Job title: Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine and Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary
Why Zahra Goodarzi is a 2021 Top 40 Under 40: Dr. Zahra Goodarzi is a rare specialist in an underserved field — a clinician-scientist who’s an expert in combining research and clinical care to help Canada’s elderly.
She grew up planning to become a scientist like her father, but Dr. Zahra Goodarzi took a different path after the experience of seeing her own mother in the health care system. “We felt heard and understood,” she says. “That’s really powerful.”
Today, Goodarzi is one of around 300 geriatricians (specialists who care for older adults) in Canada. Even more rare, she’s also a clinical researcher who leads studies to identify and treat the unmet needs of Canada’s elders, particularly those with mental illness or frailty, a state of reduced function and health.
Goodarzi was an undergraduate research student when she met a clinician scientist who inspired her to do both research and clinical work. She has since gone on to receive multiple nationally funded grants, including a $240,000 grant for a study on depression among residents of long-term care from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Goodarzi has been published in journals such as Nature and The BMJ (British Medical Journal). Her findings are changing care and quality of life for older people across Canada by improving the diagnosis and management of depression or frailty.
In 2017, Goodarzi helped found one of Canada’s first geriatric movement disorders clinics — a specialized centre where older adults with conditions like Parkinson’s disease can visit multidisciplinary health-care providers. She is also program director for the Leaders in Medicine program at the University of Calgary, mentoring the next generation of clinician-scientists.
Geriatric medicine is about connecting with older adults and their families and Goodarzi, with her ringing laugh and effusive nature, craves those connections. One tip she hears most often from her patients and regularly repeats to herself: “Don’t worry about things. It doesn’t help you.”
“I would like to thank my husband Mark Hofmeister; my parents Margaret and Fariborz, who did everything they could to support me; my siblings Aaro, and Nina; my mentor Dr. Jayna Holroyd-Leduc who has been a guide, teacher and cheerleader at every stage; and my colleague Dr. Jennifer Watt, constant collaborator and friend.” – Zahra Goodarzi