CF Clinic director works from bedside to bench… and back

Dr. Larry Lands, director of the MCH Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Clinic, didn’t have a life plan to one day become a doctor. “I didn’t come from a family of doctors. Actually, very few people went beyond high school in my family,” he says. “But I always liked mathematical processes and biological systems, so I followed that path and ended up in medicine. I also had some luck and happenstance along the way.”

Dr. Lands derives a lot of pleasure from his job. He attributes this to the fact that he didn’t just jump into the field he chose. He took his time deciding what he wanted to spend many hours of his day doing for the rest of his life. Today, he spends about 55 hours a week at his job, which consists of about 40 percent clinical (seeing patients) and 40 percent in the lab doing research. “I don’t have any hobbies,” he says, shrugging. “My job is like my hobby and working is what I’m used to.” He comes from a family of workers. And if he follows in his father’s footsteps he won’t be retiring any sooner than the age of 86. “I take much pleasure in interacting with my colleagues and with my patients. A big part of what drives me is that the MCH is such a pleasant place to come and to interact.”

He particularly likes seeing patients with problems that give rise to questions. These questions are taken to the lab. What’s learned in the lab is then taken back to the patient. “It’s a full circle,” he says. From his perspective he and his team do much more bedside to bench (lab) work, rather than bench to bedside, as is commonly referred to. “Patients sometimes present with unexpected, good results which pushes us to explore: this is inspiring,” says Dr. Lands. “My research influences how I practice. If there is a problem to be solved, it’s taken to the lab where a research method can be applied to patient care.”

In fact, Dr. Lands recently won an MCH Award of Excellence for his research contributions. He is currently looking at ways to decrease inflammation in respiratory diseases, specifically with the use of nutrition.

He also enjoys the psychosocial aspect of his job. “CF means different things to different families and each deals with it in their own fashion/manner,” he says. “We try to tease out lessons that we learn in these situations and then use the successful strategies with other families. This motivates us to find solutions on individual bases.”

But he also appreciates that a large part of his satisfaction at work is thanks to the great Cystic Fibrosis team at the MCH. “We always have open, animated discussions which benefit the group, family and the patient. It’s like running a relay working with this team…it’s as smooth as that. We support each other and pass the baton and keep running with it.”

Most recently Dr. Lands took on the job of pulmonary consultant to the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic in Rouyn Noranda, in Northern Quebec.

“They already have a very well-established Cystic Fibrosis clinic,” he says. “I am just there to compliment what they already have going.  I go four times a year and I see all of the patients once a year. We discuss overall pulmonary approach for CF patients and other aspects related to CF care.”

In this capacity, Dr. Lands sees about 36 children and adults. One goal is to translate evolutions in therapeutic approaches from a large tertiary centre to a smaller centre, which doesn’t have continual access to all the expertise. “They have done a tremendous job—I am only adding to their abilities; fine tuning their expertise.”

Dr. Lands says that patients with CF are living longer today but he stresses that the goal is not just longevity. “We want our patients to have a good quality of life too. The goal is to keep improving with advanced therapies and multidisciplinary care. There is also a shift in thinking now to one of prevention, including gene therapy.”

Like his father, Dr. Lands certainly has no plans of slowing down any time soon. With prevention on the horizon, he still has a lot of work to do…