The inspiring women of The Ottawa Hospital

From physicians and researchers to clinicians and nurses, The Ottawa Hospital celebrates the inspiring women who are changing health care. Women at The Ottawa Hospital are trailblazers leading the way to better the lives of each patient and family that walks through our hospital hallways every day.

The Ottawa Hospital is home to some of Canada’s most innovative women leaders in health care. Our female physicians, researchers, and clinicians are blazing the trail, conducting groundbreaking research and providing world-class care.

Dr.Roth Care Environment
Dr. Virginia Roth

While already recognized as a leader in health care and research, The Ottawa Hospital is constantly looking for ways to improve patient care, outcomes, and its performance as an institution. One key element to this success is encouraging women to take on more leadership positions.

Dr. Virginia Roth, The Ottawa Hospital’s first female chief of staff, has dedicated much of her career to not only working on some of the most feared infectious diseases over the last two decades, but also to empowering women in the workplace.

Women empowering women

What started as a dream of becoming a neurosurgeon has grown into a career that has helped shape the lives of many women in our community. Dr. Roth co-founded the Female Physician Leadership Committee to recognize, encourage, and support potential female leaders at The Ottawa Hospital. “Recognizing, supporting, and encouraging these women are the steps we need to really make sure we have the best leaders at the table,” said Dr. Roth.

Since the committee’s inception more than six years ago there has been substantial progress. More female physicians are being recruited, and a higher proportion of physicians and division heads are now women.

“We’re seeing a culture change because the number of women physicians here has been going up,” exclaimed Dr. Roth. “Especially in areas like surgery and emergency medicine where, in the past, we hadn’t seen so many women in those roles.”

Shaping female leaders, now and in the future

Dr. Roth credits Dr. Jack Kitts, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital for his leadership in this regard. With support, mentorship, and training, women in medicine have more opportunities than ever before.

“The tone is set at the top, and if the leaders don’t see this as essential its not going to happen,” said Dr. Roth.

Dr. Roth hopes to inspire more women and guide them toward the pursuit of leadership roles at The Ottawa Hospital.

Meet just a few of the women revolutionizing health care right here in Ottawa – and around the world.

Dr. Kari Sampsel

Medical Director for The Ottawa Hospital’s Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Care Program

Dr. Kari Sampsel
Dr. Kari Sampsel

As a medical student, Dr. Kari Sampsel wondered if oncology was the right career choice for her. In her first year, however, she was invited to spend time in the Emergency Department for a shift – and she never looked back.

Throughout her training, Dr. Sampsel had the opportunity to work alongside a forensic expert who solidified her interest in clinical forensic medicine, particularly in the care of survivors of sexual assault or intimate partner violence. Today, as the Medical Director for The Ottawa Hospital’s Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Care Program, Dr. Sampsel has cared for thousands of survivors with compassion and expertise, on what is likely one of the worst days of their lives. “To be the champion for those who have been victimized or have no voice, to get them back on their feet, is extremely fulfilling,” expressed Dr. Sampsel.

 

Being a female physician in this line of work is incredibly unique. “Despite greater than 50 percent of medical school classes being female, the default assumption in medicine is that men are the doctors,” said Dr. Sampsel. “The assumption when I walk in the room is not that I am the senior physician on the team.”

Navigating her place within this structure has been challenging at times, particularly in the arenas of research, leadership, and clinical care. But it’s a challenge she has been willing to face head on. After all, she was raised by strong-minded women. “My grandmother was a staunch feminist before it was fashionable to do so,” said Dr. Sampsel. “My mother forged her own path – staying home to raise her kids during the peak of early feminism, going back to university and completing her degree at age 40, and having a successful career while being an involved, superwoman mother!”

Dr. Sampsel has been fearless in the pursuit of her dreams. She credits several female mentors and friends for inspiring her to have an impact on the lives of patients and hopes that she will do the same for other women.

Dr. Kednapa Thavorn

Scientist and Scientific Lead of the Health Economics Unit at the Ottawa Methods Centre at The Ottawa Hospital.

Dr. Kednapa Thavorn
Dr. Kednapa Thavorn

As a health economist in the Methods Centre at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Dr. Thavorn has one goal: to improve health-care policies, and ultimately, the quality of patient care. She is a well-published researcher and has always found meaning and motivation when her findings have directly impacted and improved decision making for a heightened level of patient care and hospital administration.

Dr. Thavorn believes that as one of only a few women in her position as a health economist at our hospital, she can share and contribute different views and perspectives that might not otherwise be thought of in meetings and committees that often lack diversity.

“I believe that a diverse workforce can help foster creativity and innovation. Different backgrounds, experiences, and ideas can promote healthy discussions that move our hospital forward.” – Dr. Kednapa Thavorn

When asked what her advice is to young female researchers, she expressed the importance of being confident in one’s abilities. “Find good mentors who are willing to share skills and knowledge and provide ongoing support. Building a professional network can offer endless opportunities. Your network can provide additional knowledge and skills that you need to get your job done, do your job better, or get the job that you want.”

Dr. Jessica Dy

Division Head of General Obstetrics and Gynecology

Dr. Jessica Dy
Dr. Jessica Dy

Dr. Jessica Dy has a passion for practicing both medicine and surgery. It’s one of the reasons she loves her role as Division Head of General Obstetrics and Gynecology. As an Obstetrician, Dr. Dy takes pride in being part of a healthy pregnancy and having the opportunity to support expectant mothers and their families. “It gives me great joy to bring new life to the world,” said Dr. Dy, “but also take comfort in the fact that we are saving mothers’ lives every day.”

As a female physician in this field, Dr. Dy can truly empathize with what each woman, and mother, that walks through her door is going through. “I believe my patients appreciate that I can relate to their period pains. Also, being a mother of three myself has certainly given me more confidence when I talk about pregnancy pains, labour, and all the fun things that come with a newborn,” explained Dr. Dy.

