North York General’s Incredible Women in Research
“I am a believer in women, in their ability to do things and in their influence and power. Women set the standards for the world, and it is for us women in Canada, to set the standards high.” – Nellie McClung (Politician, author & feminist)
International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the incredible impact of women – their determination, intelligence and compassion. Nowhere is that more evident than here at North York General Hospital (NYGH), where women are affecting change and moving health care forward in new and inspiring ways. We’re proud to introduce you to five amazing women who are making their mark in health care research at NYGH. Learn more about their trailblazing work below. #NorthYorkGeneralStrong.
Dr. Donna McRitchie, B.Sc., MD, M.Sc., FRCSC, Vice President, Medical and Academic Affairs, VP, Research & Innovation
It was almost 10 years ago that Dr. Donna McRitchie felt so strongly about the research imperative in a community hospital setting that she took on the novel role of Vice President, Research & Innovation at NYGH. Already embedded in the leadership DNA of North York General, Dr. McRitchie was a star surgeon and Critical Care Specialist. She heeded the call to build a research agenda at NYGH to a scale that hadn’t been contemplated in a community hospital in Canada. In her usual way, not only did she help fundraise, she was intimately involved in the recruitment of the current Research & Innovation Chairs and fought hard to position applied research within the health science community as more than something to be done off the side of a desk. Leading a Research Advisory Board second to none in the city, Dr. McRitchie is relentless in her drive to educate and promote NYGH’s unique role in improving patient care, patient safety, and finding new ways of enhancing the patient experience. With five research chairs, one clinical chair, scores of publications and citations, millions of dollars in granted awards, a number of in-house innovation funds, and participation in numerous clinical trials, we’d say Dr. McRitchie has indeed built a research powerhouse. And there’s no question that she inspires the next generation of women physician leaders. Her own daughter is in medical school, finding time for surgical research and is also published! Dr. McRitchie also has a thriving surgical practice, was on the front line of caring for COVID patients in the Intensive Care Unit and has oversight for the hospital’s medical affairs.
Dr. Patricia Trbovich, PhD
The operating room is the last place you want any unexpected or preventable errors. That’s what Dr. Patricia Trbovich’s work is all about. As the Badeau Family Research Chair in Patient Safety and Quality Improvement at NYGH, Patricia is taking a proactive approach to reduce or eliminate avoidable issues and improve patient care.
Leveraging audio and video collected through the Operating Room (OR) Black Box technology, Dr. Trbovich’s work dives deep into the momentary interactions between people, technology, work environments and processes that can influence safety outcomes. She and her team then develop interventions and tools to enhance patient safety further. Her comprehensive research engages with frontline staff, patients, support workers and decision-makers.
Dr. Trbovich believes what sets NYGH apart is that the work she and her colleagues do is so strongly supported and encouraged. The hospital leadership allows her team to ask questions, explore issues and ultimately, affect positive change. That support is invaluable as it lends itself to improved quality care for the community. It’s the people at NYGH, more than anything, who are pushing health care forward in new and exciting ways because the research carried out is based on real-world solutions.
In addition to her work in the OR, Dr. Trbovich is studying measures to reduce opioid misuse, improve team decision making, and evaluate bedside paediatric monitors which signal when young patients are becoming more ill, helping to improve responsiveness and outcomes.
Dr. Monika Kastner, PhD
Dr. Monika Kastner has never second-guessed whether she belonged in the health field. Surrounded by strong women all her life, she inherently knew she had every right to follow her passion for science and tackling gaps in health services and delivery in a challenging health care landscape.
As the Research Chair in Knowledge Translation and Implementation at NYGH, Dr. Kastner’s work focuses on the science of ensuring evidence is translated into practice, and on improving health care for vulnerable populations. In particular, her studies have focused on older adults with multiple chronic conditions and social frailty (the risk of losing or having lost social and general resources that are important for wellbeing). Research has shown the loss of social resources can lead to significant morbidity and mortality and reduced quality of life. A Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant allowed her and her team to understand how socially frail older adults experience their social frailty and to identify interventions that could help them during the COVID-19 pandemic. This work will ultimately provide support and contribute to Canada’s rapid response to the impacts of the pandemic on older Canadians.
Dr. Kastner and her team also developed the KeepWell tool, which supports the self-management of older adults with multiple chronic conditions through lifestyle, dietary and social supports to lead healthier lives. Following a trial to evaluate the tool in 2021, she hopes to add other features that includes addressing social frailty in older adults and supporting family caregivers to ensure they remain strong and healthy during their caregiving trajectory.
Dr. Katie Dainty, PhD
If Dr. Katie Dainty has a superpower in her role as a Researcher at NYGH, it’s her ability to bring voice to patients whose experiences are often considered secondary to more quantitative data.
As Research Chair in Patient-Centred Outcomes at NYGH, Dr. Dainty works to understand how we can listen and learn from the way in which patients and families experience health care. This helps to inform more patient-centred quality improvements and outcome measurement.
She has collaborated on research in a range of areas including early pregnancy loss and experiences with virtual care during the pandemic, however her main area of focus is on improving survivorship after sudden cardiac arrest. About 3500 people survive cardiac arrest each year in Canada, and yet there is rarely any follow-up to help them, and their families, deal with the psychosocial impact of such a traumatic event. Dr. Dainty aims to change that, by creating the first-ever Cardiac Follow-up Clinic in Canada to support survivors of sudden cardiac arrest.
Dr. Dainty knows bringing stories to the forefront is critical, because they have the power to change how we understand and think about health care. She feels especially lucky to work at such a patient-oriented organization that is open to partnering with patients and families to truly innovate how health care is delivered in the community setting.
Dr. Michelle Greiver MD, MSc, CCFP, FCFP
Dr. Michelle Greiver believes that great crises create great opportunities. That’s why she says the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated innovations, allowing health care to advance in previously unimaginable ways. She has served as a family physician for more than 30 years, and her thirst for knowledge led her to become the Gordon F. Cheesbrough Research Chair in Family and Community Medicine at NYGH. She and her colleagues are finding ways to improve primary care, seniors care, diabetes and end of life care through research in family practices and the study of information that is safely and securely collected from existing electronic medical records (EMRs). NYGH is a pioneer in studying data shared between a hospital and its primary care community through the Health Databank Collaborative.
When people go to their family doctor for care, their information is collected and stored in EMRs. During COVID-19, EMR data provided information on equity of care across neighbourhoods and changes in patterns of care due to the pandemic. In the future, EMRs could be enhanced though the addition of socio-economic data, enabling referrals for families that could benefit from income support or healthy food and exercise programs.
Dr. Greiver is the Director of the University of Toronto Practice-Based Research Network (UTOPIAN), with more than 1,900 family physicians in the GTA. The Network is a living laboratory that partners frontline care providers with academic researchers, providing necessary insights into what’s working and what could work better in primary care in Ontario.
Dr Greiver strongly supports the Culture of Curiosity at NYGH, where everyone can ask ‘why’ and ‘what if’. She’s thrilled to be at NYGH, a place she calls the premier community-academic hospital in Ontario – if not all of Canada.