Innovating for enhanced patient care: Early career leadership honorees make their mark
The recipients of this year’s Royal College Award for Early Career Leadership are putting people first and driving change in addictions treatment and hospital services. Each year, this award recognizes three Royal College Fellows — within the first five years of independent practice — who have shown outstanding leadership, initiative, service and/or innovation in medical education, health policy and professional practice.
(Unbeknownst to each other, Dr. Tanguay and Dr. Ghosh supported each other’s nominations for the Early Career Leadership Award in different categories. Both were named recipients in independent review processes).
Inspiring change by tackling stigma head on
Dr. Robert L. Tanguay is the recipient of the 2022 Royal College Award for Early Career Leadership in Medical Education / CPD
Robert L. Tanguay, MD, FRCPC, is a psychiatrist trained in both addiction and pain medicine. He is making a difference for patients living with addiction, pain and mental health — especially in removing stigma.
“Rob noticed that much of the stigma faced by vulnerable populations comes from health care providers themselves,” writes colleague S. Monty Ghosh, MD, FRCPC, an assistant professor at the University of Calgary in a letter of support.
In response, Dr. Tanguay, a clinical assistant professor at the university’s Cumming School of Medicine, led the development of an innovative virtual training program aimed at health care practitioners in Alberta. Its objective is to lessen stigma by reducing physicians’ fear in providing an evidence-based and person-centred approach to treatment.
An in-demand speaker, Dr. Tanguay “has created a following of health care providers excited for change and putting patients first, ‘not profits or personalities,’ as he is often quoted in saying,” explains Rakesh Jetly, CD, MD, FRCPC, senior scientist at the Royal Ottawa Hospital, in his nomination letter.
A focus on person-centred care
Dr. Tanguay developed a conference specifically for chronic pain patients called, “Let’s Talk About My Pain,” while serving as president of the Pain Society of Alberta (PSA). With over 500 in attendance, the program included lectures from pain sufferers who do not work in health care.
“Dr. Tanguay has taken the PSA to new heights as a world leader in pain advocacy and education,” writes Dr. Jetly.
He developed the first publicly funded interdisciplinary opioid deprescribing program in Canada. Focusing on person-centred care and treating the underlying mental health and trauma, the program helped patients reduce or eliminate their opioid use.
Dr. Tanguay is also co-lead and co-developer of the Calgary Community Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) clinic. RAAM programs, offering addiction medicine consults and supports, are traditionally in hospitals to support emergency departments.
“Dr. Tanguay was a fierce advocate for bringing the RAAM program to the community and supporting not just a hospital site, but the entire community,” writes Dr. Jetly. “Against significant pushback… he pushed forward and now the program is flourishing.”
Finally, Dr. Tanguay co-founded and is the chief medical officer of The Newly Institute, Canada’s first medically managed intensive outpatient program and disability management program focused on personalized care.
As Valerie Taylor, MD, FRCPC, head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine, summarizes in her letter of support: “It is rare to meet and be associated with someone who has done so much in so little time, and I look forward to watching where his career will bring him. There is little doubt it will improve the lives of so many.”
Big data yields big results in hospital care
Dr. Amol Verma is the recipient of the 2022 Royal College Award for Early Career Leadership in Health Policy / Health Systems
Amol Verma, MD, FRCPC, MPhil, a clinician-scientist in General Internal Medicine (GIM) at St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto and the University of Toronto, is bringing systems-level change to hospital care using large and complex data sets (“big data”) and analytics.
Taking a collaborative leadership approach to change, Dr. Verma co-founded GEMINI — a unique big data collaborative driving quality improvement and research — with colleagues in GIM. Supporting the study and improvement of patient care, GEMINI currently holds data from more than 1 million patient visits across more than 30 hospitals.
“There have been many failed attempts at encouraging hospitals to share data in Ontario. GEMINI represents one of the first truly successful collaborations and is genuinely path-breaking work,” explain co-nominators Fahad Razak, MD, FRCPC, co-principal investigator on GEMINI, and Moira Kapral, MD, FRCPC, director of the Division of GIM at the University of Toronto, in their joint letter of support.