Dr. Dy doesn’t shy away from expressing the challenges women face in being physician leaders.

“Women at work are where they are because they worked extra hard to get there. We need to acknowledge and recognize this more.” – Dr. Dy

What advice does Dr. Dy have for young women considering a career in medicine? “It is a very fulfilling career, but you have to be ready to work hard and fight for your spot.”

Dr. Angela Crawley

Scientist, The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Chronic Disease Program

Dr. Angela Crawley
Dr. Angela Crawley

Have you ever considered how the medicine and care so many rely on today is developed? It’s through leaders in research such as Dr. Angela Crawley, who dedicates much of her life researching chronic infections and liver disease. More specifically, she participates in clinically-relevant studies in diseases that affect some of our most vulnerable people.

From a young age, Dr. Crawley’s grandfather, Dr. John Crawley, DVM, PhD, inspired her to take this path. Then, throughout the duration of her career, she was inspired by many other men and women in science, taking lessons and advice whenever possible. As such, Dr. Crawley has marveled at the collective experience of seeing so many amazing women adding to the diversity of our research institutions. “While there are a smaller number of women leaders, resulting in fewer role models to other women to enter and stay in biomedical research,” said Dr. Crawley, “I personally have met many amazing women in my training and career, too many to even list.”

Dr. Crawley feels strongly that all of these women, including herself, have earned their positions in science through hard work and dedication – each making great contributions to their respective disciplines. “Behind that woman is often a whole slew of life’s complexities (e.g. relationships, health issues, children) that are juggled while she achieves and struggles to maintain that level of greatness, to prepare to overcome future obstacles, and achieve more,” expressed Dr. Crawley.

Dr. Crawley is an avid supporter of diversity and gender equality in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, regularly assisting in workshops on harassment and intimidation for medical students and residents. She has provided recommendations in the recruitment, retention, and recognition of female scientists.

Research careers can be an arduous pursuit, particularly for women. Dr. Crawley is an active role model for many young female research trainees in the University of Ottawa’s graduate studies programs, whom she strongly encourages to pursue their passion and strengths in science, despite its inherent challenges and uncertainties. She is confident that with the appropriate encouragement from effective mentors, you can stand firm and strong in navigating the path to success and that the rest of life’s complexities such as love, and possibly family life, will all fall into place.

Dr. Debra Bournes

Chief Nursing Executive and Vice-President, Clinical Programs

Dr. Debra Bournes
Dr. Debra Bournes

Dr. Debra Bournes never planned to become a nurse, but when the option to go to nursing school presented itself, she jumped at the opportunity. It was during her first job as a nurse that her love for this line of work truly blossomed. It was then that she realized the opportunity and responsibility nurses have to make a significant difference; seeing patients and their families through some of the most difficult times in their lives.

Now, in Dr. Bournes’ current leadership role as Chief Nursing Executive and Vice President of Clinical Programs, she is making a difference in a new way – by creating and supporting local, regional, and provincial systems and processes that help nurses and other health professionals provide personalized and meaningful health care. She works with health-care teams to engage patients and improve their health-care experiences. She also helps create quality work environments where teams feel supported, energized, and inspired to be the best they can be.

Dr. Bournes feels confident in her abilities as a leader and mentor, having had several amazing women as mentors herself who guide her throughout her career. “In my first professional leadership role Dr. Gail Mitchell was my mentor,” Dr. Bournes explained. “She was the Chief Nursing Officer where I worked and she taught me how to be a leader and how to stay engaged with what I was passionate about, even when it got hard, because to see that you are making a difference, even if it is a little bit at a time – is very worthwhile. She also introduced me to Dr. Rosemarie Rizzo Parse, who continues to be a force in my life. Her work fundamentally changed how I relate with people and shaped how I am as a leader.”

Dr. Mary Ferguson-Paré was another source of inspiration for Dr. Bournes. Together, they created a research culture and team that supports growth and innovation in nursing and personalized care. “All of these incredible women continue to be wise presences in my life so that I can do what I do!” said Dr. Bournes.

Though these aforementioned women shaped Dr. Bournes’ leadership style, she continues to be inspired every day by the knowledge and expertise of all of the women who work at The Ottawa Hospital. “It is a privilege to call them my colleagues and to learn from and be challenged by them,” expressed Dr. Bournes. “They all make a difference every day and that is what helps make The Ottawa Hospital an incredible place to work.”

Dr. Jacinthe Lampron

Medical Director, Trauma Program

Doctor in scrubs standing in a hospital emergency room
Dr. Jacinthe Lampron

Dr. Jacinthe Lampron has always had an interest in becoming a surgeon. But it was her deployment to Afghanistan, working in the medical unit with the Canadian Armed Forces, which solidified her interest in trauma. “There, major trauma was a daily event. I realized that with resuscitation and surgical skills, I could make a difference to acutely injured patients.” said Dr. Lampron.

Though her tours in Kandahar fueled her passion for saving the lives of the most severely injured, she credits her supervisor and mentor Dr. Najma Ahmed for sparking her curiosity in this field as a surgery resident. “She definitely inspired me and probably defined my career choice,” exclaimed Dr. Lampron. “Having a mentor is very useful and helps navigate the system we work in.”

Dr. Lampron hopes that she too can act as a mentor and help pave the way for female residents and colleagues to feel comfortable in the pursuit of what interests them the most, regardless of what that may be. “I believe in equal access to opportunity,” said Dr. Lampron. “If someone is interested in a position, the gender should not matter. What matters most is fairness and competency.”

The Ottawa Hospital is a leading academic health, research and learning hospital proudly affiliated with the University of Ottawa.

Inspired by these women? Support the innovative research and cutting-edge treatments taking place at The Ottawa Hospital.

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A race against the clock – Rare familial ALS gene triggers uncertain future

Karen Lawrence underwent genetic testing that revealed she carries a gene that causes ALS – a disease which took 14 members of her family. She fears, not only for the day she may develop the disease, but that she has passed on this gene to her three sons.

