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Robert Sullivan is recognized worldwide for the quality of his research and his role in communicating and advancing the science of reproduction. He made a major contribution to the recognition of the Faculty of Medicine and Université Laval as a major scientific hub for research into reproductive functions, fertility, and male contraception.

Role model for the next generation

Robert Sullivan joined the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine at Université Laval in 1995, was appointed full professor in 2002, and retired in 2019. Throughout his career, he was deeply involved in teaching and knowledge transfer.

Dr. Sullivan supervised 25 master’s students, 11 doctoral students, and 10 postdoctoral fellows. Some went on to academic careers, while others pursued scientific careers in government or private companies in Québec, elsewhere in Canada, and abroad. In addition to supervising graduate students, he served on the jury for 36 master’s theses, 36 doctoral dissertations, and 19 doctoral comprehensive exams.

Appointed director of the ontogenesis and reproduction research unit at CHU de Québec in 2004, he served as director of reproduction, mother and youth health research at CHU de Québec – Université Laval from 2008 to 2018. During his tenure, Dr. Sullivan recruited a number of young clinical and other researchers with a passion for basic research. As a mentor, he enabled them to grow and pursue remarkable academic careers at Université Laval.

Robert Sullivan was also actively involved in knowledge transfer and mobilization at Université Laval and beyond. Among other things, he collaborated in the development of assisted human reproduction programs and vasectomy education and research. He was also a founding member of the Centre for Research in Reproductive Biology (CRBR), where he was the mainstay of research into male reproductive function.

A pioneer in the field of fertility

Robert Sullivan enjoyed a prolific career. He filed four patent applications for male contraception and the diagnosis of male infertility. In collaboration with Transplant Québec, Dr. Sullivan set up a unique international tissue bank.

During his career, he wrote 128 scientific articles in international peer-reviewed journals, and six book chapters. Dr. Sullivan also delivered 82 lectures at home and abroad as a guest speaker and authored over 200 scientific papers. He served on the organizing committees of a number of international scientific conferences in fields related to reproduction and andrology, including the 7th International Conference on the Epididymis, the International Congress of Andrology, and the Society for the Study of Reproduction Annual Conference.

Throughout his career, Dr. Sullivan was interested in the fertilizing power of sperm and the interactions between gametes. His research was aimed at facilitating fertilization and developing a non-hormonal male contraceptive method. He studied the effects of vasectomy on sperm function to predict the return to fertility following vasovasostomy (vasectomy reversal).

Dr. Sullivan also studied the effects of cryopreservation on sperm to improve procedures and optimize semen quality, which is of great importance to assisted reproduction clinics, but also to the agrifood industry, which depends on good reproductive efficiency.

The quality and innovation of his research was the basis for continued funding from major federal and provincial granting agencies, often in partnership with industry.