Research Spotlight: SickKids

A new review at SickKids suggests paediatricians should think twice before routinely testing for respiratory viruses

In 2014, more than 2,000 kids who visited SickKids Emergency Department with respiratory symptoms were given an invasive and uncomfortable nasopharyngeal swab test. This is when a doctor or nurse inserts a long swab into the nostril to the back part of the nose to collect a sample of cells. The swabs are sent to the lab to test for six common respiratory viruses, but the results come back the next day, often after patients have already been discharged from the Emergency Department. With no set process for communicating positive or negative results for this test, the results generally did not impact the child’s care.

With an increased emphasis on ‘choosing wisely’ and reducing unnecessary medical tests and therapies across the medical field, paediatricians at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) say it is not good enough to ‘do’ these tests just because we ‘can’. The team examined the benefits and limitations for this specific type of test and reviewed the scientific evidence as to when it is actually helpful in improving patient care. The review, including their recommendations, is published in the July 3 advance online edition of JAMA Pediatrics.

“Just because a test is available doesn’t mean we should automatically order one.”

Most viral respiratory illnesses can be diagnosed clinically based on the child’s symptoms (for example, runny nose, cough, nasal and chest congestion), but with more sophisticated and sensitive tests available, frontline clinicians frequently order tests to identify the specific offending virus.

“While the number of testing options has grown rapidly, the same attention has not been given to deciding how and when these tests can add value to the care of our patients. Just because the test is available, doesn’t mean we should automatically order one, especially since we know that for the majority of healthy children the result will have no impact on their care,” says Dr. Jeremy Friedman, senior investigator of the review and Associate Paediatrician-in-Chief at SickKids.

The review describes some of the common rationales used to justify respiratory viral testing but found poor evidence to support these rationales. Unsupported rationale includes:

  • to reduce the number of lab blood tests and chest x-rays performed, as well as unnecessary antibiotic use
  • to reduce the length of hospital stay
  • to offer prognostic information on length of the illness, and a confirmed diagnostic label for the physician and the family
  • to reduce health care costs

The team emphasized that there are clinical scenarios where respiratory viral testing can inform treatment decisions and improve overall patient care and therefore should be seriously considered. These examples include children with compromised immune systems, those at risk for influenza-related complications, children admitted to intensive care units, and infants with fever younger than three months old.

Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter results

“We hope this review helps health care providers make better decisions and think twice before ‘checking the box’ for a nasopharyngeal swab on the list of possible investigations,” Dr. Peter Gill, lead author of the review and senior paediatric resident at SickKids.

As part of SickKids Choosing Wisely initiatives, SickKids has reduced nasopharyngeal testing for typical respiratory viruses in the Emergency Department by greater than 80 per cent since 2014.


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SickKids is one of Ontario’s 23 research hospitals that contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter province. Read more 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.


Research Spotlight: Kingston Health Sciences Centre

Kingston Health Sciences researchers tackling health equity issues world-wide

Four Kingston Health Sciences Centre researchers are combining their experience with disadvantaged populations, their relationships with institutions on three continents, and a novel approach to evidence-gathering to tackle health equity issues world-wide.

ARCH, a research collaborative for global health equity, grew out of the diverse yet complementary research interests of Kingston General Health Research Institute and Queen’s University researchers Drs. Heather Aldersey (Rehabilitation Therapy), Susan Bartels (Emergency Medicine), Colleen Davison (Public Health Sciences) and Eva Purkey (Family Medicine).

“Global health isn’t just international,” explains Dr. Davison, “it’s about advantage and disadvantage, and unequal access, and working at the structural and community level on things that can benefit the vulnerable in Canada, and around the world.”

In March, the ARCH group was awarded $449,000 from the Queen Elizabeth II Scholars Program (QES) to establish The Queen Elizabeth Scholars Network for Equity in Maternal and Child Health.

“The most vulnerable mothers and children are rarely prioritized in health research or health policy, especially outside the immediate delivery and neonatal period,” Dr. Purkey says. The network aims to address the inequities in access to health services in low- and middle-income countries, where six million children die before the age of five, and where maternal death rates are still 14 times higher than in developed regions.

