Good Monday morning,

I'll start with an observation: I think it's hard to claim a complete lack of bias when deciding whether the work of one's own organization is world class. Which means that recognition from those who are independent of UHN is an essential ways and means to evaluate our clinical and academic performance. That said, after spending eight weeks here, I can safely say this is truly a world-class place with world-class science. Last week, I toured a number of our research areas and look forward to continuing these tours.

  • Some of our greatest strengths:
    • Our people: The success of research at UHN – including most of the funding we receive – is because of the talented people who have chosen to conduct their research at UHN. Our partnership with the University of Toronto (U of T) is a key ingredient in our success.
    • The intensity, breadth and scope of research: Many of the investigators I met said they were attracted to UHN because of the diversity of research. Science is a highly competitive and if you are securing grants, you are certainly more than deserving of UHN's enthusiastic support.
    • Our patients: Another advantage of working at UHN is that the vast majority of patients who are engaged and willing to participate in research. Their contributions are critical and their generosity in taking part in advancing knowledge is something we deeply appreciate. I hope the future enables every patient we are privileged to serve to have the opportunity to be part of a research investigation.
    • Our partnerships: It is important we continue to build and strengthen our research alliances - locally, provincially, nationally and internationally. Increasingly our Tri-Council plus CFI (Canada Foundation for Innovation) funders are pushing forward the importance of regional centres for "big R" research. This would see us share expensive facilities with TAHSN (Toronto Academic Health Sciences Network) partners and University allies. UHN will work with our institutional partners - and our remarkable Foundations - to continue to advocate for research as a united community. Our push to Support the Report (the Fundamental Science Report led by Dr. David Naylor) must continue!
  • Some challenges we're facing:
    • Barriers to integrating research into care. While some clinical research provides funding to support the data collection, sadly this isn't always the case. As UHN is Canada's most research intensive hospital and aims to deliver research activity, we must be mindful of the demands on frontline staff and potentially added workload. As research is in our DNA at UHN, we must work with our frontline staff and managers to eliminate less value-added tasks and processes that don't contribute to improved patient care so we are all able to contribute to research for every patient served.
    • Funding. Unsurprising but of critical importance nonetheless. Our researchers are competing for grant funding where the proposals always outstrip the funds available. Yet UHN investigators fare very well in being funded by the prestigious national granting councils. We also do exceptionally well in industry-sponsored research and in many cases are beginning the journey of innovative enterprises emerging from our research groups. This is especially important as we aim to grow and diversify our provincial economy and see new commercial enterprises established here in Ontario.
    • Infrastructure. Research of the calibre and breadth which UHN enjoys requires large investments in infrastructure and support services – all of which must be funded and regularly renewed. UHN is fortunate to have our Foundations as steadfast partners in raising essential funds to ensure the environment is ripe for research success. For that we thank them and our generous donors. In addition, UHN has enjoyed tremendous investment from CFI, which has transformed our access to cutting-edge infrastructure including cyber infrastructure. I see many opportunities to further leverage these tremendous facilities and technologies.
  • Focusing on the next generation: I asked some of our early to mid-career investigators who they felt accountable to. Those closer to the clinic said patients but I was also glad to hear "my trainees" and how they feel a deep sense of responsibility in ensuring their trainees and students are able to see a career in research as exciting and attractive - with the brightest and best staying with us at UHN and U of T.

In addition to my deep dive in research last week I also had the pleasure of visiting some of Toronto Rehab's (TR) clinical units and programs at our University site.

  • The theme of strong teamwork and collegiality came up once again in discussion. One staff member said, "If everyone was wearing the same outfit, you'd never be able to tell the difference between professions here."
  • In terms of challenges, some staff expressed the desire to strengthen the way we work with our community partners to help patients transition outside of our walls – and that they sometimes feel uncomfortable discharging patients because they fear they won't be adequately supported. The opportunities to further advance models of integrated care was loud and clear.

As many of you know, UHN, along with our partner hospitals, was on standby after the Toronto Police Service (TPS) received an unconfirmed threat last week. We thank TPS for acting quickly to ensure public safety and thank UHN's Emergency Preparedness team for coordinating across teams and sites so we would be ready to respond. Thankfully this quick action by our police colleagues prevented what might have been a series of tragic events.

  • What we did to prepare: Emergency Preparedness organized cross-site conference calls and our Emergency Departments readied themselves and all UHN sites for a possible Code Orange. Our Executive and Site Leads organized staff huddles to ensure everyone had the information and resources they'd need. All while still continuing our care of scheduled and emergency patients.

Finally, I'll end by sharing more great work from our Local Impact Award nominees.

  • Dr. Auro Viswabandya at Princess Margaret: Auro is a hematologist and Associate Director of the allogenic blood and marrow transplant program. He is nominated for his instrumental role in introducing significant changes to the allogenic hematopoetic stem cell transplantation program, which helped expand the pool of donors and reduced the number of patients who developed severe acute graft versus host disease – in turn lowering readmission and bed occupancy rates.
  • Tim Tripp based at Toronto General: Tim is the Director of Library & Information Services and nominated for positively transforming his department's working climate within one year. His colleague writes, "If there were more managers like Tim within UHN there would be no limits to what we might accomplish."
  • Drs. Meiqui Guo, Gaetan Tardif and Mark Bayley at Toronto Rehab: Recognizing the need for physicians to actively contribute to safety huddles as part of UHN's patient safety strategy, Toronto Rehab's Brain & Spinal Cord program successfully trialed Medical Safety Huddles over a 7-month period. Their work is nominated for its impact and transferability to other programs.
  • Quality Improvement Team – Orthopedic Unit – 9AF – Toronto Western: The Quality Improvement Team is nominated for their excellent work in identifying opportunities for improvements in surgical site infections, urinary tract infections and post-operative emergency department visits for UHN's orthopedic population.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. Thank you to those who attended last week's Open Forum. I will be sending a summary on that later this week.

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