By: Nida Zafar 

The launch for the partner projects was held on Thursday October 26. Students in the Translational Research Program will be taking part in these projects as a part of their curriculum.

Three groups of partners from three different organizations will mentor students. The projects include a range of thinking prospects. As part of translational research thinking, students will take part in 6 separate phases: discover, define, frame, ideate, translate, and implement.

This meeting was the discover phase. Students were able to understand the needs associated with patients and their care. Students also learned about discovery, observation, clinical health and medical need.

Students further explored the context behind their projects. This includes what happens to patients if their needs are met, as well as how their experience was during the process.

The project involves 6 partners. These partners include Dr. Sinziana Avramescu, Dr. Shelly Au, Dr. Stephen Choi, Dr. Jeffrey Fialkov, Erik Landriault, and Samantha Fitzsimons.

Dr. Sinziana Avramescu, co-director at the Perioperative Brain Health Centre (PBHC), chair of the resident research committee and assistant professor at the department of anesthesia at the University of Toronto, and Dr. Shelly Au, director of operations at PBHC and research manager in the department of anesthesia at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (SHSC), are the first pair of partners that will act as mentors to a group of students.

The mission of this group of leaders is to develop “innovative diagnostic, prevention and treatment strategies to improve quality of life and reduce morbidity and health-care costs of patients with perioperative brain dysfunction,” Dr. Au said.  

Dr. Choi, co-director at PBHC, staff anesthesiologist at SHSC, co-director of research at the department of anesthesia and assistant professor at UofT, will also be a part of this group.

The group will be exploring patient delirium. Delirium is a change in cognition that can impact memory, thinking, perception and behaviour. This change happens over a short period of time. 47% of those who face delirium do so in palliative care.  

The challenges of this project are vast. One of the problems is the growing number of patients. According to Dr. Au, 2.6 million patients over the age of 65 develop delirium.

During her presentation, Dr. Au listed a number of things that students and mentors could do together as part of the project. This includes creating a business plan illustrating how much money hospitals can save, patient outreach and education and implementing the use of social media to create surveys. 

The ultimate goal is to develop support programs that illustrate the understanding of postoperative delirium (POD), a type of delirium associated with elderly patients after surgery, postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD), a decline in memory and executive functioning after surgery and management strategies that will allow patients to prepare for a procedure.

Dr. Fialkov, a plastic surgeon at SHSC, assistant professor of plastic surgery at UofT and associate scientist at Holland Musculoskeletal Research Program, will lead a second group of students. He will guide his group through the exploration of comprehensive patient needs in supporting patient decision-making for orbital fracture repair surgeries.

Erik Landriault, director of innovation, and Samantha Fitzsimons are from St. Elizabeth Health Care. They will lead a third group of students. The organization is using technology and business and service models to innovate a new way of care. Services include home and community care, system capacity, in which the organization uses knowledge to build solutions and intelligent care, in which they use technology as a model of care. 

Some of the challenges that the organization faces include caregiver distress, transitions, palliative care and equity.

Another major problem is the use of beds. According to the pair, there are patients taking up beds in hospitals that don’t need to be. Besides those beds, some patients have nowhere to go. This concern has accounted for a major goal of the organization: finding a way to support individuals in their community so they don’t end up in the hospital to begin with. 

Collectively, the pair will be focusing on three projects. The first project will focus on post-surgical transitions to home. The second project will focus on transitions to home after knee and hip surgeries. The third project will explore new models for chemotherapy at home.


Students will enter the next phase of their project, the define phase, in the coming weeks. In this phase, students will further explore the problems and barriers associated with their project.




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