As an immigrant to Canada, Dr. Manav Vyas is familiar with some of the challenges he sees his new Canadian patients face when navigating a new country. As a neurologist and scientist at St. Michael’s, Vyas hopes to make the transition a bit easier by researching, raising awareness of and improving access to brain health care for new Canadians.

For Research Month, Vyas took us on a trip to his clinic to answer our questions about his work. Watch the video above or read more to find out how he’s tackling the most impactful brain health questions for new Canadians.

Tell us about the problem you’re trying to solve with your research.

Vyas: I’m really interested in looking at health problems of immigrants and how they have difference in their care compared to non-immigrants. And what better place to study that than in Canada?

As a neurologist, I’m interested in brain disorders. Stroke is one of the most common and causes high rates of disability worldwide. My work has found that Canadian immigrants have a lower risk of first stroke compared to non-immigrants. When it comes to second stroke, they either have similar risk and in some immigrant groups, such as those from South Asia, Caribbean, or Latin America, they actually have a high risk of second stroke.

This is a problem because once you’ve had a stroke, you should get adequate care such that no one should have a difference in their stroke risk. That’s the problem I’m trying to solve is – why is this happening?

Why did you get into research?

Vyas: I came as an immigrant myself to Canada in 2009 and despite my language ability and my education, I struggled to integrate into the workforce in Canada.

I think these problems are amplified for many immigrants, who may not speak the language, or may have difficulty accessing or navigating the health-care system. I hope my research will help ease their work in integration.

Where do you hope this research will go?

Vyas: I hope there are big implications for my work. For starters, I think we can do a better job about integrating immigrants into not just economies but also health systems and hopefully that can happen through properly developed policies.

What do you want people to know about brain health and wellness?

Vyas: Brain health will be the next frontier. As more and more Canadians age, more and more people will have brain disorders, both the incidence and prevalence of this will increase.

The time to invest in their health is now. Even an hour invested in their health right now will likely lead to improvement in their quality of life later in life. Whether it’s exercising or spending time socializing, or getting to your doctor’s appointment, invest in your health now.

By: Talar Baboudjian Stockton and Ana Gajic