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Mark Bayley
Dr. Mark Bayley wants to work more collaboratively with internal and external partners, to inspire, invent, and deliver tomorrow’s care. (Photo: UHN)

From sailing to skiing, Dr. Mark Bayley has a passion for athletics.

His current hobby is long-distance training, starting every day with an early morning cycle or run.

"It keeps me sane and gives me a big dose of endorphins, before I come to work," he says.

But Toronto Rehab's new Program Medical Director is quick to acknowledge that the benefits are more holistic than that.

"Exercise isn't just about staying healthy," Dr. Bayley says. "It's also about reducing stress and building resilience to give myself the best possible chance to do my job and live life, as best and as long as I can."

In fact, his belief in the power of training and exercise is what led him to become a physiatrist – a doctor who specializes in physical medicine and rehab.

"I thought, 'if we can improve performance through training and practice in healthy people, we should be able to use it to help people with different kinds of impairments and activity limitations.'"

The strategies he's picked up personally – about the importance of exercise thresholds, and being aware of symptoms – are also ones he shares with his patients.

They make him a more empathetic doctor, helping him relate to what patients are going through.

"As you get older, your knees become a little achy, your back gets sore, and you come to appreciate that individuals with more significant impairments are going to have even more trouble," he says.

"I'm more understanding of the need to adapt an exercise or training prescription to whatever level a patient is at."

Building care around the patient

Toronto Rehab helps people overcome the challenges of disabling injury, illness or age-related health conditions, to live active, healthier and more independent lives.

Before becoming Physiatrist-In-Chief and Program Medical Director for Toronto Rehab this past fall, Dr. Bayley served as Medical Director of Toronto Rehab's Brain & Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Program and Chief Medical Officer of Altum Health​.

He is Medical Director for the WSIB Neurology Specialty Program at Altum Health, and a senior scientist for KITE, Toronto Rehab's research arm, where he leads a team dedicated to preventing the loss of mobility, and restoring it in those who have experienced a decrease.

So why add another role to his roster of responsibilities?

"I was attracted to this role because I'm interested in working with all of Toronto Rehab's clinical teams, and getting an idea of how we can build the best place around," he says.

"I want to ensure we share knowledge and strategies that support programs in being operationally efficient, and that some of the client-centred initiatives happening here at Toronto Rehab – such as fast-track programs that get patients back to their communities faster – can be shared with TeamUHN."

Mark Bayley running down a track
“Exercise isn’t just about staying healthy,” says Dr. Bayley, seen here in a race. “It’s also about reducing stress and building resilience to give myself the best possible chance to do my job and live life, as best and as long as I can.” (Photo: Mark Bayley)

But his vision goes beyond sharing. Dr. Bayley also wants to work more collaboratively with internal and external partners, to inspire, invent, and deliver tomorrow's care.

This means reducing silos and creating a safer, more seamless continuum of care for the patient – from the Emergency Department, to acute care, to rehab, to the community.

"We're currently organized by program, and that's ok because it allows for specialization within your sector of the continuum," he says.

"But it doesn't always help us to facilitate transitions, which are really the most dangerous points in the healthcare system. I'm interested in how we work collaboratively to bridge these transitions better."

It's an interest he shares with Sue Jewell, Senior Vice President and Executive Lead, Toronto Rehab. Together, they're partners in leading Toronto Rehab.

"Both Mark and I, along with our colleagues, are committed to seamlessly integrating post-acute care including rehab, reactivation, complex continuing care, and community care, into the entire patient journey," says Sue.

"Collaboration over time has enhanced capacity and accessibility within hospitals and communities. Going forward, Mark's energy and considerable expertise will be impactful as we aim to ensure that each patient is receiving the services they need in the right place at the right time for the right amount of time."

The future of rehab

If you ask Dr. Bayley where the future of rehab lies, he's firm that it's in integrated clinical research.

"I think Mark will play a pivotal role in bringing our research and clinical enterprises together," says Dr. Milos Popovic, Institute Director, KITE.

"What I value most about him is his vision, ability to engage people around it, and execute ideas.

"We have already started establishing a pattern of collaboration and mutual support, and I look forward to strengthening it."

Evidence of successful integration can already be found in Toronto Rehab's Mobility Innovations Centre, the Hull-Ellis Concussion and Research Clinic, the Rocket Family Upper Extremity Clinic, and the Centre for Remote Brain Intervention.

But we can't sit on our laurels, says Dr. Bayley. We need to continue driving the convergence of care and research by talking all the time – about how we can take a clinical problem back to the lab to solve, and have researchers bring it back to the clinical environment to test and make sure it works.

"I often call clinicians the 'get real' people who challenge researchers to make their innovations user-friendly, and without that intimate partnership, both sides are worse off," Dr. Bayley says.

"I want to make sure we don't miss opportunities to bring research into practice, provide our researchers with real-world advice, and introduce new solutions, faster.

"We're world leaders in this area, and I'm excited to continue maximizing our impact."​

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