Montreal teenager Thomas Khairy named to Forbes' Top 30 Under 30
MONTREAL -- Forbes Magazine named a teenage Montreal researcher among the world's 30 most impressive people under the age of 30 for the year 2021.
Last year, at the age of 15, Thomas Khairy became the youngest lead author of a paper ever published by the New England Journal of Medicine, arguably the most prestigious medical journal on the planet.
In work conducted at the Montreal Heart Institute, Khairy and his colleagues showed that the risk of infection when implanting pacemakers and defibrillators was similar for both re-sterilized and new devices.
The Canadian Press caught up with the college student, who will of course be applying to medical school this spring.
How did you react when Forbes included you in its Top 30 Under 30 list?
I was so shocked when I found out! I knew I was nominated, but I still don't know who nominated me. I found out I made the list the same day the list was released. I wasn't told in advance, so it was a shock. I remember, I had finished an online biology course for my school, then I get an email through Forbes saying, "Congratulations, you've been named to the '30 Under 30' list for the Healthcare category." That was amazing. I'm very grateful.
Did you really believe in your chances when you were nominated?
No, I didn't. I had just seen my name in the New England Journal of Medicine. I still couldn't believe that this was really happening. I thought it was still a dream. And now we're adding a nomination for Forbes? I thought, no, New England is a dream that I never thought would come true. All the team I worked with, we didn't think we could make it to New England, and then finally we did. So now we're adding a nomination for Forbes and I was thinking, sure it would be amazing to make the list, but in my mind, even if I didn't make the list, I wouldn't be disappointed at all because already New England was so (fantastic).
Do you see this as evidence that your work matters to the general public and not just to the medical community?
Yes. It makes me so happy to know that the project that we've been working on with this team for several years, that it's more than just medicine, that's really what I love the most.
Is there any pressure that comes with a Forbes nomination like this? The feeling that you have to do great things if you're one of the 30 brightest kids on the planet?
Yes. There's definitely pressure. But I'll tell you, there's no way I'm going to be one of the 30 brightest kids on the planet.
Forbes doesn't agree.
I don't consider myself at that high a level. It's really like I'm living two completely different lives. In one life, I was recently in Detroit for a conference with the others on the Forbes list. Then at the same time, I'm studying, I have my classes in school, I haven't applied to medical school yet. So yeah, there's pressure, but it's kind of hard to have achieved something like this at the age I am, knowing that it's probably going to be one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. I'm not complaining, I'm very, very, very lucky to have had this experience, but it definitely comes with a little bit of pressure for what I'm going to do with the rest of my life.
Have you been involved in other work at the Heart Institute?
Yes, but unfortunately not with the same team, because I loved the team I worked with so much! But there was another cardiologist who does a lot of research in genetics who contacted me to ask if I would be interested in contributing to her project. It was a mix of cardiology and genetics. I was so interested! It was another chance for me to do research and I really enjoy doing research. I am so lucky that she gave me yet another opportunity.
It's another great recognition to have been approached by a researcher who wanted to work with you.
Yes, I am truly privileged.
-- Thomas Khairy's comments have been abbreviated for the sake of brevity and clarity.
-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Nov. 27, 2021.