Oct. 27, 2021

Psychiatrist creates company to help patients using non-invasive stimulation treatments

2021 Top 40 Under 40: Dr. Alexander McGirr, MD, PhD
Alexander McGirr
Alexander McGirr Jared Sych, Avenue magazine

Intent on improving treatments available to people with psychiatric disorders, Dr. Alexander McGirr, MD, PhD’s field of expertise is non-invasive stimulation treatments, especially transcranial magnetic stimulation — a therapy that involves targeted brain stimulation from outside of the head. In July 2021, the 38-year-old created a company, SalvoStim, which patented certain protocols to help bring them to market.

Dr. McGirr is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Calgary, psychiatrist at Foothills Medical Centre, and researcher at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?

Being chosen by UCalgary for the Campus Alberta Innovation Program Chair in Neurostimulation. This is the culmination of years of work and being entrusted with the privilege of moving my research ideas forward is something I am very proud of.

What is SalvoStim and where do you hope to take it in five years?

SalvoStim is dedicated to bringing our discoveries in the lab to enhance non-invasive brain-stimulation treatments for psychiatric illness. In five years, I envision SalvoStim completing the regulatory pathway for our first add-on treatment to enhance brain-stimulation treatments for depression and having prioritized promising strategies from the research pipeline.

How has COVID-19 impacted your day-to-day work?

COVID-19 has taken away the human connection that makes my job special. In the lab, I think what we all miss the most is the camaraderie and team-building that comes with casual discussion and debate. It’s just not the same over Zoom. When I work with patients, it’s hard to pick up on subtle cues when you only see their eyes and forehead, and sometimes you only get a glimpse of their suffering between sips of water.

What is the most satisfying thing about your job?

We work in a unique sandbox where we can pursue things that excite and inspire us, while being surrounded by very smart and passionate students and colleagues who are also excited and inspired. We’re always learning, always being humbled and wanting to do better and that is very special.

Do you have a guilty pleasure?

After Eight mints . . . the whole box.

What are you watching or reading these days? 

We’ve been enjoying Ted Lasso. It started off as just a feel-good comedy and has taken on a surprising amount of depth.

What’s your favourite board game?


What’s your definition of an entrepreneur?

I think an entrepreneur is someone who realizes that great ideas are cheap, and that the real work is in bringing those ideas to the people who need them. 

What is the most annoying question that people ask you?

Can you read my mind? What am I thinking right now?

With files from Avenue Magazine