​Good morning, TeamUHN!

It is a pleasure to connect with you across care, research, and education through this weekly CEO update – all in service of A Healthier World.

A Message for the New Year

I begin this week with a message of appreciation to all TeamUHN members for their efforts to put patients first and advance A Healthier World, particularly all those who worked over the holidays.

It's no secret that this remains a very challenging time for our healthcare system, one that continues to test the dedicated and talented people who come through our doors each day. I know that we will continue to meet the moment and that UHN will continue to be a shining light in our system – for care, research, and education – because of the people who make up TeamUHN.

I am immensely grateful to our staff for not only working so hard but for lifting each other through tough times. I also want to recognize the many learners who have chosen UHN as the place to gain the knowledge they need to fulfill their career ambitions.

I would also like to thank our Board of Trustees, comprised of accomplished individuals from different walks of life who volunteer their time to help us pursue our bold strategic objectives. I am so appreciative of the wise counsel and frank feedback I get from our Board.

Finally, I again thank our patients for counting on UHN to help them when they most need it. That is a privilege that we must never take lightly.

Eleanor Roosevelt said: "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." I believe profoundly in TeamUHN and the remarkable things we can accomplish together.

Happy New Year!

Key reminders and updates

  • Congratulations once again to Dr. David Kirsch, who will be joining UHN in May 2023 as the new Director of the Radiation Medicine Program (RMP) at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, the largest in Canada. Kirsch comes to us from Duke University in North Carolina, where he served as the Barbara Levine University Distinguished Professor and co-led the Radiation Oncology and Imaging Program at the Duke Cancer Institute. The appointment of this internationally celebrated Radiation Oncologist and Clinician-Scientist is a great development to start the new year for both the Princess Margaret and UHN. Read the full news release on the appointment.
  • Congratulations are also in order for a pair from the UHN community appointed to the Order of Canada, one of the highest honours in the country. Dr. Richard Weisel, an Emeritus Scientist at Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, and Pierre Lassonde, a former UHN Board member and philanthropist, were among 99 new appointments to the Order made by Governor General Mary Simon. Dr. Weisel, the former chair of the Division of Cardiac Surgery, was named a Member of the Order in recognition of "his leadership as an academic cardiovascular surgeon and for his scientific contributions to the field." Mr. Lassonde, first appointed as a Member in 2002, has been promoted to an Officer to recognize his "long-standing contributions to the gold industry and for his transformative philanthropy, notably in support of the arts and education." Congratulations to both of the esteemed leaders for this well-deserved honour. Read the full list of new appointments on the Governor General's website.
  • Substance-use-related visits to UHN are increasing across almost every major clinical program area. Annually, we see between 4,000 to 5,000 unique patients. To further support this patient group, UHN launched an on-call Addictions Consult Service (ACS) pilot at the Toronto Western this week. This new model of care will offer an evidence-based, patient-centered approach and a range of services, including assessment and counselling, medication, and referral to community resources. It will be available to patients in TW's Emergency Department or Inpatient Units who are at the hospital for a medical or mental health condition, have a known or suspected substance use disorder, and are interested in further assessment or treatment. Physicians and nurse practitioners can reach out to the ACS on-call physician for a patient consult via Locating (3155). Providers will additionally need to complete a consult order within EPIC. The ACS operates Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and is scheduled to run for six months. The ACS complements existing services for UHN patients with substance use disorder, which includes the Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) clinic, Addiction Outpatient Services, and Social Medicine's Peer Support Worker teams in the TG and TW EDs. Please join me in thanking Dr. Hasan Sheikh (Medical Lead, UHN Substance Use Services and Ontario Health's Provincial Clinical Lead, Substance Use Disorders) for his leadership in launching this new service offering for our patients.
  • Don't miss your chance to name the New Patient Tower Project! UHN is building a New Patient Tower at Toronto Western Hospital and you can be part of this milestone project by entering the Naming Contest. It will take several years to build this 11-storey, state-of-the-art facility, and the project will be part of many UHN conversations during that time, so an easily identifiable name is needed. Simply submit your project name suggestions at this link for your chance to win prizes! Please keep in mind you are naming the project to build the tower – not naming the tower itself. The contest runsfrom January 5 to 23. The winner will be revealed in March.
  • The XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant now appears to be the dominant subvariant in the United States and has been identified in 29 countries, including Canada. The World Health Organization has called XBB.1.5 the "most transmissible subvariant that has been detected yet," but there is no data yet to support a change in severity of infection. While we will monitor developments closely, the spread of this subvariant is another reminder that COVID is not done with us and we must keep up to date with booster shots. As UHN's Dr. Isaac Bogoch told Global News last week, "we know that the booster vaccines really still do a remarkable job in protecting people against more severe manifestations of the virus like hospitalization and death." Other countermeasures, including masking in crowded indoor spaces, staying home while ill, and performing good hand hygiene remain extremely important to protect us from this an other emerging variants. UHN's COVID-19 Resources for Patients and Families has been updated to include more information about XBB.1.5 and other variants and subvariants of concern.

Closing Notes

January is Glaucoma Month. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness around the world. It is an irreversible eye disease that involves progressive damage to the optic nerve. Today, more than 400,000 Canadians are living with glaucoma. The Glaucoma Clinic at the Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute treats more than 5,000 patients a year with the latest technology in optic nerve imaging, visual fields, treatments, and surgery. Dr. Jeremy Sivak, a Senior Scientist at the Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute, recently published a new study, in collaboration with Dr. Mark Reed, Director of the Centre for Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery at Krembil Research Institute, which synthesized a molecule called Lipoxin B4 that has neuroprotective properties and may serve as a potential treatment for glaucoma. Read the full study here.

Canada Blood Services (CBS) has issued an urgent call for blood and plasma donors. CBS says that while patients' needs are being met by the "smallest donor base in a decade," it is not sustainable and that more life-saving donations of all types are needed. CBS also says appointment cancellation rates jump in the winter due to severe weather and cold and flu season. If part of your resolution this year is to do a little more to help others, consider booking an appointment today. Visit the Canada Blood Services website for more information.

And now.. our TikTok of the week. This video takes us into Toronto General Hospital's Rapid Assessment Centre – an extension of the emergency room.


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Have a good week,


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