To do this, the project will support the research, learning and advocacy skills of 17 PhD, postdoctoral and early career researchers from the University of Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Institute of Social work and Social Science (Haiti), the Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia), and Queen’s University (Kingston). The trainees will take part in international exchanges to conduct research and community outreach aimed at understanding and reducing disparities in maternal and child health.

“We want to develop engaged, ethical and innovative global health researchers who can advocate for these vulnerable populations, and address these real-world issues,” says Dr. Aldersey.

To build their collective experience, the group will also contribute to a common, multi-country study looking at the factors that contribute to maternal and child health inequities. This research has the potential to be boundary-breaking through its use of SenseMaker®, an innovative data-collection tool for mobile phones and tablets.

“It’s an efficient tool that enables us to get a quick picture of people’s experiences and perceptions,” says Bartels, who recently led a team using the tool to study child marriage in Syrian refugee camps across Lebanon. “It allows people to tell their stories without feeling judged or guilty, and then use the tool to interpret their stories for us without the filter of our own biases.” (Using SenseMaker, the researchers captured 1400 stories from Syrian refugees in hard-to-reach places in just eight weeks.)

Algorithms within the tool enable both qualitative and quantitative analysis of these anonymous stories, providing researchers with data patterns and contextual factors to capture common themes and identify inequities, quickly, so that researchers can go back to the communities within weeks or a few months to gain further information and begin to find solutions to these problems.

“QES is just the beginning for ARCH,” say the four researchers. “We’ll be seeking other funding opportunities to continue this kind of research.”


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Kingston Health Sciences Centre is one of Ontario’s 23 research hospitals that contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter province. Read more 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.

HWS Field Trips: Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital

Research hospitals play a leading role in making Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter. To demonstrate the world-class hospital-based research happening across our province, we took a field trip to Holland Bloorview’s research institute, where researchers are creating a world of possibility for kids and youth with disability and their families.

This blog post highlights only a fraction of the research we learned about on our field trip – but we also live tweeted every minute! To take the full live-tweeted tour, scroll through our Storify story here.

Patient Engaged Research

We kicked off our tour by meeting with Suzanne Jorisch, a family leader on the hospital’s Research Family Engagement Committee (RFEC) who is also a long-time health research champion. Suzanne’s son Wesley first came to Holland Bloorview in 2010 with a brain injury. It wasn’t long before Suzanne and Wesley started getting involved in research projects underway at Holland Bloorview. “They started performing miracles,” said Suzanne, “and their research has given me tremendous hope that my son will have new opportunities for his future.”

Since then, Suzanne has become a strong voice for the value of paediatric research at Holland Bloorview’s research institute – and a champion for partnership with patients, families and caregivers. Together with hospital leaders like Lori Beesley, a family-centred care specialist, she is working to support standards and processes for meaningful family-researcher partnerships.

“Patient engagement isn’t something that can be done off the side of your desk,” said Lori. “We need to embed it into our research culture and process.” In her over 20 years of navigating the Canadian developmental and disability health sector, Lori has fostered numerous partnerships between clients, families, and staff, using the principles of client and family-centred care. She also cared for her son Mitchell who has Fragile X Syndrome. At Holland Bloorview, Lori leads both the Family Leadership Program and RFEC. “The Research Family Engagement Committee is not only leading patient and family engagement in research at Holland Bloorview, but it’s creating best practices for organizations around the world.”

Research Family Engagement Committee Holland Bloorview
 “At Holland Bloorview, they don’t look through you, they look with you,” said Suzanne Jorisch of her experience being involved in research at Holland Bloorview. L-R: Karen Michell, Executive Director, CAHO, Suzanne Jorisch, Family Leader, Lori Beesley, Family-Centred Care Specialist.


