Bringing CNS Members Together to Make Children’s Lives Better


Michael Israel Shevell, MD CM, FRCPC, FAAN, FANA, FCAHS

Profile written by Robert S. Rust, MD

Michael Shevell, MD

Mike Shevell was born in Côte Saint-Luc, Quebec, Canada in 1958. He received a DEC in Health Sciences from Marianopolis College in 1977, a BSc in Physiology in 1980, and an MD, CM in 1984, the latter two from McGill University. His exceptional achievements in college and medical school were marked by seven prestigious awards. His decision to become a neurologist was made as a medical student under the influence of Gordon Watters (of whose career he wrote an excellent account many years later), Bernard Rosenblatt, and N. Paul Rosman (with whom he did an elective at the Harvard Medical School). Dr. Shevell trained at the Montreal General Hospital as a pediatrician (1984-86), and as a neurologist (1986-1989). During his neurological training he completed fellowships in EMG, EEG, evoked potentials, neuro-ophthalmology, and neuropathology. Additional individuals that proved influential during his training were Fred Andermann, Charles Scriver, and Kaye Metrakos. His performance during his residencies was celebrated by four additional awards, including the Claude Giroud Prize in Pediatrics and the President’s Prize of the Canadian Association of Child Neurology. Following his formal training he did a two year postdoctoral fellowship in genetics and molecular genetics (1989-1991) at the Royal Victoria Hospital. During this fellowship he completed the Short Course in Medical and Experimental Mammalian Genetics at the Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor. He subsequently received Professional Certification/Licensure from the pertinent National Boards of Canada and the United States. Since 1991 he has been a member of the Division of Pediatric Neurology at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, and in 1995 was appointed to the Associate Staff of the Montreal Neurological Institute. He advanced to Full Professorship at McGill in 2005, became Director of Child Neurology in 2008 and in 2011 he was appointed McGill’s Pediatrician-in Chief.

In his more than 25 years on the McGill faculty he has been a highly successful teacher, covering a broad range of clinical and physiological topics: neonatal neurology, epilepsy, neurometabolic diseases, diagnosis and management of developmental disabilities of all degrees, learning disabilities, headache, neurogenetics, neurocutaneous syndromes, neuroimaging, and ataxias. He has also, notably, addressed the issue of participation by physicians and neuroscientists in the rise of the Holocaust. In 1998 he received the Clinical Teaching Award of McGill’s Department of Neurology/Neurosurgery.

Dr. Shevell’s research interests are similarly broad, although his achievements have shown a remarkable degree of focused productivity. He has meticulously addressed the important question of phenotypic variation of neurogenetic disorders. He has employed magnetic resonance spectroscopy to define the effects of neurometabolic conditions on the central and peripheral nervous systems. He has designed and executed studies of the timing and effectiveness on therapeutic interventions on the neurological outcomes experienced by neonates at high risk for unfavorable neurological outcomes.

Dr. Shevell’s research activities, supported in part by 29 grants, are reflected to date in 211 peer-reviewed publications, with 16 additional accepted papers currently “in press.” Work is currently underway on 13 additional “submitted” papers. Among these publications there is a wide- range of topics. Neurodevelopmental disturbances, genetically determined or otherwise, are represented in 136 papers, providing information about pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and rehabilitative efficacy of interventions. Considerations are broad, including not only motor, intellectual, social, and behavioral aspects, effects of gender, and imaging characteristics, but the manner in which stress on child or family may be alleviated, the value of leisure activities, the efficacy of “alternative medicine,” and other aspects of the quality of life of child and family. The next largest collection of papers (38) address in considerable and thoughtful detail the diagnosis and management of neurological diseases of the neonate. Other topics include heritable metabolic conditions (31), various forms of epilepsy (29), stroke (22), neuroimaging (23), conditions involving muscle or peripheral nerve (14), migraine (7), and psychiatric conditions (4). While the majority of professional papers in medicine are never cited or are cited just a few times, 38 of Dr. Shevell’s original contributions to our literature have received more than 25 citations, 14 have achieved more than 50, and two more than 100.

Ethical issues in child neurology have represented a particularly valuable concentration of Dr. Shevell’s career, a concern that he has extended to aspects of professional and societal ethics in the 20 papers exploring the history of “racial hygiene” in the Third Reich. These studies comprise a cautionary tale as to how intelligent physicians and scientists in an advanced culture may convince themselves to abrogate personal responsibility and make terrible ethical compromises. These thoughtful papers remind us that there are far lesser degrees to which we all may be subject to such failings. He has reminded us as well that there remain very difficult questions such as “What is enough?” and “Is there such a thing as too much in providing care for severely ill neonates?” Dr. Shevell has also published 16 thoughtful editorials or commentaries, and 64 chapters or invited reviews. Dr. Shevell has served as editor of an important volume on the scientific and clinical foundations of the care of individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities (2009), and co-edited with Steven Miller a book on acquired foetal and neonatal brain injury, published in 2012. Dr. Shevell is among the editors of the 6th Edition of the Swaiman Textbook of Pediatric Neurology, currently in preparation.

Dr. Shevell has supervised or co-supervised the research training of 36 promising individuals since 1993. He has also supervised the training of 37 child neurologists since 1991. Among the many things he has wished to instill in those he has trained, the most important qualities are curiosity, honor, and compassion. He clearly instills his love of neurology, pediatrics, and neuroscience, demonstrating that his extraordinary labors have never taken the slightest toll on his personal life. Dr. Shevell has long been in demand as a lecturer throughout Canada, having to-date delivered 54 invited lectures. He has been similarly in demand internationally as keynote speaker, lecturer, and visiting professor, logging 107 presentations in 18 countries. and is an important participant in the activities of the national and international societies pertinent to his disciplines. He has organized 22 educational and research symposia. He has served on the Ethics and Scientific Program committees of the CNS and was Chair of the Local Organizing Committee for the 1998 CNS meeting in Montreal. Dr. Shevell is currently the longest tenured member of the Executive Board of the International Child Neurology Society and brilliantly organize the superb 10th International meeting of ICNA in Montreal in 2006.

Dr. Shevell is married to Annette Majnemer, PhD. The couple have two children, Allison (26) and Meaghan (23). The chief interests of his life outside of medicine have been his wife and family, the study of history, and playing golf.