Aerial pictures of Kingston General Hospital.

RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: Kingston General Hospital

Smart City + Trailblazing Research = Patient-Centred, Interdisciplinary Discovery

Large urban centres have a distinct advantage in terms of fostering critical mass of scientists working on a shared problem or within a specific discipline. But are there times when smaller is better?

At the Kingston General Hospital Research Institute, knowledge transfer takes a different route.  Kingston’s small size means proximity to everything, offering investigators unprecedented opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborations that provide a completely new perspective on their work.

An integrated, walkable research campus of universities, college and hospitals facilitates unique collaborative centres, cross-disciplinary training, and seamless integration of patient care with leading-edge research.

This activity will only increase with the opening, later this year, of the W.J. Henderson Centre for Patient Oriented Care, a multi-disciplinary hub within Kingston General Hospital. The 24/7 centre will bring together researchers, patients, trainees and treatment teams across the continuum of care, and make it easier for patients to participate in various stages of research.

“It’s much more collaborative here – Canadians have a good collaborative spirit,” says pathologist and clinician scientist Neil Renwick, who was lured to Kingston General Hospital from New York’s Columbia and Rockefeller universities.

“KGH and Queen’s are going to be very competitive because they have the proximity, the clinical expertise, the patient base, the basic science, and the vision – all of the components for exceptional translational research are here,” he says. “The hospital environment enables you to see how your research impacts real life. And I like the fact that I can walk to work.”

Collaborative research at KGH includes:

Human Mobility Research Centre: Seamlessly integrating research and patient care

Offering labs within two hospitals, meeting spaces and even a computer-assisted surgery suite, HMRC creates unique opportunities for clinicians and scientists to collaborate. “All of our research has patient-focused outcomes,” says Tim Bryant, Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Queen’s University, and co-director of the Centre. “A surgeon can come here right out of surgery with a question, such as how to improve a procedure, and then do the research or work with a scientist who can help them develop a solution,” he says. “With time, that solution may become a regular procedure for patients.”

Collaboration and cross-disciplinary teams are the norm. Orthopedic surgeons are leveraging the biomechanical, imaging and computational modelling expertise of Dr. Michael Rainbow, Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Queen’s, to develop better approaches to treatment of wrist, shoulder, ankle and knee problems.

Dr. Daniel Borschneck, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, and Dr. Davide Bardana, an orthopedic surgeon, are working with Queen’s chemical engineer and Centre co-director Dr. Brian Amsden on strategies for generating replacement tissue such as ligaments to treat joint injuries.

And orthopedic surgeon and shoulder specialist Dr. Ryan Bicknell is collaborating with Queen’s neuroscientist Stephen Scott to test mobility following shoulder replacement surgery using Dr. Scott’s robotic assessment system, KINARM.

KINARM: One tool, many applications

The KINARM is, in fact, a perfect example of how a research tool is being used clinically to investigate a wide range of disease and injury. This transformational technology is the world’s first robotic system for measuring, with exquisite sensitivity and precision, the effects of brain injury on an individual’s ability to perform ordinary movements and tasks. Used at more than 60 research institutions worldwide, this patented system is also in use at all three of Kingston’s hospitals by researchers exploring neurological impairments in diverse fields, including stroke, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s Disease, and even cardiac arrest, kidney failure, and major surgery.

Archer Laboratory: At the heart of collaboration

Dr. Stephen Archer and his team of 20 investigators in the Queen’s CardioPulmonary Unit (Q-CPU) are working to ensure a better quality of life for patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), the obstruction of lung arteries, which can lead to fatal right heart failure. PAH patients are typically in their working years, and the disease precludes them from most forms of employment, and full participation in their lives.

This international team, in a network of six clinical trial centres across the Americas, will further define the basic mechanisms that underlie PAH, with an aim of identifying and testing possible treatments, and eventually translating these preclinical discoveries for use in patient trials.

This team approach is crucial to success, says Dr. Archer, a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Mitochondrial Dynamics and Translational Medicine, and head of Medicine at Queen’s University and Kingston’s hospitals. “Having preclinical basic scientists, physicians, clinical trial specialists and population health scientists collaborating under one roof ensures that Q-CPU makes significant progress towards effective treatment and cure of PAH,” he says. “It is also training clinicians and scientists to play an important role in this area of health research.”

To learn more about health research at Kingston General Hospital, visit:

Kingston General Hospital 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.