A race against the clock

Karen Lawrence is no stranger to helping those in need. After all, she’s a Clinical Manager of Oncology at The Ottawa Hospital. Her position, largely characterized as providing specialized treatment and care to some of the hospital’s most ailing, has taught her the value of advocating for those in need and raising money for critical research.

Now, sitting with the knowledge that her own body will soon start to deteriorate, she reflects on her life – and the future of her three boys.

An uncertain future

On January 27, 2014, Karen received the results of a genetic test, confirming one of her biggest fears. She is a carrier of a gene that causes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – a rare disease that gradually paralyses people because their motor neurons, which send signals from the brain to the muscles, break down and die.

As she sits staring at an oversized clock mounted on her living room wall, it seems to take on more significance – each second that passes moves Karen toward her inevitable fate. Like so many family members before her, Karen will too develop the disease. It’s just a matter of time.

“My family has been stricken with the familial form of ALS,” she explains with a pained expression. “I have lost 14 members of my family to this devastating disease, including my father.”

Watching ALS render her father helpless, while keeping his mind intact, was a cruel reminder that today there is no fighting this disease. “There is little hope yet. Today, there is only pain and suffering. Facing an uncertain future, a cure can’t come soon enough,” says Karen.

 

Karen Lawrence sitting at the kitchen table in her home.
Results of a genetic test showed Karen Lawrence carries a gene that causes ALS.

Family ties

No one in Karen’s family realized it at the time. Several members of her extended family were diagnosed with ALS and passed before they connected the dots. It was only once her grandfather, uncle and father were diagnosed that the family started to talk about the fact that it was likely genetic. The women in her family, her aunt and cousins, were diagnosed in their 40’s. The men were diagnosed when they were a little older, but under the age of 60. Once diagnosed, most only survived 12-18 months.

With a 50/50 chance of having the gene, it was never far from Karen’s mind. “It’s like walking around with a target on your back. You’re just kind of waiting,” she said. And she was tired of it – the waiting. That’s when she got tested.

“It’s like walking around with a target on your back.” – Karen Lawrence

“When they told me I had the gene, I was very composed and held it together until I thought of my kids and then I started to cry. That’s when it really hit me. I potentially gave a terminal illness to my children. So that’s very difficult to live with.”

The race is on

When Karen found out that she had the gene, something as simple as dropping a pen, or a small stumble, would have her mind racing to the future.

Karen is aware that it’s just a matter of time before her brain will no longer be able to talk to her muscles. Eventually, she’ll have trouble with her balance, then she won’t be able to walk, then talk and then eat. But her mind will be intact, trapped within her body, while she waits for ALS to take her ability to breathe. Karen has a pretty clear idea of what this will look and feel like, having watched her father go through it just a few years ago.

So, how does she grapple with the thought of such a grim future? She runs – literally. And she raises a substantial amount of money in support of neuromuscular research and care while she’s at it.

Her first ever marathon was in Copenhagen and her second in New York City. More recently, she has participated in The Ottawa Hospital’s Run for a Reason, where alongside her team, she raised funds towards a brand-new Neuromuscular Centre right here in Ottawa.

“The race is on to fund research to find a cure, or to prevent onset before my three beautiful boys are faced with the same agonizing decision of whether to get tested.” – Karen Lawrence

Drs. Jodi Warman Chardon and Robin Parks were instrumental in establishing the NeuroMuscular Centre, which opened in 2018.
Drs. Jodi Warman Chardon and Robin Parks were instrumental in establishing the NeuroMuscular Centre, which opened in 2018.

 

Karen Lawrence, Clinical Manager of Oncology, standing in a hallway at The Ottawa Hospital
Karen Lawrence is the Clinical Manager of Oncology at The Ottawa Hospital.

 

A new Neuromuscular Centre

Thousands of people in eastern Ontario are affected by neuromuscular diseases. Until recently, patients had to travel to Montreal or Toronto to participate in clinical trials to help further research in these diseases. However, Dr. Jodi Warman Chardon noted that The Ottawa Hospital had more than 50 researchers and clinicians working on behalf of people like Karen. Each is working on various aspects of neuromuscular disease – from clinical care to lab research. There was no reason why the most promising clinical trials couldn’t be offered here in Ottawa.

Dr. Warman teamed up with Senior Scientist Dr. Robin Parks, who is conducting lab-based research on neuromuscular diseases. Their dream to have a centre that would bring these experts together in one place caught traction, and in May 2018, The Ottawa Hospital Neuromuscular Centre opened its doors to patients. “What’s exciting is it’s more than just a clinic. It’s a clinical research centre,” said Dr. Robin Parks. “So the idea is to do research and get results that will then feed back to the patient to provide insight into new therapies for them.”

Today, Ottawa is at the global epicenter of neuromuscular research. Equipped with the strongest neuroscience research team in the world, we are well positioned to discover new treatment options and cures, which will change patient outcomes worldwide.

“When a cure is found for this disease [ALS], the chances are it will be found in Ottawa,” said Duncan Stewart, Executive Vice President, Research, The Ottawa Hospital.

Zest for life

Karen does not yet have ALS, so she is not undergoing any treatment. But she remains hopeful that when she develops the disease, she will participate in the Neuromuscular Centre’s clinical trials and benefit from treatment developed at The Ottawa Hospital.

Until then, she tries to not dwell on what lies ahead and instead focuses on her hope for a healthy future for her boys.

“The Ottawa Hospital is a leading academic health, research and learning hospital proudly affiliated with the University of Ottawa.” 

The Ottawa Hospital Foundation is raising money for research that is revolutionizing the care we provide patients.

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Hope despite aggressive skin cancer diagnosis

Hope because of scientists who never gave up; who were determined to turn the tables on cancer and to create a better chance of survival, for patients like Dan Collins.

