Longwoods Blog

Remarks to the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce | by Leslee Thompson, President and CEO of Kingston General Hospital, and  Chair, Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO) | November 12, 2013, Kingston, Ontario


Thank you and good morning.

I’d like you to imagine, just for a moment ….

A world where a virus could be used to treat cancer;
A world where new body parts are grown in a lab;
A world where bacteria are used to cure deadly infection.

This is not a world of science fiction – this is real and it exists today. Right here, In Ontario.

This is real because we have made a choice – a choice to invest in top talent, and big, bold ideas.

Choices like these are literally changing the world. And they are a direct result of research and innovation in academic health science centres like ours in Kingston.

So, what does it take to ensure our health research and innovation engine grows and continues to deliver phenomenal results?

And what exactly does the value proposition for investment in health research and innovation look like in Ontario and right here in Kingston?

I am going to answer those questions for you today.

Most of you know me as the President and CEO of Kingston General Hospital. I am also proud to stand before you as the Chair of the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario, known as CAHO, representing the thousands of scientists and highly skilled professionals who work in Ontario’s 24 research hospitals.

This talk is an adaptation of one I gave in September to the Economic Club of Canada and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce – to a business audience like you.

I’d like to talk about a vision for working together to build the best health care system in the world while at the same time, contributing to the growth of our community and Ontario’s economy.

At CAHO, we know that there is a new value proposition and bottom line for investment in health research that does just that.

The network’s 24 research hospitals, located across Ontario’s regions—north, south, east and west—are engines of invention and discovery that are making a profound difference to individuals and populations.

Take what’s happening right here in Kingston as an example. As you may know, KGH is our region’s biggest academic research hospital. Together, with Queen’s University and our partner hospitals, Hotel Dieu Hospital and Providence Care, we are working collaboratively to cultivate patient-oriented research.

We have 175 health researchers engaged in almost 600 active research projects. They are generating global interest for their work in gastrointestinal diseases, human mobility research, end-of-life care, bleeding disorders and new allergy vaccines, to name a few.

Hospitals, it turns out, are ideal settings to carry out this type of research, In fact, 80% of publicly funded health research takes place in our hospitals.

Why? Because that’s where patients are. The patients who inspire us to ask everyday: How can we care for you better? How can we find a cure?

Ontario has a history of health innovation that is known around the world, that has made our lives better over many generations—from insulin and Pablum, to stem cells and genomics.

But we can’t rest on our laurels; we need to move forward and take even bolder steps –

To make sure that today’s discoveries become tomorrow’s treatments.
To drive innovation, productivity and better health outcomes for patients in EVERY part of our health care system,
To make our economy stronger, more dynamic and more competitive

So knowing what we have to do, let’s look at the challenges before us.

Everyone in this room knows that health care makes up the largest proportion of our provincial budget.

This means that we all have a stake in getting more from our health care system – we have to make it work better.

I would argue that it is our collective responsibility to make sure the citizens of Kingston and Ontario get the best value for the money spent.

This applies to health care as much as it does to business, industry and finance.

Having worked in both the public and private sectors myself, I know we have much to learn from each other about what works and what doesn’t.

The word transformation is used a lot these days – probably too much – but it does capture the spirit of big change.

And big change doesn’t just happen – we all know from experience and from research, that the new ideas we are counting on to drive transformation will need landing gear, as well as wings.

Support and resources are critical for our future success.

So is a shared commitment to grow Ontario’s economy. Here is why.

Our world has changed. Ontario’s economy is now a services economy. Our competitiveness is a function of leveraging and exploiting knowledge in everything we do.

To be competitive, we need to be more productive. To be more productive, we need to increase our capacity for innovation.

This starts with increasing research and development investment in both the private and public sectors.

And translating the innovation we produce into viable solutions to improve quality of life and meet market demand.

Tackling Ontario’s innovation challenge is not the responsibility of any one entity or sector. We’re all in this together.

Consider this: In 2011, Canada ranked 11th out of 41 OECD economies in R&D investment in higher education— down from 4th in 2008 and 3rd in 2006.

The federal Science, Technology and Innovation Council recently acknowledged that, “with their significant investments in research and higher education, other countries are catching up and overtaking Canada.”

So how DO we get the economic and health outcomes we need? And where do research hospitals fit in?

Let’s look to industry: Leading international companies in the health care and IT sectors for example, recognize the value of investing in R&D to drive innovation.

Companies like Pfizer, Merck, Yahoo and Intel invest in the range of 8 to 20% of annual sales in R&D year over year.

A sustained commitment to research. How can we apply that lesson to a health care system in need of transformation?

