Hamilton Health Sciences: We Are Explorers

Redefining “Research”

By Ted Scott, Acting Vice President Research & Chief Innovation Officer, @Chief_Innovator 

The dictionary definition of “researcher” is painfully self-explanatory: “someone who conducts research.” Based on my experience at Hamilton Health Sciences over the last few years, this description does no justice.

The word “research” itself has attracted a certain connotation that invokes images of anonymous individuals in lab coats analyzing samples in whitewashed, sterile rooms in the pursuit of some far-off, seemingly impossible discovery. Sure, some discovery happens that way. But, so often, it’s so much more than that.

At HHS, our researchers are so much more than people in lab coats. They are innovative, strategic, highly creative minds who translate complex data into new knowledge. Many of our researchers are also healthcare providers. Every day, they work alongside the patients who are the inspiration for their research pursuits. Their “labs” are patients’ rooms, clinics, and operating theatres. Every day, they’re on the front lines of our healthcare system, asking questions and solving problems. Their roles span the entire spectrum of healthcare professions: they’re surgeons, pediatricians, physiotherapists, nurses, students. They’re also our neighbours, friends, family members and, sometimes, they’re patients, too.

In my short time at HHS, I’ve learned that our researchers are also some of our community’s top innovators and collaborators. They’re forming networks across our city and region that are aimed at improving the way we provide healthcare, applying technology and expertise to make our healthcare system better. And, most importantly, their work has immense, tangible impact. Beyond the lab and the computer database, our nearly 2,000 researchers and research staff are discovering and implementing new knowledge that’s changing the way we care for people, in real-time.

For example, they’re testing in-home technology that our nurses and doctors can use to monitor patients once they go home after heart surgery. They’re working with tech innovators to find better ways of predicting outcomes for cancer therapies, so patients can make better decisions around their treatment options. They’re trialling the latest therapies to help make life easier for kids with chronic diseases, like IBD.

This is just a sampling of the research happening at our hospitals, right now. It wouldn’t be possible without our researchers and research staff who are unwavering in their pursuit of making life better for people in our community, across our country, and around the world.

I admire their persistence, their patience, and their will to keep exploring, even when the answers aren’t clear. And especially when competing commitments – of being doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, students – are as demanding as they are in our very busy health system.

It’s this insatiable drive to know the unknown that I believe better defines a researcher, no matter how big or small the issue at hand.

At HHS, we’re redefining what “research” means to our community, and to the world.

We’re not just researchers. We are explorers. It’s in our DNA.

Read about Explorers at Hamilton Health Sciences:

BLOG: Creating a new treatment option

 

BLOG: The stubborn pursuit of “Why”

      

For more, visit WeAreExplorers.ca 

#WeAreExplorers #onHWS

 

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Hamilton Health Sciences is one of Ontario’s 23 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.

 

 

Health and Community Leaders Talk: Ted Scott

For this Health and Community Leaders Talk blog post, we’re focusing on the value of Ontario’s Innovation Brokers. Supported by a task force of executive leaders from across Ontario’s research hospitals, the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO) began its work as an Innovation Broker in April 2017, in partnership with the Ontario Chief Health Innovation Strategist (OCHIS).

CAHO’s Innovation Broker task force is co-chaired by Ted Scott, Acting Vice President Research & Chief Innovation Officer at Hamilton Health Sciences. We sat down with Ted to get his take on why the Innovation Broker work is important, and how it makes Ontario healthier, wealthier and smarter.

What inspired you to be involved with CAHO’s work as an Innovation Broker?

In my role as Chief Innovation Officer at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), I am helping to create a culture of collaboration and working to connect our clinical experts and scientists to high potential digital health companies to develop innovative clinical care models. My work at HHS is really well aligned to the Innovation Broker mandate and I’m excited to help make it easier for companies to get their innovations into Ontario’s research hospitals. At the end of the day, this will improve care and make our health system more efficient for our patients.

What’s in it for innovators?

The CAHO Innovation Broker work provides new opportunities for companies and research hospitals to work together to develop solutions and drive innovation adoption across the province. It also provides companies with stronger and more meaningful feedback on their innovations, allowing them to iterate and develop more relevant and marketable products.

At a larger scale, CAHO’s Innovation Broker work is helping to grow a culture of innovation within Ontario’s research hospitals and developing better processes to pull innovations into our organizations. We know that one of the toughest barriers companies face on the long path to market is connecting with those early adopters who are willing to test-drive innovations that will lead to better care. Through our Innovation Broker role, companies only have to knock on one door to gain access to Ontario’s 23 research hospitals, making those first connections a lot faster and easier.

Our hope is that this not only makes it easier for innovators to partner with us today, but that we’re building a better system and better partnerships to improve innovation adoption long into the future.

How can Ontario’s Innovation Broker work help fuel a healthier, wealthier, smarter province?

