It is with great surprise, gratitude and emotion that I have received last week, in London, the John Maddox Prize for my work on the topic of Vitamin C injections in Quebec.
The John Maddox Prize is a joint initiative of the British charity Sense about Science and the scientific journal Nature, and “recognises the work of individuals who promote science and evidence, advancing the public discussion around difficult topics despite challenges or hostility“.
Two prized were awarded this year; I was awarded the one for an early career scientist. Some of my professional role models have won it in the past, so I am deeply honored and moved. I pledge to humbly use this award as an opportunity to encourage more people and scientists to defend science publicly.
Nominations for the prize have to be submitted by individuals within the general public. In my case, it came from Marilou Gougeon, a citizen with an incurable type of cancer, who is committed to the defense of patients’ rights for science-based treatments. I was skeptical (😏) when she told me about it, but I was also touched (even though I never thought I would win!). The fact that one of my readers did all of this for me has a special place in my heart.
Here’s a brief reminder of the events:
In 2018-2019, a petition seeking the approval and reimbursement of Vitamin C injections for cancer patients collected more than 120,000 signatures. After having published an article on the topic, and after having questioned a related political move, I had been the target of a cyberbullying campaign that lasted for months, until I spoke out publicly in February 2019. The petition was ultimately rejected by the National Assembly of Quebec and government working groups were created to prevent such incidents in the future. So, in the end, there were more positive than negative outcomes!
I want to emphasize that I always respect individual choices. What motivated me to get involved to this extent is the fact that the petition was becoming a political and social issue, whereas these types of questions should be assessed on the basis of scientific evidence.
- Marilou, I’m immensely grateful to you, and I hope people will have the privilege to hear not only your personal story, but also your thoughts on the importance of developing one’s critical thinking to make better health decisions!
- Rémi Quirion, the Chief Scientist of Quebec, who acted as a supporting referee. He had also taken a stance on Vitamin C injections in 2018.
- The judging panel, Sense about Science and Nature, for accepting my nomination and for considering that I deserved the award.
- My wife India, who also suffered through this ordeal, even tough she had nothing to do with it… you were amazing and your support was invaluable ❤️
- And above all, YOU! All those who have offered me their support, and who sent me beautiful messages for months. I would NEVER have gone through all this without your support … And thanks to you, I feel reenergized and more motivated than ever to keep on going! 🙂
Here is the acceptance speech I gave at Wellcome Collection on Nov. 12th 2019:
Here are a few press articles or interviews I gave about the prize:
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03491-7 (interview with Nature podcasts)
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-15-daybreak-montreal/clip/15747032-montreal-pharmacist-wins-prestigious-john-maddox-prize (interview with CBC)
http://bodyofevidence.ca/056-drinking-water-and-olivier-bernard (interview with The Body of Evidence podcast)
And here are a few clearly-not-HD pictures from the event:
(with the winner of the senior award, Bambang Hero Saharjo)
(with Dr David Colquhoun, legendary pharmacologist and champion of scientific skepticism… it was unreal to meet him!)
(with Marilou Gougeon, who nominated me for the award, and our spouses)