Hope despite aggressive skin cancer diagnosis

Diagnosed with a stage 4 melanoma at the age of 62, Dan Collins feared for his life when he learned about the aggressive form of cancer. However, immunotherapy treatment gave him a reason to hold out hope. Dan had hope because of scientists who never gave up; who were determined to turn the tables on cancer and to create a better chance of survival, for patients like him. Hope that a cure is coming.

Discovery of a mass

Four years ago, Dan had been travelling for work, when he started noticing some pain when he’d lean his head back to rest on the plane. He recalls turning to his family doctor to get answers. An ultrasound revealed there was something inside the back of his head that looked like a cyst.

After an initial biopsy, Dan was referred to a surgeon at The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre. Another biopsy revealed the cyst was actually a mass. It was melanoma. “I was scared. Cancer had stripped my family of so much. I lost both of my two older brothers and my father to cancer. I feared for my life,” recalls Dan.

Unfortunately, the mass starting growing – and it was growing fast. By the end of July, just two months later, the mass went from being not visible on the back of his head, to the size of a golf ball.

His surgical oncologist, Dr. Stephanie Obaseki-Johnson, initially wanted to shrink the tumour before surgery to remove it. However, the mass was growing too quickly.

Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong of The Ottawa Hospital in a patient room.
Dan Collins with Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong.

Time to act

On August 11, 2015, Dan had surgery that lasted most of the day. When it was over, he had 25 staples and 38 stitches in the back of his head. As he recovered, Dan was reminded of a saying that helped him through recovery, “Never be ashamed of your scars. It just means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.”

He would need that strength with the news that awaited him. Only two weeks later, the mass was back. His doctors also discovered a mass in his right lung and shadows in the lining of his belly. He had stage 4 cancer – it had metastasized. This was an aggressive cancer that left Dan thinking about the family he had already lost and what would happen to him.

The next generation of treatment

Soon, he was introduced to The Ottawa Hospital’s Dr. Michael Ong and was told about immunotherapy – the next generation of treatment, with the hope of one day eliminating traditional and sometimes harsh treatment like chemotherapy. Dr. Ong prescribed four high doses of immunotherapy. At the same time, radiation treatment began for Dan – 22 in all. His immunotherapy treatments were three weeks apart at the Cancer Centre and between each, he would have an x-ray to monitor the tumours.

“Each x-ray showed the tumours were getting smaller. That’s when the fear started shifting to hope.” – Dan Collins, patient

By December 2015, Dan finished immunotherapy treatment and the next step was to wait. “This transformational treatment was designed to train my own immune system to attack the cancer. We would have to be patient to see if my system would do just that,” says Dan.

While the shadows in Dan’s stomach lining had shrunk, the mass in his lung had not. That’s when Dr. Ong prescribed another immunotherapy drug that would require 24 treatments.

Dan learned from his oncologist that melanoma has gone from being an extremely lethal cancer, with few treatment options, to having many different effective therapies available.

“When I started as an oncologist a decade ago, melanoma was essentially untreatable. Only 25 percent would survive a year. Yet now, we can expect over three quarters of patients to be alive at one year. Many patients are cured of their metastatic cancer and come off treatment. We are now able to prevent 50 percent of high-risk melanoma from returning because of advances in immunotherapy,” says Dr. Ong.

Dan completed his last immunotherapy treatments in September 2017.

Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong posing with armed crossed at The Ottawa Hospital.
Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong of The Ottawa Hospital.

Today, there is no sign of cancer

When Dan thinks back to the day of his diagnosis, he remembers wondering if he was going to die. “I believe I’m here today because of research and because of those who have donated to research before me.”

He thinks back to when his older brother Rick died of cancer in 2007. “At the time he was treated, his doctor asked if he would participate in a research study. The doctor told him directly, this would not help him, but it would help somebody in the future.” Dan pauses to reflect and then continues, “I like to think, that maybe, he had a hand in helping me out today. Maybe he helped me survive. One thing I do know is that research was a game changer for me.”

The Ottawa Hospital has been a leader in bringing immunotherapy to patients. Research and life-changing treatments available at The Ottawa Hospital altered Dan’s outcome and he hopes that advancements will continue to have an impact on many more patients, not only here at home but right around the world.

To support life-saving research at The Ottawa Hospital that helps patients like Dan, please donate today.

More Inspiring Stories

The inspiring women of The Ottawa Hospital
From physicians to nurses to researchers, The Ottawa Hospital celebrates the inspiring women who are leading the way in changing health care.
Undeniable gratitude from a young mom and her family
When Gina Mertikas-Lavictoire, a young mother of three, received the good news that she had gone from breast cancer patient to survivor, she knew she wasn’t done with The Ottawa Hospital. She needed to give back to help others.
A race against the clock – Rare familial ALS gene triggers uncertain future
Karen Lawrence is walking with a target on her back. She carries the ALS gene – a disease that has killed 14 members of her family, including her father.

Stem cells may heal lungs of premature babies

Premature babies need extra oxygen and mechanical intervention to breathe but this can damage their lungs, causing a chronic lung disease. A stem cell treatment soon to be tested in clinical trials at The Ottawa Hospital may help heal the lungs of premature babies.

Little Olivia Eberts had oxygen tubes in her nose until after her first birthday. Because she was born prematurely her tiny lungs were underdeveloped and she couldn’t breathe without oxygen. Ironically for Olivia, and many premature babies like her, the oxygen that saved her life also damaged her lungs, causing bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), which is like starting out life with emphysema. This meant she needed to stay on oxygen even longer to help her breathe.

“She was on supplemental oxygen for so long, it was almost part of her identity,” said Jamie Eberts, Olivia’s mother.

Jamie Eberts holding baby Olivia
Jamie Eberts holding baby Olivia

Olivia was born on January 29, 2017, at 23 and a half weeks gestation―or 17 weeks too early. She weighed one pound, two ounces. Her twin brother Liam weighed only a few ounces more than her. Both babies required oxygen and mechanical ventilation to keep them alive and as a result both developed BPD—the most common cause of death in premature babies. Sadly, baby Liam passed away a few weeks after he was born while Olivia remained in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at The Ottawa Hospital for seven months.

