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Benjamin Gagnon Chainey

  • Scholar 2017
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French-language literature
Université de Montréal | Nottingham Trent University, UK
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Benjamin Gagnon Chainey's unique academic and professional trajectory sits at the intersection of two disciplines: medicine and literature. His fascination for the body, both as a motor of performance and as a receptacle for sickness, has led him to combine the disciplines in an investigation of the ethical stakes of the caregiving relationship.

Benjamin's resume includes an extensive career as a competitive diver at the national junior level, during which the Fédération du plongeon amateur du Québec (FPAQ) named him "Model Provincial Diver" of his age group several times, after which he became a high-dive acrobat at La Ronde amusement park in Montréal. In 2004, Benjamin graduated in physical therapy from the Université de Montréal and assumed the role of chief coach at the Agami diving club in Brossard, Quebec. Several of the national junior-level athletes he trained there have since pursued careers on the American collegiate circuit, on the Diving Canada national team, or with the Cirque du Soleil. Their results earned Benjamin a nomination for the FPAQ's "Model Athlete Development Coach."

Moving from his interest in the performing body to an interest in the suffering body, in 2005 Benjamin began a career as an intensive and acute care physical therapist at the University Hospital Centre of Montréal's Hôtel-Dieu. In 2008, he developed an expertise in neurology at Villa Medica, a rehabilitation hospital internationally recognized for its leadership in clinical care. There, Benjamin supervised the internships of physical therapy students and chaired the Multidisciplinary Council's Executive Committee.

In this stimulating and complex clinical environment, Benjamin found an outlet to express the intricacies of the caregiving relationship in literature. He completed a bachelor in French-language literature at the Université de Montréal, during which he took part in a student exchange in modern literature at the Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne. During his stay in France, he served as a student ambassador for the Université de Montréal at education fairs. Convinced of the synergy between medicine and literature, Benjamin next began a master's degree in research-creation on the tensions between medicine and literature under the supervision of renowned writer and literature professor Catherine Mavrikakis.

With his dual scientific and literary vocation, 2017 Vanier and Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation scholar Benjamin Gagnon Chainey hopes to promote dialogue between writers, academics, patients, and healthcare professionals about the evolution of empathy, with the goal of bringing more humanity to the caregiving relationship.