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Queen's welcomes Canada's 'medical heroes'

By Communications Staff

Six medical professionals including Queen’s alumnus and former faculty member Adolfo de Bold will be inducted into The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame on April 24 at a ceremony hosted by Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

“It is a very special privilege to host this event and celebrate six pre-eminent Canadians,” says Richard Reznick, Dean, Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences. “It is also a wonderful opportunity for us to open the doors of our fair city to Canada’s medical heroes and more than 500 guests from across Canada.”

Dr. de Bold (MSc’72, PhD’73) is considered the “father” of the field of cardiovascular endocrinology. Best known for his transformative discovery of the cardiac hormone atrial natriuretic factor (ANF) in 1981, he demonstrated that the heart is not only a pump but an endocrine organ. After earning his doctorate degree, Dr. de Bold joined the faculty ranks at Queen’s. He moved to Ottawa in 1986 where he served as the inaugural director of the research at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

The other inductees include:

Dr. Max Cynader, a world-renowned neuroscientist in the area of vision and brain development. His scientific discoveries, biotechnology companies and community outreach have led to new treatments and improved public understanding of the importance of brain health.

• The late Dr. Walter C. Mackenzie, who transformed the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine and was instrumental in the development of numerous medical and surgical programs.

Dr. Thomas John (Jock) Murray, a world leader in multiple sclerosis and neurological research, resulting in major advances in the understanding of the disease.

Dr. Ronald Worton, a trailblazer in disease gene discovery. He and his team discovered the causal gene for Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophy, a seminal breakthrough that resulted in greater understanding of the disease and revolutionized diagnosis and patient care.

Dr. Salim Yusuf, whose research has transformed the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease and saved millions of lives around the world.

The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, located in London, Ont., is the world’s only national hall of fame dedicated to celebrating the extraordinary contributions of medical professionals. Established in 1994, the hall of fame has since honoured 101 outstanding individuals.

More than 575 senior health care, academic and business leaders will gather at the Rogers K-Rock Centre on Thursday, April 24 to celebrate the latest inductees. More information is available on the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame website.

 

Answering the call for doctors

The shortage of dermatologists in the local area is about to end. Today the Department of Medicine at Queen’s University is launching a new academic Division of Dermatology. The clinics will be based at Hotel Dieu Hospital and the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario.

“Canadian Dermatology Workforce Survey documents indicate that the clinical needs of an area with the population of Southeastern Ontario should be served by approximately nine dermatologists,” says Stephen Archer, Head of the Department of Medicine at Queen’s. “Until now, however, we’ve had only one very busy private practice dermatologist.”

Yuka Asai

“Typically, patients have seen the existing dermatologist, been referred elsewhere or not seen at all.  Patients have been dramatically underserved here, and the recruitment of these two new dermatologists marks the beginning of the long journey to address those patient needs and to build an outstanding academic dermatology program at Queen’s.”

The Hotel Dieu clinics started up the week of March 31, when Yuka Asai began seeing patients.  Recruited from McGill University where she is completing a PhD, Asai brings clinical expertise in dermatology and research interests that include understanding the genetic basis of peanut allergy.  In August, the division will add a second specialist physician/PhD, Mark Kirchoff, to help meet the growing demand for dermatological services at a time when skin cancer rates alone are skyrocketing.

Still in its early days, the new Division will ramp up slowly, he says, which means patients eager for an appointment should not expect to be seen immediately. “We’re facing a decade of need that won’t be solved overnight.  We want to develop the program in a way that doesn’t swamp capacity,” Dr. Archer explains.

Patients will require a referral from their family physician to attend the clinic at Hotel Dieu, which is being equipped with therapeutic phototherapy technology used to treat various skin diseases and conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and skin lymphoma.  At present, the clinic is targeting adults only.

For more information visit the Hotel Dieu website.

Funding strengthens leading-edge research

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Four Queen’s researchers whose projects range from endometrial health to solar energy to animal biology have received over $500,000 in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

The fund helps institutions attract and retain Canada’s top researchers.

Anne Croy.

“The CFI, through the John R. Evans Leaders Fund, has provided us with an excellent mechanism for attracting and retaining top-flight researchers,” says Vice-Principal (Research) Steven Liss. “As a result of this competition, four Queen’s researchers will receive the funding required to develop their innovative infrastructure to enrich the Queen’s research environment and advance leading-edge research.”

The following researchers have received funding:

Praveen Jain (Electrical and Computer Engineering), $400,000 – Dr. Jain’s research focuses on creating a smart microgrid, a green energy generating unit that is the future of the entire power grid network. The funding will allow Dr. Jain to build an experimental setup that accurately depicts smart microgrid dynamics, technical issues and behaviour.

