Dr. Alexandra Binnie from William Osler Health System (left) and Dr. Jennifer Tsang, Executive Director and Chief Scientist for the Niagara Health Knowledge Institute unveil the Community ICU Research Toolkit to members of the Canadian Critical Care Trials Group after the Canadian Community ICU Research Network Symposium in Toronto on Nov. 28, 2023.
A Niagara Health physician is helping to make it easier for community hospitals to engage in research that could improve healthcare in Canada and around the world.
Intensivist Dr. Jennifer Tsang, in collaboration with Dr. Alexandra Binnie, physician lead for Intensive Care Unit (ICU) research at William Osler Health System, led the development of the Community ICU Research Toolkit an open-access resource to guide building and maintaining clinical research programs in community hospitals.
The toolkit covers everything from how to start a research program and choose suitable clinical trials, to selecting research co-ordinators and getting financial, community and pharmacy support. Other topics include maintaining research programs amid the ebb and flow of funding, and the types of studies to pursue in a program’s early days.
It also provides a series of links to resources to spread healthcare research, historically the domain of academic hospitals in large urban centres, to community hospitals in regions elsewhere in Canada.
“When Allie and I started research programs at out hospitals, we had no idea what we were doing,” recalls Dr. Tsang, who is also Executive Director and Chief Scientist of the Niagara Health Knowledge Institute. “We just figured it out. We talked a lot but we failed a lot. This brings those experiences together. It’s very pragmatic with a focus on workable solutions and links to relevant resources. We hope it will be a helpful resource for interested researchers across Canada and will also encourage more community hospital professionals in building research programs.”
Vanessa Gyorffy, a former summer student with the Niagara Health Knowledge Institute, presents her research findings at the Canadian Community ICU Research Network Symposium in Toronto last month.
The duo launched the toolkit last week at the first Canadian Community ICU Research Network (CCIRNet) Symposium, which saw more than 40 research professionals from 23 Canadian hospitals come together in Toronto to share knowledge and strengthen network connections and support. Attendees came from hospitals throughout Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Alberta to listen to presentations on building research capacity, including by Niagara Health researchers Vanessa Gyorffy, a former summer student who explained how community hospitals can participate in translational research even without on-site lab support, Research Co-ordinator Kian Rego, and Research Manager Elaina Orlando.
"Clinical trials give a community access to innovative healthcare.”
CCIRNet aims to break down the barriers that have traditionally existed between academic and community hospitals at the research level in hopes it will lead to better care for patients. By sharing knowledge and experiences, CCIRNet members are supporting community ICUs to achieve their research goals and even grow research programs beyond critical care.
There are currently 36 Canadian community hospitals in the ever-growing network. Dr. Tsang and Dr. Binnie are CCIRNet co-chairs.
“I was very moved at the symposium,” Dr. Tsang says. “We’re actually changing the narrative of research from research being done to advance researchers’ careers with medical discoveries to research being an access issue. Clinical trials give a community access to innovative healthcare.”
Niagara Health has seven research programs that include clinical trials in cardiology, emergency medicine, neurology, critical care, oncology, thrombosis, and hematology/transfusion medicine.
“This is about giving our patients the opportunity to be part of high-quality, cutting-edge research,” Dr. Tsang adds. “When they come to Niagara Health, they aren’t losing out on the chance to participate in clinical trials because they’re not in Toronto or academic centres.”