Good Monday morning,

Thank you to those who worked during the bad weather on Sunday – we are hoping for milder conditions today although Environment Canada's winter weather travel advisory remains in place. Please take care in getting to and from work when the roads are in hazardous condition. Your safety is paramount!

1. Highlights on UHN's Essentials

UHN's Essentials are essential to the work we do as a leading academic health sciences centre – hence the name! Read here to learn more. Below, you'll find highlights on UHN's Essentials from last week.

Partnerships Last week, I participated in GTA Unified – Canada's largest mass casualty preparedness exercise – alongside numerous colleagues within UHN and across the city. GTA Unified brought together 38 institutions including 22 hospitals, government agencies and first responders for a city-wide Code Orange exercise. Overall, it was a day of learning that allowed us to test existing assumptions about Toronto's emergency preparedness. The exercise scenario was designed to push our city past its limits and involved a series of catastrophic events across multiple locations, resulting in more than 300 injured people. In response, we triggered a Code Orange and opened the following response areas:

  • Corporate Command Centre: Primary point of contact for health system stakeholders. Responsible for providing our sites with strategic direction.
  • Toronto General and Toronto Western Command Centres: Local (site) leadership.
  • Family Information and Support Centre (FISC): Provide a secure and controlled location for families and friends who are concerned and looking for loved ones.
  • Public Affairs Crisis Communications Centre: Prepare internal and external communications to minimize confusion and distress, and keep stakeholders informed.

The exercise included realistic details such as questions from patients who had regular scheduled appointments that day and traffic issues. I had a good sense of what was happening through my role in the Corporate Command Centre and have to say, the response from TeamUHN was incredible. More than 100 physicians, leaders and staff from across all sites pulled together to manage the anticipated impact to UHN’s Emergency Department and hospital operations.

Thank you to the facilitators, participants, evaluators, observers and the Internal Design Team for putting the day together and their creative problem solving. Special thanks to Frank Tourneur, Paul Beverley and the Emergency Preparedness team for their work and commitment to prepare UHN for unplanned emergency scenarios. While we hope to never call a Code Orange, I believe UHN and our counterparts across the city will be better prepared with these lessons learned.

Partnerships Last week, I was delighted to attend the 2019 AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) GTA Chapter Philanthropy Awards: This year's Outstanding Philanthropists of the year were Michael and Sonja Koerner, whose generosity have enabled us to push the boundaries of neuroscience at UHN. Through the support of the Michael and Sonja Koerner Charitable Foundation, $1 M has been committed towards neuro-imaging and the establishment of the Slaight Family Centre for Advanced MRI at Toronto Western. They have also contributed to the prostate cancer fund at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. We are fortunate to have a passionate donor community fueling care, research and education at UHN as well as our renowned Foundations: Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation, Toronto Rehab Foundation and The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.

2. Introducing UHN's 2019-23 People Strategy

Quality of work life is critical to achieving excellence in any domain. This is one of the many reasons why we identified "Empower and invest in a diverse TeamUHN" as one of our Strategic Priorities at UHN. In support of this work towards our vision of a healthier world, we now have a dedicated five-year strategy that outlines our plan to deliver a best-in-class work experience for all of you: UHN's 2019-23 People Strategy [Editor's Note: Link is no longer available]. In September, the draft version of our People Strategy was presented to UHN's Strategy Forum and their feedback was used to help our colleagues in Human Resources & Organizational Development finalize the approach. To celebrate the launch of the strategy, there will be events taking place Dec. 4, 5 and 6 across all sites. See event details here.

3. Leadership reflection: The surprising power of questions

Our mission across care, research and education is bound by many things – the privilege of serving patients and families, for one, and the desire to deliver A Healthier World, for another. There is another key factor that drives what we do and that is the power of questions. Questions form the basis of clinical insight and diagnostic reasoning. They spark the pursuit of knowledge and research. They are essential to teaching and learning. They help us understand how our colleagues are doing. Those who are interested in leadership-related literature likely know the book "Start With Why" by Simon Sinek, which argues that success and innovation hinge on asking and understanding why we do what we do. This article from Harvard Business Review, "The surprising power of questions," is a tactical day-to-day accompaniment to unlocking the benefits of Sinek's thinking.

  • Use the right tone: The article suggests that "people are more forthcoming when you ask questions in a casual way, rather than in a buttoned-up, official tone." I agree but will add one caveat – there are other factors that must be considered, even if you've become the master of tone. For example, if you have a position of authority, it can be intimidating for people to speak openly. This underscores the importance of building trust with colleagues by showing you are there to support them, not judge or blame them.
  • Ask follow-up questions: These signal you are listening and want to know more. One of the best types of question to ask. Also helpful in building trust and encouraging people who are reluctant to speak up.
  • Pay attention to group dynamics: The article discusses people's willingness to answer questions in the presence of others. I suspect we've all been in one of those meetings where critical feedback is requested and then none is given – and instead comes later in the form of a private email or hallway discussion. This prompts an important question: Why is the group reluctant to have a frank and open discussion? Our goal is to create a culture of spirited debate at UHN, one where questions are welcome and considered thoughtfully. Let us all help set that standard by opening up, asking questions and inspiring others to follow suit.

Have a good week,


Back to Top