Anne Croy and Chandrakant Tayade (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences), $100,000 – The goals of this research project are to improve the basic understanding of the dynamic biology of the reproductive-aged uterus and apply this information to the protection and health of women and their offspring. The funding will allow the researchers to develop a new core lab.

Frances Bonier (Biology), $80,000 – With an eye on conservation, Dr. Bonier is working to understand the influence of environmental challenges on traits related to survival and reproduction in the songbird population. The funding will be used to purchase high-tech field, lab and computing equipment that will assist in her field studies.

For more information visit the John R. Evans Leader Fund website.

Researcher finds gaps in care for high-risk cancer patients

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

A Queen’s professor has found that chemotherapy before or after surgery for high-risk bladder cancer is not commonly used in routine clinical practice despite the fact that it is shown to improve long-term survival by five per cent.

Christopher Booth (Queen’s Department of Oncology and Kingston General Hospital) is now using those findings to better understand the barriers to using chemotherapy, with the goal of implementing a plan to improve treatment rates.

Christopher Booth.

“Results from our study demonstrate that chemotherapy given after surgery improves patient survival—probably on the same order of magnitude as chemotherapy before surgery,” says Dr. Booth. “Patients having surgery for bladder cancer should have chemotherapy, either before or after surgery. Efforts are needed to improve uptake of this treatment, which appears to be vastly underutilized.”

To investigate, Dr. Booth, a member of the Cancer Research Institute at Queen’s University, examined treatment records of all 2,944 patients who had surgery for high-risk bladder cancer in Ontario between 1994 and 2008.

Use of chemotherapy before surgery remained stable (an average of 4 per cent of patients) over the study period despite international guidelines recommending its use. Despite more limited evidence supporting its use, chemotherapy after surgery increased over time: 16 per cent of patients between 1994 and 1998, 18 per cent between 1999 and 2003, and 22 per cent between 2004 and 2008. Study results showed that use of chemotherapy after surgery improved long-term survival by five per cent.

“The reasons for underutilization of chemotherapy in high-risk bladder cancer are not well understood. This problem is not unique to Ontario and has been identified by researchers in the United States and Europe,” says Dr. Booth. “It likely relates to a complex interaction between physician knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes and patient preferences.

“More work is needed to understand what is driving this gap in care so that interventions to improve treatment delivery may be implemented in Ontario and beyond.”

The findings are published online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

Students push for exercise prescriptions

Active Easter Egg Hunt hosted by Exercise is Medicine Canada at Queen's

April 16, 11 am - 1 pm

School of Kinesiology and Health Studies (28 Division St.)

Email eim@queensu.ca for info or to register

By Dominique Delmas, Communications Intern

A group of students is working to encourage doctors to prescribe physical activity for the treatment and prevention of disease and illness.

“We want people to recognize how potent of an effect exercise can have on physical and mental health. Research has shown that if exercise is prescribed from your doctor, the likelihood that you’ll try and start a program is much higher,” says Andrea Brennan, co-president of Exercise is Medicine Canada at Queen’s (EIMC @ Queen’s).

Last year, three exercise physiology graduate students came together to establish the club, making Queen’s the first Canadian university to officially join the EIMC task force. Exercise is Medicine is an international campaign to develop resources for primary care physicians and other health care providers to assess and prescribe exercise for patients.

The Queen’s team worked on a pilot project last fall with the introduction of exercise prescription referral resources and forms for Queen’s Health Services. EIMC @ Queen’s is revising the forms and hopes to reinstate them in the near future. EIMC @ Queen’s recently integrated its physician resource guides and exercise prescription referral forms into the Loyalist Family Health Team clinic located in Amherstview.

“We tailor our programs to the specific setting they’re going to be implemented in. For example, we focused on conditions like lower back pain, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes with the Loyalist Family Health Team project, whereas we focus more on mental health with the student population,” says Sara Giovannetti, co-president of EIMC @ Queen’s.

We want people to recognize how potent of an effect exercise can have on physical and mental health.

– Andrea Brennen, Co-President, EIMC @ Queen’s

The club organized a free public lecture last fall by Dr. Steven N. Blair with over 100 community members in attendance. EIMC @ Queen’s collaborates with Dr. Robert Ross, Kinesiology and Health Studies faculty advisor, Dr. Stephen Archer, head of the Queen’s Department of Medicine, and student interest groups such as Student Wellness, Exercise and Athletic Training (SWEAT).

EIMC @ Queen’s will host an active Easter egg hunt on April 16 around campus to encourage students to be active during exam season. Participants from the Kingston community are welcome to register. Please contact eim@queensu.ca to register as an individual or team.

Visit the EIMC @ Queen’s website for more information. 

Members of the Exercise is Medicine Canada at Queen's club. 

 

Event shines spotlight on Royal Society scholars

The Royal Society Seminar is being held Saturday, April 12 at the University Club, 168 Stuart Street starting at 10 am.