The Innovation Broker work is really about re-thinking how we deliver healthcare. By providing a streamlined and transparent process for connecting healthcare providers and innovative companies, we will be able to do a better job of providing care and drive economic growth at the same time. Collectively, Ontario’s Innovation Brokers are working to deliver a healthcare system powered by our world-leading research community in collaboration with our most promising industry partners. A more innovative health system is definitely a future we can all work towards.

  • Visit the CAHO website to learn more about our Innovation Broker work and how you can be involved.
  • Visit the OCHIS website to learn more about Ontario’s Innovation Brokers.

 

Related Stories

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: Hamilton Health Sciences

Hamilton researchers discover a simple blood test could save lives after surgery

Researchers at Hamilton Health Sciences’ Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) and McMaster University have determined that a simple blood test can predict and possibly prevent many of the deaths that occur after surgery.

“If death after surgery within the first 30 days was made its own category of death, it would be in the top 5 leading causes of death within North America,” explained Dr. P.J. Devereaux, principal investigator for the “VISION” study.

The VISION study enrolled nearly 22,000 patients aged 45 years or older from 23 hospitals in 13 countries and found that approximately 18 per cent of them sustained heart damage within 30 days of non-cardiac surgery and that, without enhanced monitoring, the vast majority – as many as 93 per cent – of these complications will go undetected, potentially until it’s too late to intervene.

Putting pressure on the heart

“The effects of surgery anywhere in the body create a perfect milieu for damage to heart tissue, including bleeding, blood clot formation, and long periods of inflammation,” says Dr. Devereaux, scientific leader of perioperative medicine at PHRI, director, division of cardiology at McMaster University. “In most cases, this damage occurs within the first 24 to 36 hours after surgery when patients usually receive narcotic painkillers that can mask symptoms of cardiac distress.”

“These discoveries have the potential to save lives.”

After surgery, study patients had a blood test for a protein called high-sensitivity troponin T, which is released into the bloodstream when injury to the heart occurs. Devereaux and his team discovered that patients with troponin T levels beyond a certain threshold had increased risk of death within 30 days of having surgery.

Overall, the study found that 1.4 per cent of patients died within 30 days following non-cardiac surgery.

“One per cent seems like a small number, until you consider that about 200 million surgeries are performed each year around the world,” says Devereaux. “Where we’re letting patients down is in post-operative management. We now know that we need to become more involved in care and monitoring after surgery to ensure that patients at risk have the best chance for a good recovery. These discoveries have the potential to save lives.”

The results of the VISION study were published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

 

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Hamilton Health Sciences 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.

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.

 

Building a WEALTHIER Ontario: Hamilton’s Story

As key drivers of Ontario’s knowledge-based economy, research hospitals contribute to a wealthier province by creating innovative, cost-effective products, establishing spin-off companies and partnerships, attracting investment from at home and abroad, and generating high-level jobs.

Across the province, communities are moving towards knowledge-based economies, and Ontario’s research hospitals are helping them get there. To illustrate that transformation, we took a focused look at the city of Hamilton. Traditionally known as Ontario’s steel town, the city has seen significant growth and renewal as a result of its health research sector. And, in the words of Mayor Fred Eisenberger, that growth feeds on itself.

“Once the ball starts rolling, it just doesn’t stop”

In our Wealthier video, Mayor of Hamilton, Fred Eisenberger, explains that the health research sector has led to a spillover effect on the economy—and the community.

The city’s success in health research has led to the growth of its educational institutes. Mohawk is now ranked as one of the top colleges in Ontario with many programs geared towards applied science, and McMaster’s medical school continues to climb on Canada’s top ten list, attracting more and more bright minds. And as Hamilton’s two research hospitals—Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare—continue to create more high-level jobs, the city is able to retain those bright minds and attract new ones.

Outside the walls of health research, the sector is having a spillover effect on the community, generating a vibrant arts scene, lots of cafes and shops, and more people living and working in revitalized neighbourhoods.

The story of Hamilton offers just one example of the impact that research hospitals are having on communities in Ontario. Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto, and London can all speak to similar growth and spillover. In ten years, we can only imagine what that spillover will look like for these communities, and for the province of Ontario.

Quick Facts: Ontario’s Research Hospitals

  • Employ 18,000 researchers and research staff
    • That’s more than twice the number employed at Ontario’s research-based pharmaceutical companies
    • That’s half of the number employed at the assembly plants of Ontario’s big 5 automotive companies
  • Support 41,000 jobs across Ontario
  • Invest $1.4B in health research annually
  • Commercialized 350 new health products in the last four years
  • 14% of research investment comes from private industry
  • Every dollar spent on health research generates three dollars of economic output

 

Discover more about how Ontario’s research hospitals contribute to a wealthier Ontario, and how you can support them, by downloading the Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter Policy Platform.