Being a Better Partner to Hospitals

Feb 11, 2015

Dean Trevor YoungDean Trevor Young

Medicine can’t be taught or practised in an Ivory Tower. Hospitals provide an immersive experience critical to the successful training we deliver. The lessons we gain, as we work alongside our colleagues and with our patients, inform what we teach, how we teach it, the research we do and how we practise our craft.

As I wrote in the last issue, the Toronto Academic Health Science Network (TAHSN) is the jewel in our partnership crown. A genuine partnership depends on the relationship being mutually beneficial. The hospitals provide us with these rich opportunities for learning, but are we at U of T Medicine providing enough in return?

We can certainly take pride in providing well-prepared professionals to meet their staffing needs. Our research identifies new tactics, treatments and processes that lead to more effective and efficient patient care. But I think we have the opportunity to do more.

One area where we could show greater leadership is collecting and analyzing big data. There is a tremendous amount of information gathered through our affiliated hospitals. With 13 full and associate affiliates, and 12 community-affiliated hospitals, we have a huge sample size available to us. Let’s use it. By harnessing data across our entire network, we can get a much deeper understanding of health trends than we could by looking at information from a single institution.

Of course, this isn’t easily done, but that shouldn’t stop us. Important steps are being taken to help facilitate this sort of collaboration, such as common credentialing across TASHN and integrated human subject ethics review. Also, with many hospitals investing in electronic health records, the platform for collecting this data is there. What we need to add is our expertise and commitment to use this information to advance our research and improve our health care system.

International relations is another area where we could be doing more to support our hospital partners. The global reach of the U of T brand can’t be understated. It helps open doors. We can use this to create new collaborations. The range of specialties and the scope of care we deliver together makes us an attractive partner for areas around the world looking to develop or improve their medical system. We can also play an important role coordinating international activities to ensure we are having the greatest collective impact.

We have a huge advantage by being in Toronto. We have a large and diverse population, which means we can investigate global health challenges here at home. Our Faculty is also diverse. Our students, faculty and staff arrive on campus with many international relationships already established. We have the connections, the expertise and cultural fluency needed to forge international partnerships.

These are two examples, but I’m sure there are more.

I invite the U of T Medicine community to consider how we can form a stronger partnership with our affiliated hospitals. Our goal is to harness our collective strength so that we can do more and do it better than anywhere else in the world. One of the things that makes TASHN a strong partnership is our shared commitment to this vision. It’s about making Toronto a world leader in health, something we can only do by working together.

Trevor Young
Dean, Faculty of Medicine
Vice-Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions

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