Making therapy fun: Our next stop focused on innovative solutions that improve mobility for kids with disabilities. We met Ajmal Khan and Alexander Hodge, two members of the PEARL (Possibility Engineering and Research lab) team who work with Dr. Elaine Biddiss to develop mixed reality therapy games and interactive play spaces that are accessible to young people of all abilities. Immersive and interactive mixed reality games like Botley’s Bootle Blast help to make reaching rehabilitation therapy goals fun. For example, one game might help to strengthen shoulder mobility, while another might focus on strengthening fine motor skills. And as a bonus, the games can be played at home with friends!

Botley's Bootle Blast at Holland Bloorview
L-R: Ajmal Khan, Research Manager, and Alexander Hodge, Game Developer, introduce Botley’s Bootle Blast, a mixed reality therapy game.

Ontario-grown innovation: Dr. Jan Andrysek and his team at the PROPEL lab (Paediatrics, Rehabilitation, Orthotics, Prosthetics, Engineering, Locomotion) developed and commercialized the All-Terrain Knee (AT-Knee). It’s a low-cost, high-functioning mechanical knee that’s already being sold in 21 countries by social enterprise, LegWorks. Post-doctoral student, Matt Leineweber explained that, compared to standard prosthetics, patients using the AT-Knee expend 40% less energy and have reported a reduced number of falls. The AT-Knee is a great example of how health research helps fuel our innovation economy and improve quality of life for patients in Ontario and beyond.

LegWorks AT-Knee demo at PROPEL lab at Holland Bloorview
L-R: Sam Shi, Masters Student, and Matt Leineweber, Postdoctoral Fellow, demo some of the innovations from the PROPEL lab

 STOP 2: ProFILE lab

Addressing weighty topics: Weight-related issues can be challenging for people to discuss openly with their doctors. It can be uncomfortable and emotional – especially when you’re managing other conditions. For children with disabilities, conversations about nutrition, physical activity and weight are important for maintaining a high quality of life. Interim vice president of research and scientist, Dr. Amy McPherson, and her team at the ProFILE lab (Promoting Fitness and Healthy Lifestyles for Everyone) are looking at how to better approach these tough conversations, so that kids, families and care providers can comfortably discuss how to best manage a healthy lifestyle.

Some evidence-based lessons gathered from the team’s research:

  • Start conversations early and discuss regularly
  • Include the right people in the conversation – kids, families or caregivers, care providers and others who may be relevant
  • Communicate trust and respect with active listening, open questions and a collaborative attitude

 Weight research at Holland BloorviewWeight research at Holland Bloorview 
L-R: Laura Hartman, Postdoctoral Fellow and Christine Provvidenza, Knowledge Translation Specialist, highlight their findings on fostering positive weight-related conversations between kids, families and care providers.

Read more from Dr. McPherson on healthy choices for kids with disabilities in Canadian Living.

STOP 3:  PRISM lab

A philosophy of strengths-based innovation: Researchers at the PRISM (Paediatric Rehabilitation Intelligent Systems Multidisciplinary) lab discover and evaluate innovative technology solutions that help kids with severe disabilities communicate and interact with the world around them. A guiding principle of their research is to let innovation start from a child’s strengths and asking how those strengths can be augmented to give the child a voice.

Fanny Hotze, Paediatric Assistive Technology Specialist, shows us how the Hummer works Alborz Rezazadeh and Rozhin Yousefi demonstrate EEG-based brain-computer interface technology.
L-R: Fanny Hotze, Paediatric Assistive Technology Specialist, shows us how the Hummer works /// PhD students Alborz Rezazadeh and Rozhin Yousefi demonstrate EEG-based brain-computer interface technology. 

The vocal cord vibration switch, also known as the Hummer, is a great example of this principle. It harnesses a non-verbal child’s ability to hum by translating vocal cord vibrations into binary control signals for computer-supported communication.

For other children, researchers are developing brain-computer interfaces that identify and communicate thoughts and intentions. PhD students Alborz Rezazadeh and Rozhin Yousef gave a live demonstration of how one such brain-computer interface can allow child with complex disabilities to interact with the world around them. By focusing his attention on a series of images on the computer screen, he gave commands that turned on lights, fans, music and more.

ScreenPlay Pit Stop!

