Gilles Julien

Gilles Julien, OC, OQ, social pediatrician, president and founder of the Fondation du Dr Julien (born 14 May 1946 in Grand-Mère, Québec). Julien is considered the founder of social pediatrics in Québec.
Gilles Julien, OC, OQ, social pediatrician, president and founder of the Fondation du Dr Julien (born 14 May 1946 in Grand-Mère, Québec). Julien is considered the founder of social pediatrics in Québec.

Gilles Julien, OC, OQ, social pediatrician, president and founder of the Fondation du Dr Julien (born 14 May 1946 in Grand-Mère, Québec). Dr. Julien, a renowned pediatrician who graduated from Université Laval in medicine (1970) and the Université de Montréal in pediatrics (1974), has practised for almost 40 years.

Early Career

Dr. Julien has held several positions in community and public health in Québec and elsewhere. He was head of pediatrics at the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Lévis from 1974 to 1976, and he worked in the Comoro Islands from 1981 thanks to support from the United Nations Population Fund, which promotes population and development issues. On returning to Québec, he worked with the Inuit in Nunavik in partnership with the Université Laval Hospital Centre.

From 1983 to 1990 he was in charge of medical health for the Inuit in Northern Québec. He also acted as chair of the Canadian Paediatric Society's Committee on Inuit and Indian Children while skillfully directing the Hôtel-Dieu Community Health Department in Montmagny (1987 to 1990).

Montréal has benefitted from Dr. Julien's expertise since 1999. In addition to directing the Community Health Department at Sainte-Justine Hospital (1991–94), he practised at Local Community Services Centres (CLSC) in Côte-des-Neiges and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. He was also a consultant in Albania for the World Bank project on developing basic health services. Since 1991, he has taught pediatrics at the Université de Montréal's faculty of medicine, and he has held an associate professorship in pediatrics and family medicine at McGill University. In 1993, he became an associate at the Hull (Gatineau) CLSC and various youth centres.

Community-driven Social Pediatrics

Julien set himself a goal: develop the full potential of children from at-risk communities. He then laid the foundations for community-driven social pediatrics, which is based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention provides for a global strategy to enable children to develop their full potential. The idea behind the social pediatrics approach is that children develop smoothly when the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual facets of their being interact with their living environment.

Between 1990 and 1997, particularly in the disadvantaged Montréal neighbourhoods of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Côte-des-Neiges, Julien established community centres for social pediatrics that soon became international models. To accomplish this, he mobilized various partners, combining law and preventive medicine.

Judging institutions at the time to be poorly equipped and rather dehumanizing, Julien, with his wife, lawyer and mediator Hélène Trudel, created the "child's protective circle," a tool that enabled him to help families in difficulty provide better care for their children. With Trudel, Julien wrote the book Tous responsables de nos enfants (2009). Earlier works include Aide-moi à te parler (2004) and Soigner différemment les enfants : l'approche de la pédiatrie sociale (1999).

In 1997, his first social pediatrics centre was introduced, 50 per cent funded by the Fondation Lucie et André Chagnon under the name Assistance d'enfants en difficulté (Support Children in Need). In 2004, the same foundation financed Julien’s other clinic, the Centre de services préventifs à l'enfance (Centre for Preventive Child Services, CPCS), in Montréal's multiethnic Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood.

The Fondation du Dr Julien

Besides directing his two centres, Julien has established a charitable foundation of which he is president and chief executive officer. The foundation’s goal is to promote social pediatrics and ensure the continuity of this approach. In Québec, 30 per cent of children are in precarious situations and this foundation exists to help them. In 2005, the first two social pediatrics centres were recognized for their expertise and university training courses (McGill and the Université de Montréal).

In 2008, the Centres de services préventifs à l'enfance had a snowball effect, and many communities throughout Québec and elsewhere set up their own centres (eight in Québec, two elsewhere in Canada, and five in progress). The role of the CPCSs is to orchestrate the mobilization and cooperation of key players in a variety of sectors (the child’s family and friends, the healthcare and social services network, hospitals, youth centres, community organizations, and community police).

In 2009, the foundation was officially renamed the Fondation du Dr Julien, and in 2010 it obtained Québec government support of $1 million annually for three years. The Fonds québécois de recherche sur la société et la culture (Québec Research Fund for Society and Culture) is currently working with the Québec Department of Health and Social Services to evaluate the social pediatrics model developed by Dr. Julien and assess the potential for integrating and aligning the activities of the social pediatrics centre network with those of the healthcare and social services network.

For over 10 years, Dr. Julien has organized a guignolée (“food drive”) — an annual event to raise money for his foundation and service centres and bring a measure of joy into the lives of disadvantaged children.


A great humanist who is focussed on the well-being of children, Julien has in his way changed the world of pediatrics in Québec, Canada, and internationally. The high calibre of his expertise has enabled him to push the limits of this medical speciality and adapt it to the real needs of children.

Honours and Awards

Dr. Gilles Julien has received great public acclaim for his involvement and humanitarian activities:

Personality of the Year (Humanities, Social Sciences, Pure Sciences and Technology category), La Presse awards for excellence gala (2004)

“Médecin de cœur et d'action" award, Humanitarian Medicine category, Association des médecins de langue française du Canada (2004)

Hero of the Year, Reader's Digest (2005)

Ashoka Fellow, designated as one of a group of social entrepreneurs who have won international recognition for developing innovative solutions to social problems with a view to building a better society (2006)

Personality of the Year, L'actualité magazine (2007)

Faculty of Medicine Award, Université de Montréal (2007)

Prix Grand diplômé and Gloire de l'Escolle medal from the Université Laval Alumni Association (2008)

Medal of Merit, Association des médecins de langue française du Canada (2008)

Certificate of Merit, Canadian Paediatric Society (2008)

Innovation and Leadership Award, Québec Medical Association (2008)

Léo-Guindon Award, Montréal Teachers’ Alliance (2009)

Lieutenant-Governor of Québec’s Gold Medal for Exceptional Merit (2010)

Member of the Académie des Grands Montréalais (Academy of Great Montrealers) (2010)

Officer of the Ordre national du Québec (2011)

Officer of the Order of Canada (2011)

Humanism Award, Collège des médecins du Québec (2011)

Prix Orchidée (Individual category), Montréal East Chamber of Commerce (2011)

Recognized for achievements at Bravo McGill gala (2011)

Frederick Todd Award, Association des paysagistes du Québec (2011)

Merit Insignia, Faculty of Arts and Science, Université de Montréal (2012)

Medal of Honour, Québec National Assembly (2012)

Patriot of the Year, Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste (2012)

Career Excellence Award, Mérites Montréal à cœur (2012)

Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012)

Exceptional Citizen Award, Côte-des-Neiges sector, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (2013)

Further Reading

  • Gilles Julien, Soigner différemment les enfants : l'approche de la pédiatrie sociale (1999).

    Gilles Julien, Aide-moi à te parler (2004).

    Gilles Julien and Hélène Sioui Trudel, Tous responsables de nos enfants (2009).

    Le Dr Julien à hauteur d’enfant (2012).