Chair's Column: Reaffirming our priority to our patients

Sep 10, 2018
Dr. Gillian Hawker
Gillian HawkerI hope everyone got a little time off during the summer months and is ready for another terrific academic year. Welcome again to all of our new residents and fellows. I hope you have received the warm welcome you deserve and are settling in nicely. I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge our Saudi trainees for the stress they endured over the past month: we know this was a time of significant anxiety for you and your families, and I think that I speak for all of our colleagues when I say we are delighted that you are able to stay with us. This was a pretty major wake-up call to academic medicine, here and elsewhere. Clearly, change is required to address the sustainability of hospital-based health care delivery in our teaching hospitals. More on this in the future.

In this newsletter, I’d like to highlight a priority in the DoM: our patients. As you are aware, we are in an era of greater awareness of the importance of involving patients in everything we do in healthcare. Patients are increasingly saying, “Nothing about me without me.” In 2015, we stated that “ensuring that the perspectives and experiences of our patients and their families drive our work” was our top priority. In 2018, we re-confirmed our commitment to this goal, but agreed we hadn’t made much progress. In this month’s guest column for DoM Matters, the newly appointed and first-ever Lead for Patient Involvement, Dr. Andreas Laupacis, writes about his new role, and about how he will help operationalize the DoM's commitment to patient-centredness.

In another first for the Department, we have partnered with Computer Science and the Vector Institute to recruit a computer scientist to the DoM. Dr. Marzyeh Ghassemi joined us in August following her PhD in Computer Science at MIT and a post-doctoral fellowship at Google. Dr. Ghassemi’s research uses machine learning algorithms and big data to improve clinical decision-making.

And, fittingly, these firsts coincide with the upcoming visit to the University of Toronto by Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer of England and Chief Medical Advisor to the UK Government. She will be delivering the second annual Cy Frank Legacy Lectureship on Tuesday, September 11 at 4:30 p.m. in the Women’s College Hospital auditorium. She’ll be speaking on the topic of “Compression of Morbidity” and the role of big data, and will explore lessons that healthcare in Canada could learn. I look forward to seeing you all there.

Cy Frank was a dear friend, colleague and mentor. He died far too young of an unexpected heart attack at age 65. In his Globe and Mail column at the time of Cy’s death, Andre Picard wrote that Dr. Frank was “…one of the most respected leaders in Canadian health care, relentlessly promoting evidence-based care in his multiple, simultaneous careers as an orthopedic surgeon, scientific researcher, teacher, entrepreneur, mentor and health-system administrator.” At the time of his death, Cy was president and CEO of Alberta Innovates Health Solutions, which funds health research and promotes health care innovation. Cy Frank wanted to reform health care – in particular to make it more patient-centered. Andreas Laupacis was also a friend and colleague of Cy’s. About Cy Frank, Andreas said "We have lost much intellectually. But what hurts the most is that we have lost someone who had such passion about what he was doing, and who did it because he wanted to make the lives of patients better."

I had the great pleasure of being introduced to Dame Sally by Cy Frank at a health economics conference in Edmonton, at which Dr. Laupacis was also speaking. It is fitting that Dame Sally will be here next week to honour Cy and speak about how we can do more with big data and patient-centered care.