In Canada, 1,000 babies suffer from BPD every year. Often babies with BPD, develop other chronic lung diseases, such as asthma, and many require prolonged oxygen and ventilation. They also have a high incidence of hospital readmissions in the first two years of life. Babies with BPD often have problems in other organs as well, such as the brain or the eyes.

When Olivia was finally discharged, she went home with an oxygen tank. During the first year of her life, Olivia spent more time in hospital than out.

“Even now, a simple flu that put me in bed for a couple of days, put her in hospital and turned into pneumonia. It’s scary,” said Jamie. The doctor told her that with Olivia’s respiratory issues, there would be no guarantee she will ever leave the hospital entirely.’”

“Currently there is no treatment for this disease,” said Dr. Bernard Thébaud, a neonatologist and senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital.

He hopes to change the outcome for babies, like Olivia, who have BPD.

“In the laboratory, we discovered that a particular type of stem cell can prevent BPD or regenerate newborn lungs,” said Dr. Thébaud, who is also appointed at CHEO and the University of Ottawa. “Our research uses stem cells, isolated from the umbilical cords of healthy newborns, to prevent the lung injury or even to some degree regenerate a damaged lung in the laboratory. We foresee that these stem cells, given during a certain time during the hospital stay of these babies, could prevent the progression of the lung disease.”

Dr. Bernard Thébaud looks at a premature baby in an isolette.
Dr. Bernard Thébaud looks at a premature baby in an isolette.

Dr. Thébaud and his research team are preparing for an early phase clinical trial to test the feasibility and safety of the stem cell treatment on premature babies.

“Stem cell research is incredibly innovative. Here, we have a very promising, emerging therapy that could prevent lung injury but also improve brain development and eye sight,” said Janet Brintnell, Clinical Manager of the NICU who has seen dozens of premature babies suffer from BPD. “It’s amazing when you think of what it may be able to do for the quality of life for the child, for their family, and for our health-care system. It could reduce length of stay, hospital admissions, and reduce long-term outcomes. It could help these little ones lead healthier lives.”

“We are the only ones doing this kind of stem cell research in Canada, and there are only a few other teams in the world that are doing this,” said Dr. Thébaud.

Two years ago, when Olivia was in the NICU, Jamie and her husband Tim met Dr. Thébaud and wished his stem cell treatment could have been available to help heal their babies.

“What’s hard is we think, ‘But if we could’ve signed up for the trial? Would Liam be alive? Would Olivia be suffering?” said Jamie. “Even to this day, if we are asked to put Olivia in the trial as an older candidate, we will.”

Olivia is now a happy, active toddler who loves copying what her older brother Jacob does. Although, she still has BPD, it is increasingly manageable, and she no longer requires supplemental oxygen. Olivia may suffer respiratory illness her entire life but one day, a stem cell treatment developed here in Ottawa could mean that the next generation of babies with BPD won’t.

“Donors are extremely important to allow us to perform this research, especially when it comes to the stage where it matters most: to translate this research into treatment and have clinical trials.” — Dr. Bernard Thébaud, neonatologist

More Inspiring Stories

The inspiring women of The Ottawa Hospital
From physicians to nurses to researchers, The Ottawa Hospital celebrates the inspiring women who are leading the way in changing health care.
A race against the clock – Rare familial ALS gene triggers uncertain future
Karen Lawrence is walking with a target on her back. She carries the ALS gene – a disease that has killed 14 members of her family, including her father.
Hope despite aggressive skin cancer diagnosis
Diagnosed with a stage 4 melanoma at the age of 62, Dan Collins feared for his life when he learned about the aggressive form of cancer. However, immunotherapy treatment gave him a reason to hold out hope.

Three innovative researchers honoured at The Ottawa Hospital Gala

It was a sold-out night at The Ottawa Hospital Gala, presented by First Avenue Investment Counsel, which recognized three innovative researchers.

OCTOBER 26, 2019 OTTAWA, ON – It was a sold-out night at The Ottawa Hospital Gala, presented by First Avenue Investment Counsel, which recognized three innovative researchers. The elegant ballroom of the Westin Hotel was transformed with exquisite décor and a delectable four-course meal, enjoyed by more than 700 guests. It also marked the final gala with Dr. Jack Kitts as President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital, who will retire in 2020. Guests paid tribute to Dr. Kitts with a standing ovation for his dedication to providing compassionate and world-class care to the Ottawa community through his leadership since 2002.

The Ottawa Hospital Gala celebrated the transformational work of three researchers dedicated to improving care. Congratulations to this year’s three award winners:

Faizan Khan, recipient of the Worton Researcher in Training Award, recognized for his outstanding work on vein blood clots, including a recent British Medical Journal study establishing long-term risks and consequences of clot recurrence.

Dr. Marjorie Brand, recipient of the Chrétien Researcher of the Year Award, recognized for her groundbreaking discovery of how a blood stem cell decides whether to become a red blood cell or a platelet-forming cell.

Dr. Paul Albert, recipient of the Grimes Research Career Achievement Award, recognized for his leadership in Neuroscience, as well as his innovative work on what causes depression and how to treat it.

The Ottawa Hospital is recognized for its world-leading research that attracts internationally recognized scientists and clinicians from around the world. Tim Kluke, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, emphasized that it’s corporate and individual philanthropic gifts, which make that a reality. “We are privileged to have the support of a generous community which is helping this city advance research to find new hope for patients now and in the future.”

First Avenue Investment Counsel returned as the presenting sponsor of The Ottawa Hospital Gala this year. Kash Pashootan, CEO and Chief Investment Officer at First Avenue Investment Counsel, said it’s a partnership that aligns perfectly. “Innovative research is a necessary investment in the future of health care in our community and we’re proud to fulfill our duty to The Ottawa Hospital. At First Avenue Investment Counsel, we advise families on all aspects of their financial picture including managing their assets to ensure their secure future for them and future generations. Together, we’re laying the building blocks for the future.”