In general, hospital waiting rooms can be a stressful experience for children and their families. Holland Bloorview has created the ScreenPlay – an interactive waiting room that is proven to reduce waiting room anxiety. Developed by scientist Dr. Elaine Biddiss and the PEARL lab team, ScreenPlay heralds the high-tech waiting room of the future.

Holland Bloorview’s President and CEO, Julia Hanigsberg, shows us how kids can generate, grow and shift colourful images on-screen when they step or wheel across the pressure-sensitive tiles.

STOP 4: Autism Research Centre

Self-managing anxiety: The Autism Research Centre (ARC) conducts research aimed at improving outcomes and quality of life for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their families. A highly diverse team (its expertise spans neurology, developmental pediatrics, psychology, psychometry, engineering, occupational therapy, speech and language pathology, and nursing) focuses on understanding the biology and symptoms of autism, developing novel interventions and investigating service delivery models.

Now in early commercialization stages, the Anxiety Meter is one such intervention, developed by scientists Drs. Azadeh Kushki and Evdokia Anagnostou. The app is designed to help kids with ASD better manage their anxiety by measuring their heart rate and converting it into a visual representation on a tablet and/or watch through the Anxiety Meter app.

Dr. Kushki and Stephanie Chow, Research Assistant at Holland Bloorview Autism Research Centre
“Kids with autism often don’t realize that they’re anxious,” explains Dr. Azadeh Kushki, scientist at the Autism Research Centre. “By helping them identify their anxiety, we can help them manage it.” (L-R, Dr. Kushki and Stephanie Chow, Research Assistant)

The Holli glasses are another example of cutting-edge innovation. They glasses interact with Google Glass technology to provide prompts and cues during social interaction, like ordering food in a restaurant. It holds the potential to complement traditional therapy and provide coaching over the long term.

Holli Glasses at Holland Bloorview Autism Research CentreHolli Glasses at Holland Bloorview Autism Research Centre
Harnessing Google Glass technology, the wearer sees prompts and responses on a tiny screen in the right corner of the glasses that aim to reduce anxiety and provide coaching during social interactions.

Read more about the Anxiety Meter, Holli and autism research at the Bloorview Research Institute in Today’s Parent.

STOP 5: Evidence to Care

Putting knowledge into practice: Using evidence-informed care is an expectation of all health care professionals in leading academic health sciences centers around the world, but it isn’t always easy to ensure that knowledge translation happens consistently.

The Evidence to Care team at Holland Bloorview, led by Dr. Shauna Kingsnorth, promotes knowledge translation by identifying the best available research evidence and developing strategies to influence care.

“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” said Dr. Shauna Kingsnorth, Manager, Evidence to Care. Holland Bloorview
“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” said Dr. Shauna Kingsnorth, Manager, Evidence to Care. “We want to package the existing evidence in a way that makes it accessible for clinicians and families.”

Case Study: 1 in 4 children with cerebral palsy experience chronic pain. The Chronic Pain Toolbox, developed by the Evidence to Care team, is an evidence-based best practice product to assist clinicians in their efforts to accurately assess chronic pain in children with disabilities, especially those with cerebral palsy.

At Holland Bloorview, we translate research into real life impact for kids and their families
HWS Field Trippers end their tour inspired by the health research underway at Holland Bloorview’s research institute and the impact it will have on kids and families today and tomorrow; locally and globally.

“At Holland Bloorview, we translate research into real life impact for kids and their families,” said President and CEO, Julia Hanigsberg.

After a morning of meaningful research and imaginative, boundary-pushing innovation, it’s clear that Holland Bloorview is serious about its mission to create a world of possibility. We want to extend our sincere thanks to our hosts at Holland Bloorview’s research institute and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.


Why does health research matter to us? We know that it generates new discoveries, better care, and greater efficiency all while contributing to our knowledge-based economy. That’s how it makes Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter today. Investing in research hospitals will help us continue to build a healthier, wealthier, smarter Ontario tomorrow. Discover more health research and patient stories by signing up for our monthly newsletter or joining the #onHWS conversation on Twitter.

