RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre

Photo (L-R): Barry Streib, Secretary/Chair, Governance, Board of Directors, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation; Clint Harris, Vice-Chair, Board of Directors, Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute; The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour and Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay—Superior North; Jean Bartkowiak, President and CEO, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre; CEO, Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute

 

Investment in Health Research is Making Thunder Bay Healthier, Wealthier and Smarter

Across the province, communities are moving towards knowledge-based economies, and Ontario’s research hospitals are helping them get there. This fact was recently illustrated in Northern Ontario, with an investment of $1.85 million from the Government of Canada to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute to advance research, innovation and discovery while creating jobs and diversifying the local economy.

“Our Government is committed to positioning Canada as a global centre for innovation,” said the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, and Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay—Superior North, who made the announcement on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and Minister responsible for FedNor.  “We are confident this investment will lead to the health care solutions of tomorrow, while growing the local economy and creating meaningful middle-class employment here in Northern Ontario.”

Traditionally known as a resource-based economy, Thunder Bay and its surrounding community is seeing significant growth and diversification as a result of its health research sector.

Read more about how health research is helping to make Ontario communities wealthier

This new funding is expected to result in the creation of 15 jobs at the Thunder Bay Health Research Institute, along with 10 indirect positions through related research projects within the Health Research Institute, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and/or Lakehead University.

It will also enable the purchase equipment and implement new technologies in the area of probe development and bio-marker exploration. Specifically, the new research equipment will be used in the discovery of new bio-markers and to evaluate the effectiveness of new treatment protocols utilizing isotopes produced at the Health Research Institute’s Cyclotron.

New jobs and new equipment will also open up new avenues of research that will improve care for the local community while driving the economy. The Health Research Institute is poised to:

  • Enhance the conditions for new research while providing better care at a lower cost and improve diagnostic timelines and accuracy
  • Establish formal partnerships with industry, manufacture and sell medical isotopes, and pursue opportunities for contract research and clinical trials
  • Help to attract new medical talent to Ontario, improve training to next generation scientists, and make Thunder Bay an international demonstration site able to host visiting scientists and health care professionals from around the world.

Simply put, as the research arm of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, the Health Research Institute is poised to continue making its community, the province and Canada healthier, wealthier, and smarter.

Read the full press release.

 

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The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is one of Ontario’s 24 research hospitals that contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter province. Look for other RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT posts on our Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter blog or join the conversation about why health research matters for Ontario on Twitter, using the hashtag #onHWS.

Patients + Research: Gretta Hutton

Meet Gretta

While parked at the local Home Depot, Gretta Hutton received her diagnosis over the phone: it was Mantle Cell Lymphoma, she had 2 – 5 years to live, and there was no treatment offered beyond the standard of care treatment. After weeks of feeling hopeless, Gretta found a clinical trial at Hamilton Health Sciences led by Dr. Tom Kouroukis. A year later, Gretta’s cancer was in full remission.

Gretta Hutton at CAHO healthier wealthier smarter conference
Gretta shares her insights at the 2015 Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter conference.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your health story?

By day, I am a social worker in the health sector, counselling clients who are struggling with critial illnesses. In 2014, I began to feel ill myself and went to see my doctor for some tests. Driving home from work one evening, I received a call from my internist wanting to share the results. He asked that I pull over so I drove into the parking lot of my local Home Depot where he then gave the diagnosis: stage 4 Mantle Cell Lymphoma. A subsequent meeting with a local oncologist revealed that I had 2 – 5 years to live. More than that, I wasn’t given any alternative treatment beyond the standard of care, RCHOP, that might  help me beat my cancer. But thanks to the persistence of my friend and my sister, I discovered a clinical trial led by Dr. Tom Kouroukis at the Juravinski Cancer Centre at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS). The care that I am receiving in that trial is outstanding. Dr. Kouroukis listened to me, not just as a patient, but as a person, and walked me through the science of the trial and my care plan.

Why does health research matter to you?

If you asked me two years ago whether I thought I’d be back at work and able to resume my normal activities, I don’t think I would have believed you. This place, and the research here, has saved my life.

I was very ill at the beginning of the research study—sleeping a lot, exhausted—but that started easing up within the first two months. After 12 weeks, I was feeling “normal”. When I didn’t dare to hope that I would beat my cancer, the research team was there, bringing my hope to life with the data and the results from the study. Now here I am, and I have my life back.

Health research, and the clinical trials that result from it, are really important because they offer patients a different path. Having options, especially when you’re ill, is really important.

How does health research contribute to a healthier Ontario?