About The Ottawa Hospital: 

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals, with more than 1,200 beds, 12,000 staff members and an annual budget of about approximately $1.3 billion.

The focus on learning and research helps to develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital affiliated with the University of Ottawa, specialized care is delivered to the eastern Ontario region and the techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. The hospital engages the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care.

From the compassion of our people to the relentless pursuit of new discoveries, The Ottawa Hospital never stops seeking solutions to the most complex patient-centred care. For more information about The Ottawa Hospital, visit ohfoundation.ca.

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Local activist donor pledges $500,000 to take on cancer

Gavin Murphy is unwavering when it comes to his desire to maintain a world-class health care system in our city. As a result, he’s willing to step forward and be an activist donor.

Local activist donor pledges $500,000 to take on cancer

Gavin Murphy is unwavering when it comes to his desire to maintain a world-class health care system in our city. He’s unwilling to settle for anything less and he doesn’t think anyone in our community should either. Gavin believes each resident needs to play an active role in giving back, and that’s why this self-described “activist” donor is sharing his story – a story he hopes will lead to a cure for cancer.

This New Edinburgh resident has committed $500,000 to support the Radiation Medicine Program at The Ottawa Hospital – it’s what he wants his lasting legacy to be.

While the Ottawa lawyer isn’t looking for public recognition, he’s not shy about sharing the news of his gift as he hopes it will inspire others to do the same. “Scarce government resources requires those in a position to give significant gifts to step forward and support The Ottawa Hospital.” Gavin adds, “By giving serious thought to my philanthropy, I am hoping to help improve discovery and care for our families, friends, and neighbours.”

Gavin’s interest in cutting-edge research is what enticed him to make this tremendous gift to Radiation Medicine Program with the hope that findings will one day be published. He’s excited about the opportunities which lie ahead and the advancements that will be made.

 

“I want to give this money while I’m still alive. It’s great that people leave money in their estates, I think that’s wonderful but I want to see the fruits of my labour, in my lifetime.” – Gavin Murphy

 

 

Gavin Murphy takes pride in describing himself an activist donor.
Gavin Murphy takes pride in describing himself an activist donor.

It’s the fruits of his labour, which will leave his fingerprints on advancements in cancer care to help others in the future. For Gavin, that’s truly exciting. “I like the idea of funding new, innovative technology. It will leave a lasting legacy and this gift is providing the building blocks for future research in this field.”

Donor support is vital to providing doctors and researchers with state-of-the-art tools. It’s also what allows The Ottawa Hospital to be a trailblazer when it comes to transformational advancements. Dr. Miller MacPherson, the Head of Medical Physics at The Ottawa Hospital says, “It’s the generosity of donors like Gavin which allows The Ottawa Hospital to be innovative with new technologies. This support will provide insight for new discoveries and will have an impact on care through research and technology advancements in the field of cancer research.”
Dr. Jason Pantarotto, Head of Radiation Oncology at The Ottawa Hospital, echoes that sentiment, noting that donations to the Radiation Medicine Program are particularly precious. “Despite radiotherapy being a key treatment for nearly 5,000 cancer patients each year in Ottawa, the amount of research dollars available to improve the science is pretty sparse. We are extremely grateful to donors, such as Gavin, who see the benefits of investing in the team and equipment that exists here at The Ottawa Hospital.”

For Gavin, his ultimate goal is to help find a cure for cancer.

“This gift will provide a foundation to greater understanding of cancer and I hope it will help obliterate cancer sometime down the road.”- Gavin Murphy

The reality is The Ottawa Hospital will touch each person in our community in some way. For Gavin, that’s a good reason for not only himself but also for others to step forward. “If people want to be well looked after in a world-class system, we have to ensure a world-class system is maintained.”

The way Gavin sees it, we’ll all need The Ottawa Hospital at some point, and there’s a way for each person in our community to support it. “You need people who are in the position to give, and those who can give smaller amounts, in greater numbers to support the hospital equally.”

To be a donor like Gavin, supporting patient-centred care and life-saving research at The Ottawa Hospital, please donate.

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$2.21 million raised through community events in September for The Ottawa Hospital

September resulted in $2.21 million donated to The Ottawa Hospital as a direct result of community support – solidifying our city’s dedication to ensuring world-class care and research in eastern Ontario.

SEPTEMBER 25, 2019, OTTAWA, ON – September resulted in $2.21 million donated to The Ottawa Hospital as a direct result of community support – solidifying our city’s dedication to ensuring world-class care and research in eastern Ontario. Events including THE RIDE, powered by Mattamy Homes, the President’s Breakfast, golf tournaments, and community-inspired events, all contributed to this excellent example of dedication local residents have to The Ottawa Hospital.

The funds will directly support patient care and research at The Ottawa Hospital. Tim Kluke, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, said this is a perfect example of a community rallying to ensure doctors, researchers and nurses have the right tools to care for their patients. “Philanthropy takes many forms, and each of these special events embodies the important role The Ottawa Hospital plays in our city. We are grateful for all of the support and we never take it for granted,” said Kluke.

In many cases, community leaders stepped forward to support The Ottawa Hospital and called on their friends and colleagues to do the same. This was the case for Cyril Leeder and Janet McKeage who co-chaired the annual President’s Breakfast held earlier this month.

“Beyond the right tools and equipment, research is fundamental to the advancements in care we are seeing. It’s research which is allowing The Ottawa Hospital to be one of the best health-care centres in the country and it is the generosity of our community which makes that possible,” said Leeder.

McKeage echoed that sentiment, “Together, we have the capability to help push the boundaries when it comes to health care in our city.”

It is community support, which provides critical funds to help purchase equipment not funded by our tax dollars and helps fund the work of a researcher who has dedicated his or her life to finding a cure.