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Four Queen’s professors recently elected to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) will soon have the chance to share their research with RSC fellows from across the country. Gauvin Bailey (Art History), Praveen Jain (Computer and Electrical Engineering), Carlos Prado (Philosophy) and David Lillicrap (Pathology and Molecular Medicine) were among seven Queen’s professors named fellows of the RSC last November.

“The Royal Society of Canada is important to me as someone who has just moved back to Canada after living abroad for most of my adult life because it is a way for me to meet colleagues across Canada who are doing amazing things,” says Dr. Bailey. “My appointment as fellow also comes at an opportune time for my own research as I am turning my attention toward Canadian patrimony in a book I am writing on the art and architecture of the French Atlantic Empire--it will include a great deal of material about pre-Conquest Quebec and the French missions to the Great Lakes peoples.”

(L to R) Dr. Graham Bell, President of the Royal Society of Canada, Dr. David Lillicrap, Principal Daniel Woolf, Dr. Gauvin Bailey, Dr. Carlos Prado, and Dr. John Meisel, Past President of the RSC gathered in early February at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

The topics for the day include:

Dr. Bailey – The Art and Architecture of a Paper Empire: Utopianism and Intransigence in the French Atlantic World

Dr. Jain – Power Electronics for a Sustainable Society

Dr. Prado – Personalizing Religious Faith

Dr. Lillicrap – Hemophilia: A Disease of Royals and Dogs.

“For an academic to receive fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada is a heart-warming accolade and somehow always comes as a delightful, unexpected surprise,” says Pierre Du Prey, co-chair of the event and a professor in the Department of Art History.

The Royal Society of Canada was established by an Act of Parliament in 1882 as Canada’s national academy. The organization helps promote Canadian research and scholarly accomplishment, and advises governments, non-governmental organizations and Canadians on matters of public interest.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is being held Saturday, April 12 at the University Club (168 Stuart St.) starting at 10 am.

Queen’s is also scheduled to host the Royal Society of Canada’s annual general meeting in 2016.

Heart health: Is Aspirin helpful or harmful?

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Queen’s University and Kingston General Hospital researchers are part of a groundbreaking international study that has shown that starting – or continuing – to take Aspirin before non-cardiac surgery as a way to protect the heart after surgery is ineffective and, in some cases, harmful.

Because surgery puts patients at increased risk of heart attack, doctors often continue to administer low doses of Aspirin before and after non-cardiac procedures. But new data from the Peri-Operative Ischemic Evaluation Study (POISE-2), published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that administering Aspirin provided no benefit in reducing the risk of heart-related complications after surgery.

Researchers Debbie Dumerton-Shore, Joel Parlow, Jessica McCourt and Rene Allard are part of a ground breaking study investigating the use of Aspirin to protect the heart after surgery. Photo courtesy Matthew Manor

“In fact, Aspirin was shown to increase the risk of serious bleeding after surgery, in some cases,” says Joel Parlow, Head of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at both Queen’s and KGH and the hospital’s POISE-2 Site Principal Investigator. “This is important news for the medical community and for patients with risk factors for heart disease who are set to undergo non-cardiac surgery.” 

With over 10,000 patients from 23 countries and 135 centres, the study is the largest clinical trial to evaluate major cardiovascular complications in non-cardiac surgeries. More than 400 patients were enlisted from KGH, making it the fourth-largest recruiting site in the world, after Hamilton Health Sciences Centre and The Cleveland Clinic.

The POISE-2 study was designed and led by Principal Investigator P. J. Devereaux (McMaster University’s Population Health Research Institute).

 “KGH was able to be a vital contributor to this important study due to the dedication of our excellent research nurses Debbie Dumerton-Shore, Jessica McCourt and Beth Orr, and my co-investigator René Allard. Our research team works side-by-side with patients, surgeons, nurses and with the input of the other members of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine,” says Dr. Parlow.

View the article online here.

Research reveals enzyme's helpful secrets

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Findings from an international study led by two Queen’s researchers could lead to safer food sources and provide better protection for crops.

Research emerging from the labs of David Zechel (Chemistry) and Zongchao Jia (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) has revealed the secrets of a new enzyme, PhnZ, that can degrade phosphonates, a class of compounds that includes various herbicides. This finding may lead to a new way to remove these compounds from the environment.

Zongchao Jia

“Our research has revealed the molecular details behind the powerful reaction catalyzed by PhnZ. This sets the stage to engineer PhnZ to destroy compounds of concern, including herbicides on our major crops,” says Dr. Zechel.

Genetically modified plants currently resist herbicides used to control insects and weeds. With the discovery of PhnZ, the enzyme could be added to crops that, when sprayed with herbicides, would neutralize the herbicide, making it safe for human consumption.

The enzyme PhnZ was originally discovered a few years ago by a research team from MIT.