I’d say we are off to a good start.

Ontario’s Excellent Care for All Act enshrined a commitment to quality into legislation – and recognizes that quality of care needs to be supported by the best evidence.

Well, evidence comes from research.

And the key to any successful and productive research enterprise is talent — the scientists and their teams, working in universities and research hospitals in partnership with industry, government and others.

Talent moves where it can flourish; where it is embraced and supported.

We need to invest in making Kingston and Ontario as a whole the place where the brightest minds want to do their research

If we’re going to promote investment, we need to show how that investment is going to deliver real, measurable results.

So here’s our value proposition: Health Research is an investment that benefits each and every one us of in three ways.

First, research makes us healthier by improving quality of care and bringing productivity improvements into our health care system.

Second, research makes us wealthier by introducing breakthroughs and innovations that save money and benefit patients. Research also makes us wealthier by creating new jobs for Ontarians.

And finally, research makes us smarter by positioning Ontario as a magnet for attracting and retaining the brightest minds from here and around the world.

Let me elaborate on a couple of the made-in-Kingston possibilities that highlight this value proposition.

Example 1:

Dr. Jeremy Squire, Research Chair of Molecular Pathology at KGH, and his colleagues have developed a new prostate cancer laboratory test to improve the level of accuracy in distinguishing aggressive prostate cancers from those that are less so. This could reduce unnecessary prostate cancer surgeries for patients, and reduce costs to the healthcare system. Dr. Squire believes that by tailoring treatment options to the type of tumour, we are beginning to see personalized medicine at its best.

Example 2:

Researchers at the Queen’s – KGH Human Mobility Research Centre, in partnership with local company, Octane Medical, have developed tissue engineering technology that allows them to grow replacement ligaments, soft tissue and vascular cells. This novel approach could help restore and sustain quality of life for patients with a variety of mobility challenges from arthritis, to joint injuries as well as patients with soft tissue damage from trauma, burns, birth defects or surgery.

Example 3:

Dr. Elaine Petrof with the Queen’s – KGH Gastrointestinal Diseases Research Unit, and her colleagues from Western University and Guelph University has developed a new approach to treating drug-resistant C. difficile. They are using a synthetic stool transplant. Based on the results of two trials at KGH, Dr. Petrof believes the “Re-POOP-ulate” therapy has widespread implications as a cure for this stubborn “super-bug.”

These are incredible local examples with world-wide impact – but be assured, they just scratch the surface of how our region’s health research enterprise is changing lives.

My job as the CEO of a research hospital is to cultivate an environment that breeds excellence and allows for innovation to flourish.

I also need to bring people together so that ideas get translated into action in a way that benefits patients.

That’s why we’re building a new Centre for Patient-Oriented Research at KGH. Another partnership among Queen’s University, Hotel Dieu Hospital and Providence Care, the new centre will consolidate clinical research requiring direct patient involvement in a single location that will be a hub of innovation, shared resources and infrastructure for multiple investigators.

When building the health care structures of the future, partnerships are the new power tools.

Now let’s look at a few of the partnerships.

We are working with thousands of patients who participate in research and clinical trials—and if you are one of those individuals: thank you.

You are the true pioneers and your participation helps us find the answers we need. I am excited by what I see happening in the changing landscape of patient oriented research – research that is not simply done FOR patients, but WITH patients

This means engaging those affected by the research more deeply in asking the right questions, and designing the studies.

Partnering with patients and changing the traditional research paradigms is the new way forward, and Ontario research hospitals are taking the lead.

CAHO’s program “Adopting Research to Improve Care,” called ARTIC, is a perfect example of this collaboration and leadership.

CAHO hospitals are working together to make sure that when one of us discovers a new way to provide better care for our patients, we all use that knowledge.

We are taking the latest evidence from health care research and accelerating the spread and use of that knowledge where it counts – on the front line.

For example, we are:

… enabling better transitions in care for our surgical patients within the hospital;

… bridging gaps between the hospital and community for people with long-term mental health issues.

.. Using research discoveries to tackle antibiotic resistance and lower hospital acquired infection rates like C-difficle ….

… And research has taught us to challenge the popular perception that “rest is best” and instead we are raising the level of mobility of elderly seniors in hospital …

CAHO hospitals have also joined together to help secure federal and provincial investment and support for an “evidence implementation laboratory” for Ontario …

.. a model that will make us greater than the sum of our parts.

We are also partnering with business and industry. 15 per cent of the R&D revenue collected by Ontario’s research hospitals comes from private industry.

