Bridging the gap for her patients is what Dr. Smita Pakhalé focused on in her career. The respirologist and associate scientist at The Ottawa Hospital has spent years immersed in studying better care options for patients suffering from cystic fibrosis, and she’s helped establish a severe asthma clinic at our hospital — a first for the region.
Today, she’s turned her attention to those suffering from sickle cell disease and the creation of a sickle cell lung clinic. “Ninety percent of people with sickle cell disease (SCD) have abnormal lung function. It’s an illness that affects the most marginalized and low-income populations in Ontario,” explains Dr. Pakhalé. “In fact, more than 80% of people who suffer from sickle cell disease are low income. More research and funding are needed.”
To help bridge that gap, Dr. Pakhalé launched the Canadian national registry for sickle cell disease in partnership with the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Canada. Over 350 people living with sickle cell disease receive regular treatment for the disease at our hospital each year.
“It’s really a partnership with different community members and people from different regions, including Kingston, Toronto, and locally too. We always enjoy the race and the festivities around it.”— Dr. Smita Pakhalé
Her desire to help the most vulnerable communities guides her continued yearly participation in the Run for a Reason event alongside The Bridge team. “It’s really a partnership with different community members and people from different regions, including Kingston, Toronto, and locally too. We always enjoy the race and the festivities around it.”
Last year just before Ottawa Race Weekend, the team lost their longtime captain Ted Bignell, who passed away suddenly. Everyone came together because that’s what Ted would have wanted. “Ted was always our captain, and it was very sad when he died. We’re still searching our souls for how to move forward. We have a lot of healing to do as a team,” says Dr. Pakhalé.
As a way to pay tribute to their captain, last year the team walked the route holding Ted’s picture. It was a special sentiment to recognize all he had done over the years to support the fundraising efforts.
It’s the togetherness of this team that keeps them going, and it will once again this year, as they join and walk the 2 km and 5 km routes with all the support from the crowd. “You know, seeing the big crowd cheering us on and to be a part of that is special,” says Dr. Pakhalé.