Clinical trials don’t exist in a vacuum; they are the results of a whole body of scientific study. They move research discoveries into new and better therapies for patients like me. Without health research, you can’t have clinical trials, and without clinical trials, you can’t improve the health of Ontarians.

How can patients and families support, improve or empower health research?

One of the hesitations that people might have in participating in clinical trials is the safety aspect of it. The best people to help reduce fear, hesitation or, in some cases, stigma are the people who have gone through clinical trials. Those of us who have thought through the risks and the benefits, who have worked with the researchers and staff, and who have come out on the other side with renewed hope—we are the ones who need to share our stories with the public and be strong champions for health research.

Patients and the public also have an important opportunity to voice their health research needs to decision makers. If there are life-saving clinical trials and medicines available, then patients should be aware and have access to them. In my role as Ontario Lay Representative on the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network since November 2015, I am working hard to ensure that that conversation takes place at the point of diagnosis for every patient with cancer or other serious illness even if their local hospital is not a research hospital in a major urban centre. Where you live should not be the determining factor in being offered access to research.

Our health system, including research and clinical trials, is a public system, and so the public itself can be a voice of change.

 

 

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Add Your Voice

Want to add your voice to the Patients + Research blog series? Email or call Elise Bradt at ebradt@caho-hospitals.com, 416-205-1469, or direct message or tweet at us on Twitter at @CAHOhospitals.

Read more Patients + Research posts and share your own insights on Twitter with the hashtag #onHWS. To learn more about how health research makes Ontario healthier, wealthier and smarter, visit our impact page, and check out our other blog posts and videos.

 

Health and Community Leaders Talk: Debbi M Nicholson

By Debbi M Nicholson, President and CEO, Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce

Debbi Nicholson CEO Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce

What does health research mean to you?

When I think of health research, I think of all the noteworthy initiatives being undertaken by organizations like the Health Sciences North Research Institute (HSNRI) in the areas of cancer care, heathy ageing, infectious diseases, and northern and indigenous health.  HSNRI has demonstrated that health research is not just about generating knowledge, it is about using research outcomes for action – to guide policy and program development and to find sustainable solutions to the most pressing health challenges faced by its stakeholders.

Health research has led to innovations like new therapies that reduce the need for in-hospital care, new devices that track patient diagnostics in order to prevent catastrophic health events, and more effective drugs that improve our quality of life.  Health research in mining has led to safer workplaces. These are just a few examples of how health research has transformed the quality of our health care system.

As a business association, we believe that to realize the full potential of the health sector, we need to support health research through its various stages, right up to commercialization and adoption.  Collaboration with industry and other partners, embracing leading technologies, and ensuring that research is put in the hands of policy makers, is essential to guarantying health research translates into effective health care action.  The commercialization of research is critical.

How does health research contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter Ontario?

Let’s start with healthier: leading-edge research has contributed to pioneering practices in advancing patient care as well as treating illness.  Think about how the discovery of insulin treatment for diabetes and the electric wheelchair – two Canadian discoveries resulting from revolutionary health research – have impacted patient care.  Health research also plays a vital role in prevention and continuous health care quality improvement.

In terms of wealthier and smarter: the figures often reported state that every $1 spent on hospital research generates an estimated $3 in economic output.  When one looks at the impact of heath research here in Sudbury, you can see that job creation, the attraction of top talent from around the world, economic diversification, and innovative partnerships between research institutions, academia and industry, are some of the positive outcomes. All these initiatives will contribute to a wealthier Sudbury and Ontario.  Health research has enhanced our community’s knowledge economy allowing us to compete on an international scale.

Health spending in Ontario consumes nearly half of the provincial budget.  Our health care system is facing a series of challenges including a population that is aging and increasingly suffering from chronic illnesses.  Health research can play an important role in leading partnerships with academia and industry to innovate and find solutions to increase efficiencies and enhance the sustainability of our health care system into the future.   The Sudbury chamber has partnered with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce on a year-long health transformation initiative that looks at the challenges facing the health care system and has made recommendations for health care reform.  We have released a series of reports focused on issues such as innovation in health care, supporting the health sciences sectors, and models for collaboration.  These reports can be found at http://www.occ.ca/advocacy/health-transformation-initiative/.

Feel free to reach out to us at the chamber (policy@sudburychamber.ca) or tweet us @SudburyCofC to share your thoughts on how you think we as a business association can better support health research and the sustainability of the health care sector.

All the best,

Debbi

 

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Read more Health and Community Leaders Talk blog posts on our Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter site and share your insights on Twitter with the hashtag, #onHWS. To learn more about how health research makes Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter, check out our website and our other blog posts and videos.