At the Purple Day event in the atrium of Toronto Western Hospital, the team of neurologists, nurse practitioners and nurse clinicians, neurosurgeons, neurogeneticists, dieticians, neuroradiologists, neuropsychologists, neuroscientists and clinical electrophysiologists had a chance to interact with patients, visitors and staff to raise awareness of epilepsy and fight the stigma. (Photo: UHN)

Purple Day event raises awareness of epilepsy

The Epilepsy Group at UHN's Krembil Brain Institute (KBI) marked Purple Day at an in-person event on Friday, March 24 in the atrium at Toronto Western Hospital, raising awareness around epilepsy.

About one in every 100 people suffer from epilepsy, which is characterized by recurring seizures that range from mild to severe and can have a significant impact on a person's daily life. Despite its prevalence, epilepsy remains largely misunderstood, and many people with the condition face discrimination and stigma.

"Some individuals with epilepsy require extra help and are afraid to disclose that they have this condition," says Faranak Heidari, PhD candidate at KBI. "It's important to have events like this to show support for our patients."

At the event, trainees from the diverse research groups shared the latest in epilepsy research. Hospital visitors and UHN staff learned how music can be used to reduce seizure frequency and how novel techniques are used to detect seizures before they start.

"I think it's really important that we communicate our research with people that are coming in and out of the hospital to show what we're doing behind-the-scenes to help people living with epilepsy," says Madeline Falby, a master's student at KBI.

"One of the most rewarding parts of research is getting to see how it's used in the community," adds Gerard O'Leary, an alumnus from the lab of Dr. Taufik Valiante, Surgical Director of UHN's Epilepsy Program.

The team of neurologists, nurse practitioners and nurse clinicians, neurosurgeons, neurogeneticists, dieticians, neuroradiologists, neuropsychologists, neuroscientists and clinical electrophysiologists had a chance to interact with patients, visitors and staff to raise awareness and fight the stigma.

"It's so nice to have Epilepsy Day in person again," says Dr. Homeira Moradi, scientific associate at KBI. "It allows us to interact with patients and our community to spread awareness.

"We are immensely grateful to our patients and their families for participating in several studies to help advance future therapeutics."

Maria Butt, Sustainability Coordinator with the Energy & Environment team, led last month's Operation Green collection of surplus medical supplies to be donated to Turkey and Syria. TeamUHN came together and donated 42 boxes! (Photo: UHN)

TeamUHN rallies to support Turkey and Syria after devastating earthquake

TeamUHN came together last month to donate 42 boxes of near-expired and surplus medical supplies to support relief efforts in Turkey and Syria.

Southeastern Turkey and northern Syria were rocked by a pair of earthquakes in early February – one of 7.8 magnitude followed by another less than 12 hours later at 7.5 magnitude – which killed more than 33,000 people and left tens of thousands injured.

It was the region's deadliest earthquake in more than 80 years.

The Energy & Environment team's Operation Green – a UHN-wide program that collects surplus, unused, or expired medical supplies to donate to countries in need – added an extra collection in February to help with the urgent relief efforts.

They put the call out to the Green Team – a group of about 700 UHN employees who volunteer for green initiatives – on Friday, Feb. 10, then to all of TeamUHN on Tuesday February 14. Within five days, 42 boxes were collected from the Princess Margaret Cancer Research Tower, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital and Toronto Rehab's Bickle Centre.

All items were then packed and shipped to the airport by UHN's Transportation team by Feb. 17.

"It feels really great to have a role in Operation Green, especially when considering how significant it's impact is," says Maria Butt, Sustainability Coordinator with Facilities Management – Planning, Redevelopment & Operations (FM-PRO), who led the collection.

There are about 100 people on the email reminder list Operation Green uses to generate items for collection – but Energy & Environment is always looking for more. 

"Think of all the different departments throughout UHN that are clinical – each one has their own clean utility room," says Lisa Vanlint, Energy Manager, with FM-PRO's Energy & Environment team. “For each supply room supplies go in, but if they don't get used, it's possible for them to die in there.

"With Operation Green, we want to reduce items that go to the landfill and get things to people that need them."

Operation Green runs every month, with its most recent recipients including Turkey/Syria, Ukraine and Somalia. Contact to find out more, or get on the monthly collection reminder list.

UHN's COVID-19 Pandemic After Action Report was spearheaded by the Emergency Preparedness team and looks at the two-year period between Ontario's Declaration of Emergency on March 17, 2020 and April 2022. (Photo: UHN Emergency Preparedness)

Report can help UHN 'strengthen our response to future emergencies'

UHN's Emergency Preparedness team earlier this month released UHN's COVID-19 Pandemic After Action Report (AAR), which provides an examination of how the organization handled and responded to the uniques challenges posed by this highly-disruptive, community-based pandemic.

The 192-page report paints a picture of the scale and complexity of both UHN's organizational response to the crisis and the pandemic's impact on our individual lived experiences over the two-year period between Ontario's Declaration of Emergency on March 17, 2020, and April 2022.

"The closest parallel to the COVID-19 pandemic that UHN could draw on to guide our response was SARS, but it became clear quite early on in the pandemic that this would be nothing like what was experienced in 2003," says the report's Executive Summary. "Unlike SARS, COVID-19 was not a hospital-based event and was, instead, a community-based pandemic that required a radically different response."

Through feedback collected via 53 one-on-one interviews with UHN's leadership, the COVID-19 TeamUHN Experience Survey's 4,456 respondents, and the COVID-19 Patient Experience Survey's 3,840 respondents, this report captures vital firsthand insight into our pandemic response.

The report is not meant to provide a comprehensive overview of the many remarkable activities UHN undertook during this challenging period of time, but instead delves into an assessment of UHN's response to identify what went well, areas for improvement, and the key lessons we learned.

"The pandemic shone a light on the deep social vulnerabilities within the communities we serve," the report says. "From the redeployment of TeamUHN members to support our region's long-term care (LTC) homes to the establishment of partnerships within the communities beyond our sites, UHN stepped up to provide aid, support, and leadership within the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.

"As an academic health care institution that integrates clinical care, education, and research, UHN's pandemic response was as complex and multi-faceted as the organization itself. In the first six months of the pandemic alone, UHN's response was more intensive than any other in the organization's history.

"The sheer scale of the response activities undertaken, both within the organization and beyond, is perhaps best illustrated by UHN's involvement in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in late 2020. From collaborating on the development of vaccine transportation, handling, and storage guidance, to the creation of set-up protocols and the rapid establishment of vaccine clinics, to administering the first PfizerBioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario on Dec. 14, 2020, UHN has drawn on TeamUHN's collective knowledge and expertise to achieve incredible things."

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