Health and Community Leaders Talk

Health and Community Leaders Talk: Karen Michell

By Karen Michell, outgoing Executive Director of the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO)

Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter: My Reflections on the Value of CAHO Hospitals

For the past eight years as CAHO’s Executive Director, I’ve had the unique privilege of supporting the shared vision of Ontario’s research hospitals. And every day, I continue to be inspired by the significant value and leadership that they bring to our province by working together as a community.

During my first 30 days at CAHO, Dr. Bob Bell, now Ontario’s Deputy Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, told me that research is about hope. Over my years here, patients like Tina Ceroni, Gail Bellissimo, and Rick King have made that statement real for me by sharing their own stories of how research has given them hope, and frankly, changed their lives. It has been a true highlight of my time at CAHO to meet and learn from them and other patients, caregivers and families, whose stories have made an indelible mark on my understanding of the value of health research: that it is a necessity, not a luxury.

I’ve often said that my favourite part of this job is to meet the health researchers and scientists who transform the lives of our patients. From the first week on the job to the last, I’ve been fortunate to have been invited to spend time in our member hospitals, often taking tours of the world-class research institutes that they run. I never fail to come away with a sense of awe about the curiosity of the scientists, their perseverance, their keen observance of the micro and the macro, their willingness to allow the unexpected to surprise them, and take them on joyful journeys of discovery. I appreciate the policy-makers and funders who support a research environment that nurtures these scientists and provides a rich training ground for the next generation.

Finally, I have been grateful to the CAHO CEOs for being willing to take risks together. We often talk about the understandably risk-averse nature of health care. And yet I’ve found that the CAHO community is motivated to try new things in order to improve the health care system in Ontario and to make the most and best out of the investments that Ontarians have made in us and our hospitals. I saw this with the creation of the Adopting Research to Improve Care (ARTIC) Program to find ways to get the best research evidence to improve care for patients faster, and through CAHO’s willingness to work together as an Innovation Broker to clear the path into market for health care innovators.  I’m looking forward to watching how CAHO’s Innovation Broker role helps to foster a more innovative culture in health care, and encourage innovators to consider Ontario as a destination of choice.

Sharing these reflections helps me to realize anew that research hospitals truly do make Ontario healthier, wealthier and smarter. They do this, not just as part of a smart business plan, but because it is part of their mission and mandate – it is who they are. I’m honoured to have served as the Executive Director of CAHO, and to have had a front-row seat to the excellence and opportunity created for Ontarians by Ontario’s research hospitals.

As I move on from my role at CAHO, I am thrilled to continue supporting this community – and its vision of a Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter Ontario – in my new role as Vice President, Strategy at the Sinai Health System.