About The Ottawa Hospital:

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals, with more than 1,200 beds, 12,000 staff members and an annual budget of about approximately $1.3 billion.

The focus on learning and research helps to develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital affiliated with the University of Ottawa, specialized care is delivered to the eastern Ontario region and the techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. The hospital engages the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care.

From the compassion of our people to the relentless pursuit of new discoveries, The Ottawa Hospital never stops seeking solutions to the most complex patient-centered care. For more information about The Ottawa Hospital, visit ohfoundation.ca.

-30-


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30 years after treatment, leukemia survivor forever grateful

Robert Noseworthy was diagnosed with a childhood leukemia at the age of 30. This was rare for someone his age and his prognosis was grim. 30 years later, he gives back to cancer research with his grown children by his side.

30 years after treatment, leukemia survivor forever grateful

The importance of cancer research is not lost on Robert Noseworthy. He’s reminded of it every time he looks in the mirror.

Robert is a cancer survivor and not a day goes by that he doesn’t appreciate each moment he’s had to share with his two children, who are now adults.

On October 21, 1988, Robert was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia—a childhood leukemia. He was living in Montreal at the time with his young family, including Julianne who was 18 months old and his infant son, David.

A grim prognosis

“I was given a 13% chance of survival with 6 months to live. My doctor said it was very unusual for a 30-year-old to have a childhood leukemia,” says Robert.

And so, the cancer journey began for this father of two. It would include numerous rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which put him into remission, but the journey didn’t end there. “In March 1989, I received a bone marrow transplant from my sister, who was a six-on-six match.”

Thanks to that match, Robert beat the odds. He gives full credit to cancer research as the reason he is alive today. It’s what has driven Robert and his family to become dedicated supporters of cancer research at The Ottawa Hospital. “That is my why. I do my small part and to raise funds for cancer research,” he says.

Robert Noseworthy with his daughter Julianne after they cycled 109 kms during THE RIDE on September 8, 2019.
Robert Noseworthy with his daughter Julianne after they cycled 109 kms during THE RIDE on September 8, 2019.

Time to give back

Giving back has been important to Robert. Each year, his family comes together to cycle and raise funds through THE RIDE, a cycling fundraiser. It’s also been important to him to instill that in his children as they grew up. “I received all this help but now it’s time to give back.”

For Julianne, giving back as a family to The Ottawa Hospital and advancing research has become just as important to her.

“If it wasn’t for cancer research and everything my dad had been through, we wouldn’t be the family that we are today,” says Julianne.

Glancing over at her father, with a smile, Julianne says, “My why is you.”

The way Robert sees it; he is alive because of the investment of others who came before him and he wants to be that hope for someone else battle cancer. “60 years ago someone invested in cancer research. 30 later, I was the beneficiary of that generosity and that’s why I’m here today.”

Your support will provide crucial funding to improve the care of patients in the future, just like Robert.

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Immunotherapy eradicates cop’s melanoma

Despite years of treatment to prevent recurrence of skin cancer, Ian McDonell’s melanoma –a disease that killed his brother– spread to his brain and body. In 2017, he started an innovative immunotherapy treatment. A year later, all scans showed his cancer was gone.

A melanoma diagnosis

The Ottawa Hospital, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, Ian McDonell
Ian McDonell received immunotherapy in 2017, which erased any trace of his melanoma.

Several years ago, Ian McDonell, a Staff Sergeant with the Ottawa Police and father of three had just lost his father to cancer and his brother was dying of melanoma. Ian’s wife insisted he see his physician to check out a mole on his back. It turned out to be an ulcerated nodular malignant melanoma – an aggressive form of skin cancer.

Ian had surgery to remove it along with a lymph node from his left groin. Several weeks later, he had a lymph node removed from his armpit. Following these surgeries, he had no signs of cancer, but due to his family’s history, Ian was at high risk for relapse.

Sobering news

Ian was feeling well, but during a standard monitoring visit in June 2017, his CT and MRI scans showed sobering news. He had half a dozen tumours in his groin and abdomen, and three more tumours metastasized to his brain. Ian’s cancer was stage 4.

Given the severity of the findings, Dr. Michel Ong at The Ottawa Hospital suggested an aggressive approach – a recently approved immunotherapy treatment.

Unmasking cancer

Scientists have tried for decades to stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells. But the game-changer was the discovery that cancer cells make key molecules, called immune checkpoint proteins, that suppress immune cells and prevent them from attacking the cancer. These immune checkpoint proteins cloak the cancer from the immune system. New drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors remove this cloak and allow immune cells called T-cells to naturally attack and destroy the cancer.

“The idea of chemotherapy is to kill off cancer directly,” said Dr. Ong. “There are potential side effects, because chemotherapy tries to poison the cancer.

“Immunotherapy does not directly affect the cancer itself. Instead, immunotherapy unmasks the cancer to your immune system by flipping some switches on T-cells, and the body’s own immune system does the rest.” – Dr. Michael Ong

Ian McDonell with his wife Michelle (left), and their daughters Kendra, Macy, and Ainsley, hiking in the Adirondack Mountains in 2019.
Ian McDonell with his wife Michelle (left), and their daughters, hiking in the Adirondack Mountains in 2019.

CyberKnife treatment

Ian started on a combination of two immunotherapies given intravenously in the chemotherapy unit at The Ottawa Hospital’s Cancer Centre. He also underwent CyberKnife radiotherapy treatment where high doses of radiation were directed at his brain tumours. He bravely continued with the second round of immunotherapy, but was so sick, he had to be taken off the treatment and started on steroid medications to slow down the immune system. Ian felt better, but his immunotherapy was on hold.

Shrinking tumours

When Ian began to develop weakness in his face, he worried his cancer was getting worse. It wasn’t. Scans showed one tumour had shrunk from 25 to 10 mm, and another had shrunk from eight to four mm.

