Marc Parent values Montreal for what it is and for what it can offer the world

By Tara Simonetta-Mann

“This city is a hub for aviation and AI,” he says. “We have world-class universities and health care. There is so much good that can come from this expertise.”

As President and CEO of CAE, a global leader in training for civil aviation, defence and security, and health care based in Montreal, Parent’s belief in the talent in this city is evident in his business.

“We do all of our research and development, and manufacturing, right here in Montreal,” he says.

Born in Verdun and raised in Ottawa and on the South Shore of Montreal, as a child Parent enjoyed fishing and hiking. At the age of thirteen he joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, a hint at his future career in aviation. At 17, an age when most kids are proud to get a driver’s license, Parent received his pilot’s license, a certification he still holds today.

Marc Parent

Marc Parent addressing MUHC doctors, staff and donors during CAE Day

Parent studied mechanical engineering at École Polytechnique, and his first job was at Canadair, which was quickly bought by Bombardier. He held successively senior positions at Bombardier Aerospace, eventually becoming Vice President and General Manager of several of the company’s aircraft programs. In 2005, he left Bombardier to join CAE as Group President, Simulation Products, overseeing the production of the company’s civil and military aviation simulators.

In 2009, Parent was named President and CEO of CAE. The company is defining global training standards and making air travel safer by providing state-of-the-art flight simulators to major airlines around the world. CAE Healthcare is committed to improving clinical education and patient safety by creating incredibly life-like medical simulators, including high tech mannequins that can experience medical emergencies from cardiac arrest to anaphylactic shock.

In February, CAE donated several of its state-of-the-art medical simulators to the McGill University Health Centre. The $500,000 gift included equipment and funding. As part of their collaboration, the MUHC and CAE jointly hosted CAE Day, an exposition of CAE Healthcare’s products. MUHC staff had the chance to try out equipment such as a virtual reality (VR) cardiac surgery simulator and a pregnant mannequin that simulates birthing scenarios.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 began in Montreal, the simulators donated by CAE have been used to train medical personnel in new COVID-19-related procedures. CAE’s gift is helping ensure the virus is not spread to frontline health care workers by allowing them to practice for real-world situations.

When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, CAE altered its operations to create much-needed medical equipment to treat COVID-19 patients. The company recently received Health Canada certification for its CAE Air1 ventilator, which it will produce and distribute to hospitals across the country as part of a contract with the Government of Canada. CAE has also created several coronavirus-specific training packages to help health care professionals hone their skills in ventilator use and respiratory ultrasound.

Parent’s interest in health care goes beyond his professional role; he is a member of the MUHC Foundation’s Board of Directors and co-chair of the foundation’s recently launched Dream Big campaign, along with Jean Charest and Suzanne Legge Orr. As a lead of the foundation’s capital campaign, he hopes to help address medicine’s most pressing problems—coronavirus and antibiotic resistance, to name just two—and attract top medical talent to Montreal. He firmly believes that artificial intelligence—something used a lot in CAE products—will become an important tool for health care.

Marc Parent“At CAE, we use data and AI to enhance our products,” says Parent. “Health care as a whole can benefit from integrating AI technology in education, but also in diagnosis, patient monitoring and many other areas. Harnessing this technology could change health care as we know it and save lives.

A supporter of health care research, Parent recently made a personal donation of $100,000 to the MUHC Foundation in support of ground-breaking research using Biobanque québécoise de la COVID-19 (BQC19), the largest biobank of samples collected from patients severely infected with COVID-19 in Canada. Its mission is to collect large data sets that will support research into drug development and understanding why some individuals get sicker than others.

Thanks to this funding, Dr. Vincent Mooser, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Genomic Medicine, and the BQC19 team, including MUHC researcher Dr. Simon Rousseau, will provide high-quality data on blood samples from BQC19 that will be openly available to the scientific community. The analysis that will be undertaken will study the proteins found in the body during and after COVID-19 infection.

This project will contribute to the collective effort to identify proteins created in response to the virus that cause serious illness in some patients. Respiratory problems are not caused by the virus, but rather by efforts of the patient’s immune system to get rid of it. By understanding what proteins in the body cause this reaction, researchers will be able to develop drugs to prevent it.

BQC19 is an open science resource, which means that it widely shares its data and samples with the scientific community. Over 1,000 participants have already been recruited for this project and have agreed to share their data for research on COVID-19. Each participant agreed to provide several samples to document the progression of their illness from day one to two years after recovery.

Parent’s gift in support of this important research is another demonstration of his confidence in the talent found in Montreal.

“I strongly believe in this project, and I am appealing for donations from everyone, big and small, to support this crucial initiative in the fight against coronavirus,” says Parent. “Medical innovation is not funded by our health care system. The true breakthroughs are made using philanthropic dollars, and that is why everyone should give what they can.”

At the helm of the MUHC Foundation’s Dream Big Campaign, Parent will help drive innovation in health care by leading the effort to raise millions of dollars in support of cancer research, early detection of ovarian and endometrial cancers, skills and simulation education for medical staff, top-notch cardiology care, and MI4’s work to curb infectious disease and stop antibiotic resistance.

“Montreal has the expertise to change the course of lives and medicine, and through Dream Big we can ensure the MUHC has the talent, equipment and research funding it needs to do just that,” says Parent.

Parent is active in the community, and a firm believer in giving back to the city and country that has helped his business thrive. In addition to his volunteer work with the MUHC Foundation, he holds board memberships with the Business Council of Canada and TELUS. He also previously chaired the Board of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) and the Board for Aero Montreal, Quebec’s Aerospace Cluster, and is a past member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI).

Donations to the hospital’s most urgent needs enables MUHC staff to provide excellent care and to go above and beyond the call of duty – especially during the current global health crisis. Funds raised help the MUHC respond to the current challenges health care workers at the MUHC are facing, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. To donate, please visit:

CAE gift provides essential COVID-19 training

Dream Big Campaign

From left: MUHC Foundation Chair Norman Steinberg, MUHC Director of Education Dr. Elene Khalil, MUHC Foundation President Julie Quenneville, Dream Big Campaign Co-Chair Suzanne Legge-Orr, and Dream Big Campaign Co-Chair and CAE CEO Marc Parent.

At the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), when a patient goes into cardiac arrest, everyone springs into action. Just like in a medical drama, physicians and nurses rush to the bedside at the call of “Code Blue,” airways are checked and chest compressions begin.

COVID-19 has completely changed this.

With such high risk of transmission to health care staff, COVID-19 presents a challenge: physicians and nurses can no longer rush to the bedside to assist a crashing patient. First, they must don full protective gear to cover themselves, and only three staff can be present to perform resuscitation.

These new measures are incredibly hard for the MUHC’s health care staff. When a patient is dying, no one wants to pause to put on personal protective equipment. But this essential step could be a matter of life and death in itself: if an essential health care worker becomes ill, they cannot save lives. And if they become critically ill, they could die.

To implement these new Code Blue measures, the MUHC turned to simulation training. With the help of the MUHC education directorate and a recent gift of medical simulators and funding from CAE, hundreds of staff from many different departments received training using life-like simulation mannequins.

Education and simulation training are important aspects of any hospital’s operations. Health care professionals need training on constantly evolving medical procedures. Recognizing this need, Montreal-based CAE Inc. donated $500,000 in funding and equipment to the MUHC’s Skills and Simulation Network in early 2020.