Read our other HWS Field Trips here.


Patients + Research: Francine Mault

(French version follows)

Involving patient partners in research

At Montfort, patient partners are involved in research to improve training for the next generation of healthcare professionals.

Simulation-based learning offers many benefits. Health professionals, medical students, residents and members of other health professions can use it to expand their knowledge through clinical immersion, the use of medical robots, virtual reality or large-scale simulation. How can this learning model be made even more effective and realistic for participants?

Michelle Lalonde is an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa’s School of Nursing and a researcher with the Institut du Savoir Montfort (ISM), a knowledge institute affiliated with Montfort, Ontario’s francophone academic hospital. Professor Lalonde recently added a new component under a research project on simulation-based learning for student nurse training: the patient partner.

As lead investigator for this project, she wanted to see whether incorporating a patient partner into a team that already included medical students and health care professionals would have any impact on the learning process of student nurses.

Francine Mault, patient partner at Montfort since 2015, took part in a simulation session.

“I was asked to get involved in a project to assist nurses who are in training in the Montfort simulation lab,” explained Ms. Mault. “The lab delivers practical training to simulate real-life situations. I think my contribution has enabled the research arm of the ISM knowledge institute to improve the way that the next generation of healthcare professionals is trained.”

The results show that students appreciated the realism created by the participation of the patient partner and health professionals.

“The important thing is that this training is based on input from people like me, who have had the experience of being a patient,” added Ms. Mault.

Engager les patients partenaires dans la recherche

À Montfort, les patients partenaires participent à de la recherche en vue d’améliorer la formation de la prochaine génération de professionnels de la santé.

L’apprentissage par simulation offre de nombreux avantages. Les professionnels de la santé, ainsi que les étudiants et les résidents en médecine et d’autres professions du domaine de la santé, peuvent y perfectionner leurs connaissances grâce à l’immersion clinique, l’utilisation d’androïdes, la réalité virtuelle ou la simulation à grande échelle. Comment rendre ce modèle d’apprentissage encore plus efficace et réaliste pour les participants?

Mme Michelle Lalonde est professeure adjointe à l’École des sciences infirmières de l’Université d’Ottawa et chercheuse à l’Institut du Savoir Montfort, un institut hospitalier rattaché à Montfort, l’hôpital universitaire francophone de l’Ontario. Dans le cadre d’un projet de recherche sur l’apprentissage par simulation pour la formation des étudiants en sciences infirmières, Professeure Lalonde a ajouté une nouvelle composante : un patient partenaire.

La chercheuse principale pour ce projet voulait voir si l’intégration d’un patient partenaire dans une équipe regroupant déjà des étudiants et des professionnels de la santé aurait un effet sur l’apprentissage des étudiants en sciences infirmières.

Mme Francine Mault, patiente partenaire à Montfort depuis 2015, a participé à une séance de simulation.

« On m’a demandé de m’impliquer dans un projet pour assister des infirmières qui sont en formation dans le laboratoire de simulation de l’Hôpital Montfort », explique Mme Mault. « Dans ce laboratoire, on donne des formations pratiques comme si c’était la réalité. Je pense que ma contribution a permis à l’Institut du Savoir Montfort – Recherche d’améliorer la façon dont on formera la prochaine génération des professionnels de la santé. »

Les résultats ont démontré que les étudiants ont apprécié le réalisme offert par la participation du patient partenaire et les professionnels de la santé.

« Ce qui est important, c’est que cette formation s’appuie sur des témoignages de personnes comme moi, qui ont vécu l’expérience d’être patient », ajoute Mme Mault.


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Add Your Voice

Want to add your voice to the Patients + Research blog series? Email or call Elise Bradt at, 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: Sheila MacDonald

By Sheila MacDonald, Clinical Manager of the Women’s College Hospital Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre (SA/DVCC) and Provincial Coordinator of the Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Care and Treatment Centres (SADVTC)

How does research inform the work you do across Ontario and at the Women’s College Hospital (WCH) Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre (SA/DVCC)?