“Through extensive study and research, we have gained a good understanding of how this enzyme really works,” says Dr. Jia.

David Zechel

The group’s research is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research; it was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Queen's researcher questions hospital cleanliness

A microscope image of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.
Image courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By Rosie Hales, Communications Officer

A Queen’s researcher has found that nearly 40 per cent of infection control practitioners do not believe their hospital is sufficiently clean.

The study, led by Queen’s researcher and professor Dick Zoutman, examined how the working relationship between Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) teams and Environmental Services (EVS) teams impacted antibiotic-resistant organism (AROs) rates. AROs, such as nosocomial methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection, can be spread from a healthcare practitioner to a patient through something as simple as lifting the patient onto a bed.

“It is a source of concern for me that 40 per cent of infection control practitioners believed their hospital wasn’t clean enough for infection control needs,” says Dr. Zoutman. “I also think that it’s important to note that a good working relationship between IPAC and EVS results in reduced infections.”

Starting in 2011, lead infection control professionals in hospitals across Canada completed an online survey that assessed the working relationship between the IPAC and Environmental Services (EVS). The survey assessed cleaning collaborations, staff training, hospital cleanliness and ARO infection rates.

It is a source of concern for me that 40 per cent of infection control practitioners believed their hospital wasn’t clean enough for infection control needs.

The study had an extremely high response rate of 58.3 per cent and the results identify deficits in the adequacy of cleaning staff training and hospital cleanliness.

“Overall, this study shows that the environment of a hospital plays a huge role in healthcare and infection control,” says Dr. Zoutman."Cleaning is a very expensive part of a hospital budget – about three to five per cent - and we had no baseline research to analyze our approach to cleanliness."

A third of the IPAC respondents did not rate EVS cleaning staff as adequately trained to clean to standards. In one-fifth of hospitals, it was noted that IPAC and EVS did not frequently collaborate on cleaning practises.

“The message we can take away from this study is that hospital administration and provincial ministries of health need to pay more attention to hospital environmental services,” says Dr. Zoutman. “I don’t think the solution is to pour more resources into it, though. We need to apply some science to the art of cleaning a hospital by improving our processes and auditing these processes to make sure we are achieving the desired results.”

This study was published in April's issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

Queen's earns four new Canada Research Chairs

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Four Queen’s University professors have been named new Canada Research Chairs and one professor’s current chair position is being renewed. The five chairs are Canadian leaders in their respective research fields.

Developed in 2000, each year the CRC program invests up to $265 million to attract and retain some of the world's most accomplished and promising minds. Queen’s will receive $200,000 per year over seven years for each Tier 1 Chair and $100,000 per year over five years for each Tier 2 Chair.

“By attracting the most skilled and promising researchers, the CRC program facilitates cutting-edge research and advances Canada as a world leader in discovery and innovation,” says Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research).  “Our success in garnering four new chairs and one renewal is demonstrative of  Queen’s leadership in research areas that address some of the most challenging and complex problems facing the world today – from human health and climate change to development of software intelligence.”

The university’s new chair appointments are Stephen Archer, Ahmed Hassan, Philip Jessop, Andy Take and Curtis Nickel has had his appointment renewed.

Stephen Archer (School of Medicine) has been named at Tier 1 Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Chair in Mitochondrial Dynamics and Translational Medicine. His research examines pulmonary arterial hypertension and cancer and is working towards devising new treatments.

Philip Jessop (Chemistry) has been named the Tier 1 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Chair in Green Chemistry. His research is aimed at designing more efficient and greener materials, solvents and methods for chemical manufacturing to reduce the consumption of resources, the usage of energy and the production of damaging pollutants.

Andy Take (Civil Engineering) has been named the Tier 2 NSERC Chair in Geotechnical Engineering.  His research program aims to produce the knowledge, highly qualified graduates and practical tools to better understand and manage the risk posed by climate change on the soil slopes of Canada’s natural and built environment.

Ahmed Hassan (School of Computing) has been named the Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Software Analytics. His research focuses on providing analytical approaches to support the development and operation of Ultra Large Scale Software systems like Blackberry and Facebook. Dr. Hassan, the NSERC BlackBerry Industrial Research Chair, continues his close collaboration with BlackBerry with a new $2 million investment by BlackBerry and NSERC. The two will also co-fund a long-term grant to support research projects at the Software Analysis and Intelligence Lab

Curtis Nickel (Urology) has been named the returning Tier 1 CIHR Chair in Urologic Pain and Inflammation. His research will continue to improve the categorization, diagnostics and understanding of associated psychosocial, neurologic and gastrointestinal dysfunction and develop evidence based management strategies for men and women suffering from interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome, chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome and benign prostatic hyperplasia.

For more information on Queen’s researchers’ CRC appointments, follow this link.

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