Good Monday morning,

Happy back-to-school season! Reminder that everyone on TeamUHN is both a student and teacher – we all have things to learn and things to share. With this in mind, I'll start this week's update with a quote from famed physicist Richard Feynman: "Don't just teach your students to read. Teach them to question what they read, what they study. Teach them to doubt. Teach them to think."

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.

Quality and Safety UHN continues to manage increasing clinical pressures – 148 General Internal Medicine patients admitted at Toronto General: The last time our numbers were this high was in 2017 with 146 patients. We are taking advantage of UHN's network model and transferring patients to our Toronto Rehab and Princess Margaret sites where appropriate, which will help us serve patients better and keep those sites with ER's functioning. Thank you to all our colleagues for continuing to deliver safe, compassionate care, and a shout out to colleagues in Decision Support for examining the data so we have a clearer sense of our Emergency Department referral patterns and can become even more proactive.

Compassionate Care and Caring The importance of speaking up and supporting diversity and inclusion at UHN: I'd like to note two issues that came up at our Executive Huddle last week. The first was how our Electronic Patient Record (EPR) doesn't support transgender pronouns. The second was about the sound that plays at Princess Margaret before an announcement is made and how it may be perceived by Buddhist patients, families and staff. It was reported that the sound is reminiscent of chimes used in Buddhist ceremonies when a person dies, which may of course be distressing. Our Fire Marshal colleagues are in the process of getting a replacement sound and Patient Experience is investigating the EPR issue. Thank you to all involved for helping us treat others in the way we would want to be treated – and for helping us advance health equity at UHN in service of patients and families, while respecting feedback from staff. As we move forward, I encourage everyone to work closely with Diversity and Mediation Services so we can effectively apply the principles of cultural competence!

People and Culture Remembering our colleagues Julie Byrne and Jay Keystone – two passionate educators and clinicians who passed away last week. My heart goes out to those who had the privilege knowing Julie and Jay. Julie was a nurse educator who joined UHN in 1997 working in the Orthopaedic Unit at Toronto Western. Jay was a medical educator and joined UHN in 1977 as Director of the Tropical Disease Unit at Toronto General. Both individuals had a commitment to teaching and learning and I hope we can each find a way to positively impact our colleagues the way they have. Our sympathy is with their families and each member of TeamUHN who is feeling the pain of the loss of valued colleagues and mentors.

2. What we discussed at our Executive Leadership Forum

Here is what we discussed at last week's Executive Leadership Forum (ELF) meeting. See who attends these meetings on

  • Preparing for our Sept. 18 Board of Trustees meeting (Ian McDermott, Ron Swail; Duska Kennedy; Catherine Wang): We will be sharing updates on a variety of topics at our upcoming Board meeting, including UHN's Master Plan, Health Information System (HIS) and the Joint Department of Medical Imaging (JDMI). In preparation, we invited the presenters to do a practice run with ELF.
  • Update from our internal auditors, KPMG (Nick Rolfe, Partner at KMPG): For those who don't know, we invite KPMG to ELF before every Board of Trustees meeting. They share the results of their ongoing audit of UHN across care, research and education and we discuss their recommendations. They then present this to our Board so they can incorporate it in their decision making.

3. Leadership reflection: Embracing diversity and dissent

The point of leadership is to bring out the best in others – and while we want to anchor people around the same values at UHN ("the needs of patients come first" being most important), what we don't want is a team that only recognizes likeminded people. Respectful debate is vital for innovation and I'll point to the Richard Feynman quote at the top of this update for emphasis. Here is some of the reading I've been doing lately.

  • BMJ: "Raising and responding to frontline concerns"

    "Frontline staff are well placed to identify failings in care, but speaking up requires a supportive organizational culture…" – underscores the importance of our quality and safety journey and Caring Safely at UHN. The article reviews factors that can influence speaking up.

  • Nature: "Communicating to policymakers"

    Good piece on how we can do a better job of getting the right information into the hands of decision makers. Knowing who you want to reach and having actionable recommendations are essential.

  • Harvard Business Review: "Is your corporate culture cultish?"

    My main takeaway is the last line: "When a culture ceases to embrace diversity and dissent, it becomes a cult." Let us encourage critical thinking at UHN and work on complimenting and challenging each other.

Have a good week,


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