In my role as provincial coordinator, I collaborate with the 35 hospital-based sexual assault treatment centres across the province. We partnered with the Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI) many years ago because we wanted to make sure that the work we were doing was evidence-based.

Dr. Janice Du Mont, a senior scientist at Women’s College Research Institute has provided the leadership in our research initiatives, which has ensured data quality and integrity. In 2003, we carried out a HIV Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) project because patients had started to ask about access to HIV PEP medications after an assault. A research team led by Dr. Mona Loutfy, an HIV expert here at WCH, and Dr. Du Mont, developed, implemented and evaluated an HIV PEP program of care in collaboration with 24 SADVTC programs in Ontario. That resulted in the development of a program of care for HIV PEP with funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for the medication.

As a Network, we also worked with Dr. Du Mont to carry out a client evaluation study from 2009 to 2011 to evaluate our services and identify any gaps in our care. Although the clients that do see us express a high degree of satisfaction with services, we wanted to identify any improvements that could be made to services.

Currently, the Network and Dr. Du Mont have several initiatives underway to strengthen the training/education for SADVTC clinicians across the province. One initiative is the first step toward enhancing training for service provision for victims/survivors who identify as transgender. We have an Advisory Committee of experts that is providing leadership and guidance on this project. A second initiative is a collaborative project led by the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres to strengthen service delivery for Indigenous persons.

On a population level, why is it important for us to be studying sexual assault and domestic violence?

Violence against women occurs at alarming rates with significant negative impacts on the victims/survivors, their families and the community. We need a better understanding of the impact of violence, and the supports needed to aid in recovery. We also need to work on prevention strategies to reduce violence from happening in the first place. Finally, we need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current system in place that respond to issues of violence including criminal justice system processes, and work collaboratively to improve these systems.

What research are you collaborating on now that could help address these issues?

The ongoing development of evidence-based training for health professionals is really important. Robin Mason, PhD, a scientist at WCRI, and Dr. Du Mont and myself have collaborated on educational initiatives to strengthen clinical expertise by developing curricula at One of the curricula we are working on right now is focused on service provider understanding of the less well-understood responses to sexual assault; for example, why a victim/survivor would contact the perpetrator subsequent to a sexual assault.  In addition to gaining an understanding of such issues, the curriculum will aid service providers in providing appropriate responses to women who have been sexually assaulted.


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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.


RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: St. Michael’s Hospital

St. Michael’s scientists get down to business

Up on the 5th floor of the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science, Dr. Richard Gilbert, head of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism for St. Michael’s Hospital, and Dr. Darren Yuen, a nephrologist with the hospital, work together on cases where diabetes and kidney disease intersect.

On top of stethoscopes and microscopes, the pair has added business scope to their frequent discussions—with the launch of a company called Fibrocor.

Drs. Gilbert and Yuen are two of the three scientific co-founders of Fibrocor, who will work to identify targets and develop therapies to prevent, slow and ultimately reverse organ scarring.

Read more about how research hospitals are driving Ontario’s knowledge and innovation economy.

“Scarring, or fibrosis, can help people in the short-term—such as healing after a cut or sealing off an infection so that it does not spread—but when an injury is chronic, such as with diabetes, the amount of scar tissue formed can cause organ malfunction,” said Dr. Gilbert, who also holds the Canada Research Chair in Diabetes Complications.

The researchers and fellow co-founder Dr. Jeff Wrana, senior investigator at Sinai Health System’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, will test biopsy samples of scarred human tissue. They will measure which genes the body activates when scarring begins.

“Once we know what pathways are involved in activating the body’s scarring response, we’re well on our way to understanding how to block it,” said Dr. Yuen. “And because we’ll identify these pathways using human tissue samples, we think they’ll have a much better chance of being effective in future clinical trials.”

Although scarring underlies the development of liver failure, heart failure and certain type of lung disease, the company’s initial focus will be on kidney disease—reflecting Dr. Gilbert’s and Dr. Yuen’s clinical backgrounds and the tremendous unmet need.