Dr. Verma also led the development and implementation of CHARTWATCH at St. Michael’s Hospital. CHARTWATCH is an AI-based early warning system that uses electronic medical record data to alert clinicians about patients at high risk of death or critical illness in hospital. Preliminary data show promising results for reductions in mortality.
“This is one of the most innovative health system projects in Canada, and among the world’s first implementations of artificial intelligence in a real-time clinical environment,” writes the Dean of Queen’s University Faculty of Health Sciences, Jane Philpott, MD, in her letter of support.
Bringing quality measurements to the forefront
As the inaugural provincial clinical lead for quality improvement in General Internal Medicine at Ontario Health, Dr. Verma is helping build and lead Canada’s first quality network devoted to general medicine. The General Medicine Quality Improvement Network (GeMQIN) provides physician- and hospital-level quality measurement reports and cultivates a community of practice dedicated to improving quality of care in general medicine.
Dr. Verma’s priority is impact. That’s why he makes his research findings accessible to policymakers and the public through media and presentations. For example, findings from his study on hospitalizations for COVID-19 were featured in a press briefing led by the Ontario Medical Association and covered by 42 global media outlets.
“He has made a substantial difference in improving the quality of hospital care and he has built foundational programs in GEMINI and GeMQIN, through which he will no doubt continue to positively shape the future of health care in Canada,” writes Chris Simpson, MD, FRCPC, executive vice president (medical) at Ontario Health in his letter of support.
Advocacy and action for society’s most vulnerable
Dr. S. Monty Ghosh is the recipient of the 2022 Royal College Award for Early Career Leadership in Professional Practice / Patient Care
The work of S. Monty Ghosh, MD, FRCPC, often takes place at the intersection of heath and housing.
An internist and addiction specialist in Alberta, Dr. Ghosh’s leadership skills were put to the test during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the initial phases, vulnerable groups were often overlooked including those experiencing homelessness.
Dr. Ghosh “rallied a group of stakeholders to begin planning around screening, diagnosing, isolating and managing individuals who were COVID-positive and close contacts,” writes nominator Tim Richter, president and CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. Working with others, “[h]e also began to create physical distancing and prevention plans within the shelters, including finding other spaces to reduce shelter capacity, increasing hygiene supports, and sourcing PPE.”
Dr. Ghosh helped draft shelter guidance recommendations for Alberta. His response plans were scaled across the province and shared with groups in other provinces, inspiring their own response.
When vaccines started to roll out, he partnered with the Royal Society of Canada and some of his mentors in developing national immunization recommendations and finding ways to reduce vaccine hesitancy for those experiencing homelessness.
“These efforts, while difficult, were helpful in vaccinating over 60% of this population,” explains Mr. Richter.
Saving lives and inspiring others to solve problems
Dr. Ghosh got involved with Addiction Medicine in 2017, when the opioid crisis was gaining momentum. With 60 per cent of deaths occurring in peoples’ homes where they were using drugs alone, he was inspired by a patient’s practice of connecting online with a friend while injecting. If one of them overdosed, the other would call 911. He worked with a group from Hamilton, Ont., and Vancouver to design a national service to offer virtual monitoring for users, with dispatch of EMS if an overdose occurred.
“After three years of hard work, Dr. Ghosh was able to launch the [National Overdose Response Service] with federal funding from Health Canada,” writes colleague Robert L. Tanguay, MD, FRCPC, clinical assistant professor at the University of Calgary. “Since the line was launched in December 2020, over 2,400 phone calls have been made and 33 lives across Canada have been saved from potential overdose.”
Jenn Brasch, MD, FRCPC, president (2020-2022) of the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine, summarizes the wide reach of Dr. Ghosh’s influence in her letter of support.
“[His] work has helped support and encourage many to tackle the challenges they face in their communities. […] Dr. Ghosh has shown it can be done, and he works to foster this can-do attitude with his colleagues (both medical and non-medical) and students.”