Here in Kingston, 85 to 90 per cent of private sector revenue at Queen’s and our local hospitals is health-related.

Our health research enterprise attracts foreign investment to Ontario and, relative to other sectors at home. We punch well above our weight.

Our partnerships with industry are accelerating the implementation and commercial potential of viable health research.

Kingston-based Octane Medical, I mentioned them earlier, has developed a novel spinal fusion device that stimulates natural bone growth using technology developed in the Queen’s department of chemical engineering and tested in the Queen’s – KGH Human Mobility Research Centre.

The device could be implanted in patients with spinal disease or injury as an alternative to traditional spinal fusion procedures that can require bone grafting or transplants.

Octane Medical currently employs 18 people. It has licensed its technology to the global medical device company Medtronic and hopes to capture a share of a 6.5 billion dollar market for spinal fusion surgery.

Health research is now a major part of the new economy of many of our communities. Partnerships with industry and government have made this happen.

Research is an investment in the future that demonstrates a real and measurable return.

Let’s look at the facts and what they tell us about what we’ve already accomplished:

Almost half of Canada’s top research hospitals are in Ontario, and together, they invested $1.2 billion dollars in health research in Ontario in 2011.
Our research hospitals are home to 15,000 researchers and research staff.
Those are good, high paying jobs for people in Kingston and right across the province.
And here’s the big impact: CAHO estimates that $1.2 billion dollars invested in health R&D generates over $3.2 billion dollars in Ontario’s economy.
This means jobs—from highly skilled research talent, to the entrepreneurs that supply the inputs for research, to the businesses that provide the goods and services that benefit thousands of people.

Investment in health research is multifaceted and benefits many spheres: patient and population health, the health care system, jobs and the economy.

It is as much about generating new business as it about enabling productivity in our health care system.

We have some of the best clinical and scientific talent in the world right here, right now, in Ontario.

They are the reason others want to come to our province: Our people are catalysts for investment, and they are counting on us to ensure that future investments happen.

To borrow from my friends here at the Chamber, it is about our economy emerging stronger, more resilient and dynamic.

It’s about our health care system becoming more innovative and responsive, providing the best care for our patients.

It’s about being more competitive and prosperous.

The facts are clear: Investment in health care research delivers results that matter to the people of Ontario, and beyond.

Continued success depends on all of us.

We need to work together to deliver an end to end health research and innovation strategy– from molecule, to medicine to market.

It will take time, and courage.

The most recent Ontario Throne Speech speaks to the goal of building “the strongest and most innovative health care system in the world…”

Achieving this goal is possible if we fire up our shared ambition to make it happen.

Collaboration will fuel our capacity to innovate and it will drive our new collective, competitive advantage.

As Chair of CAHO, I can assure you that our members are ready, willing and able to help bring this collaboration imperative to life. Kingston hospitals are actively working to make this happen with a new model for integrated research enterprises.

So what is your role? Where do you fit in this new collaborative research enterprise? As you may expect, I have some ideas!

To those of you in business, finance and industry – I am asking you to stay informed and stay connected. You can do this through the web, through KGH Connect and CAHO.

We need you to bring your skills, ideas, and continued investment to the table so that together we can help build the strongest and most innovative health care system in the world

… from research to innovation to implementation to commercialization.

This is good for Kingston and Ontario and it’s good for making businesses stronger in the province.

To my colleagues in the education sector, I am asking you to continue forging connections among our many teams of researchers, clinicians and patients, locally, provincially, nationally and globally. We are working together to build new integrated research enterprises and we look forward to sharing more with you soon.

We need you to lead in ways that break down silos and create new partnerships.

Most importantly, we need you all to nurture cultures of curiosity and passion that will take innovation and research to new heights.

This in turn will help make health, and health care, better for everyone in Ontario.

From government, we are asking for continued support of the research and innovation agenda, along with targeted public investment.

Thanks to the province’s foresight and past financial support, we are on the right path – but we simply can’t stop or slow down now.

We need you to seed this collaboration with an eye to both the short and the long term.

We need you to aim high with all of us to bring to life our shared vision of having the strongest and most innovative health care system in the world.

The result?

A healthier, wealthier and smarter Ontario. That is our new bottom line.

So in closing, imagine once again – the future.

A world where Ontario’s track record of investment through partnerships in R&D is viewed with envy and admiration.
A world where the best and the brightest know Kingston is the place to do research and grow their research career
A world where people in Kingston and Ontario are healthier … and more prosperous … than anywhere else.

This is a future that is within our reach.

A future we can, and will make true – together.

Thank you.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 at 12:04 pm and is filed under Publisher's Page.