By 2018, Fibrocor expects to have developed a new anti-scarring drug that will be ready for testing, not only in kidney disease but also in other diseases that involve fibrosis, the doctors said. The world-class academic team is complemented by management and business development from MaRS Innovation and drug discovery and development services from Evotec AG, which together launched the company with $2M USD financing.

“Because drug development is incredibly expensive and most granting agencies don’t fund this sort of activity, forming the company was a necessity,” said Dr. Yuen. “With Fibrocor, we’ll be part of the developmental strategy, taking our knowledge from the clinic, to the lab, to the boardroom and, hopefully, all the way back to the bedside.”

Written by Geoff Koehler at St. Michael’s Hospital


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St. Michael’s Hospital is one of Ontario’s 24 research hospitals that contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter province. Read more 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.


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, 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

Feel free to reach out to us at the chamber ( 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,



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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.


Patients + Research: Becky Hollingsworth

Meet Becky

Shortly after receiving an asthma diagnosis, retired nurse Becky Hollingsworth joined a clinical trial at The Ottawa Hospital, which found that Becky—and 33% of adults diagnosed with asthma—did not have the condition.

Patient engagement in research Ottawa Hospital asthma clinical trial

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

A couple years ago, my two pre-school aged grandchildren shared their colds with me. Although they recovered quickly, I wound up in the hospital with pneumonia. After I recovered from pneumonia, I continued to have a cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath. My family physician diagnosed me with asthma and prescribed both oral and inhaled medication. Her diagnosis was based on my history and current symptoms. Shortly after the diagnosis, I received an invitation to join a clinical trial for people recently diagnosed with asthma that was being run by Dr. Shawn Aaron, senior scientist and respirologist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa. I eagerly accepted the invitation, as I am a great believer in clinical trials. During the clinical trial, it was determined that 33 percent of adults diagnosed with asthma do not, in fact, have it. I was one of those people. My lungs just needed more time to heal from the pneumonia.

Why does health research matter to you?

Without health research, doctors are “shooting in the dark” when diagnosing and prescribing. Without information from clinical trials, it is possible people will be given treatments that do not work and may be harmful. I am a retired nurse, and perhaps have a bias toward science when it comes to practicing medicine. One needs a correct diagnosis in order to determine the correct treatment. Because my physician thought I had asthma, she prescribed both oral and inhaled medication, which I could expect to have to take for the rest of my life.

No one wants to have a chronic illness. It has implications for several aspects of a person’s life, including the negative side effects of drugs, increased pharmacy expense (for the patient and/or the government) and limitations on travel. A misdiagnosis is even more distressing, as one is exposed to the issues mentioned above and the real medical problem, should there be one, can go undetected, and therefore untreated, and potentially lead to a medical crisis.

How does health research contribute to a healthier Ontario?

Without research, we are doomed to continue the same old practices. We want our health care to evolve. We want to know if accurate diagnoses are being made. We need to know if treatments work or if there are better treatments. We need to know the ramifications of treatments: are they more or less effective than other treatments, do they have a negative impact on a person’s quality of life, are they safe? Through research, we move forward.

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

The results of Dr. Aaron’s asthma research left me thinking about the opportunities for educating both the general public and health professionals. The results were dramatic and received a great deal of publicity. Those of us involved in the media coverage made a point to talk about spirometry testing. Like a blood test to corroborate suspicion of diabetes, spirometry is a relatively simple way to measure lung capacity and volume. It gives important pulmonary function information that is of great benefit when diagnosing and treating people with conditions that affect breathing.

I live in a small community and have a high profile due to my past career, volunteer work, and my husband’s visibility. Everywhere I go, someone stops to tell me that they saw me on TV or heard me on the radio. They all have a story to tell about themselves, a friend, or a family member who has been diagnosed with asthma. After hearing that over 33 percent of adults diagnosed with asthma do not have it, they want to know if they or their friends or family should ask their doctors for spirometry testing. I encourage them to do so.


Related Stories:


Add Your Voice

Want to add your voice to the Patients + Research blog series? Email or call Elise Bradt at, 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.