Dr. Ong recommended trying a single immunotherapy rather than two, and while the treatment made Ian very sick, it did the trick.

Two months later, the results of a PET scan, MRI, and a CT scan showed that he was tumour-free. All trace of his cancer was gone.

Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong said recent immunotherapies are hugely successful for treating melanoma.
Oncologist Dr. Michael Ong said recent immunotherapies are hugely successful for treating melanoma.

Advances in immunotherapy

When Dr. Ong first met Ian in 2013, options for immunotherapy or targeted chemotherapy weren’t available. Thanks to incredible advances in immunotherapy, there is now hope.

“In the last few years, we’ve gone from having very poor options to having many effective options for melanoma. That’s because cancer therapy continues to develop at a very rapid pace,” said Dr. Ong. “We, at The Ottawa Hospital, are constantly participating in practice-changing clinical trials. The standard of care is constantly changing, as it should. We are continually trying to push the limits of cancer treatment.”

The Ottawa Hospital is a leader in cancer immunotherapy research, both in terms of developing new therapies and in offering experimental treatments to patients. Currently, there are approximately 70 active cancer immunotherapy clinical trials being conducted at the hospital involving nearly 700 patients. The hospital also hosts a national network for immunotherapy research and has developed a number of unique immunotherapies made directly of cells and viruses.

Hope for the future

Because of successful immunotherapy treatments, patients like Ian are now planning a future of living cancer-free.

“When the provincial exams for police services came up, I said, ‘I’m gonna write it, because I’ve got a bit of hope now.’” said Ian.

More importantly, in addition to his career plans, immunotherapy has allowed Ian to plan for the future with his family and a chance to watch his daughters grow up.

Hear more about oncologist Dr. Michael Ong’s work with immunotherapy.

To support life-saving research at The Ottawa Hospital that helps patients like Ian, please donate.

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Unexpected breast cancer diagnosis leads patient down an uncertain path

“I walked through my darkest fears and came out the other side.”

It was a routine mammogram that turned Annette Gibbons’ world upside down. An unexpected breast cancer diagnosis sent her on a journey of treatment and uncertainty that required she place her complete trust in her medical team at The Ottawa Hospital.

An unexpected breast cancer diagnosis leads patient down an uncertain path

In July 2016, Annette Gibbons had a routine mammogram. She didn’t expect that day would become a pivotal moment in her life and lead to a breast cancer diagnosis. This unexpected news sent her on a journey of treatment, surgery, and uncertainty that required she place her complete trust in her medical team at The Ottawa Hospital for both her physical and emotional well-being.

Following the mammogram, Annette was told that she had dense tissue, which made it difficult to read the results. She wasn’t worried at all when she received a call to schedule another mammogram and ultrasound. But that all changed when her radiologist, Dr. Susan Peddle, gently told her that she thought it was cancer.

Annette, visibly emotional, recalls that fateful day. “Just like that, my life changed and I began my journey.”

The challenges of chemotherapy set in

Annette began chemotherapy treatment under the watchful eye of medical oncologist and scientist Dr. Mark Clemons. “He specializes in the type of cancer I had and is very active in clinical trials and research on leading-edge treatments and practices,” said Annette.

During these early days, she focussed solely on getting through the wear and tear of chemotherapy. She recalls that “it’s not anything you can truly prepare for, or understand, until you’re the patient…There was the depressing hair loss, the constant nausea, the searing bone pain and the mind-numbing fatigue. Despite all that, I still tried to keep my spirits up with exercise, a support group, and lots of old movies.”

 

 

 

Annette ringing the bell of hope following her final cancer treatment.
Annette ringing the bell of hope following her final cancer treatment.

Trusting her medical team

She also put her complete trust in her medical team and was determined to stay positive. “I knew the stats for survivability were fairly good and I looked forward to resuming my ‘normal life’.”

Little did she know that the next steps – mastectomy and radiation – would be tougher than chemotherapy. The surgery itself and healing had gone well. She credits her amazing surgeon, Dr. Erin Cordeiro, for her compassion and skill.

“She held my hand as I lay in the operating room preparing for the operation to begin.” – Annette Gibbons

“In the end,” Annette says with a little smile on her face, “she gave me, dare I say, the nicest, straightest surgery scar I have ever seen on anyone.”

Sobering news

Annette wouldn’t have the full picture of her cancer prognosis until pathology results came back on her tumour. Several weeks later she received alarming results from Dr. Cordeiro. It was devastating news. “She told me that my tumour was much bigger than first thought. They had found cancer in many of the lymph nodes they removed. I was not expecting that, it was a huge blow.”

As she tried to absorb this news, she sat down with Dr. Clemons a few days later and was dealt another blow. “He gave it to me straight: because of the tumour size and number of lymph nodes affected, my risk of recurrence was high.”

Compassionate care during a dark time

That’s when Annette’s world came crumbling down. She recalls spiralling down into a dark place. “It was very hard to crawl out of this place. But my medical team saw the signs and knew how to help me. My dedicated radiation oncologist, Dr. Jean-Michel Caudrelier, spotted my despair and referred me to the psychosocial oncology program. With the amazing help of Dr. Mamta Gautam, I walked through my deepest fears and came out the other side.”

Annette completed her radiation treatment and then slowly reclaimed her life. But as all cancer patients know, the fear of recurrence can be a constant companion. “I don’t know if that will ever change. But I decided to make it my friend who reminds me to think, not about dying, but about the importance of living while I am alive,” said Annette.

She’s grateful to know the best medical professionals were right here in her hometown when she was diagnosed. As a self-proclaimed “frequent flyer at the hospital”, Annette is proud to say she’s reclaimed her life — including her return to work. “I am myself again, and life is strangely somehow better than it was before.”

Your support will provide crucial funding to improve the care of patients, like Annette during their time of need.

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Karen Lawrence is walking with a target on her back. She carries the ALS gene – a disease that has killed 14 members of her family, including her father.