. It was her courage and her positive outlook on life that inspired me to help those living with lung disease.”
Dr. Landry is now head of the MCI’s PATROL Unit, an acronym that stands for Pediatric to Adult Transition Orphan Lung Disease Unit. She treats young adults with rare respiratory diseases who have recently moved from pediatric to adult care at the MCI.
Many of the ailments she treats have complicated names like primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD), a disorder characterized by chronic respiratory tract infections and abnormally positioned internal organs, or bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) a disease that affects people born prematurely and Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), a rare lung disease that affects young women of child bearing age.
Dr. Landry finds the work very fulfilling. “I put myself in the position of my patients who as young adults have to navigate a complicated healthcare system. You have to bear in mind these teenagers have been followed closely by the same pediatric team – often since infancy. They have to leave everything that is familiar to them while at the same time taking on more responsibility for their own health care including everything from making appointments, to follow up care and filling prescriptions. It can be overwhelming.”
Dr. Landry tells every new patient ‘we are in this together’. “I am honest with each patient. I am not an expert in the nuances of every lung disorder and every symptom, but I promise to work with them, to partner with them, to find solutions and answers. It is rewarding to know you are making a difference and helping someone achieve a better quality of life.”