"Students call me Mère Castor, the storyteller"

Updated on:

Marie-Edith Lafon is a university professor and hospital practitioner (PU-PH), head of the Virology laboratory and a medical biologist in the Medical Science training and research unit (UFR) of the College of Health Sciences as well as a researcher in the Fundamental Microbiology and Pathogenicity laboratory. A true calling for the life sciences.

Photo : Marie-Edith Lafon © Arthur Pequin
Marie-Edith Lafon © Arthur Pequin

An entire career at the University of Bordeaux, one foot on campus, the other in the hospital. Between the two, a strong commitment to research, a demanding field which Marie-Edith Lafon encourages her students to enter, and also a definite involvement in the Faculty of Medical Sciences as a coordinator for 2nd year medical studies, a co-coordinator for the health research programme and an elected representative on the Faculty board.

"I came to Bordeaux in 1979, as a first-year medical student.

I left temporarily to do my medical residency, then again for four years after my Doctorate. I came back in 1994. I chose to study at the University of Bordeaux for geographical reasons, since I'm a native of Gironde and the Landes. I've always liked this setting in which I feel a sense of great intellectual freedom both in research and teaching, even when we lack means. I jumped at the chance of having a hospital and university position in Bordeaux," Marie-Edith Lafon said.

Interacting with others

A job that has evolved over time. But her motivation remains intact and she really enjoys teaching. "My students call me Mère Castor* because they say I tell stories," she joked. "I find our young people intelligent and interesting, and I encourage them to do translational research so that they understand what is expected of them," Marie-Edith Lafon added. Involved in the Faculty of Medical Sciences since 2007, she is pleased with the boost that has been given by successive Deans, for example, with the development of the commission making it possible to supervise students who are struggling, and the successful revitalisation of the preparation for the National Competitive Exams (ECNs have replaced the former competitive medical specialty exam).

The creation of the School of Health Sciences is another source of pride for Professor Lafon. "Since 2017, due to the drastic reduction in the number of biologists on our team, my work is mainly hospital-based, even though I really enjoy keeping up with what's going on with the research team and I'm still a coordinator for the second-year of medical school. The Covid-19 pandemic has practically done away with all other possibilities for the past year…" the practitioner explained.

*Editor's note: 'Père Castor' is a popular fictional father figure known for telling stories; 'Mère' Castor would be the female version.

Responsiveness, diversity, imagination and the ability to adapt to the complex world in which we live will need to be maintained on a large scale.

Marie-Edith Lafon, Head of the virology laboratory, medical biologist & MFP lab researcher

What does the University of Bordeaux mean to you?

"Outstanding students, genuine future professionals who are often talented; a lot of solidarity and help from the admissions teams, from our Research and Teaching Unit and form the College of Health Sciences; educational meetings with teaches where people can speak freely; inventive "fundamental" research colleagues, open to collaboration.

Our mission is to serve the students, who represent the future. Our University is in competition with other educational institutes, but does not have the same capacity to select students on admission, nor sufficient material and human resources to supervise their training the way we'd like to/should. Responsiveness, diversity, imagination and the ability to adapt to the complex world in which we live will need to be maintained on a large scale."