What is an Academic Health Sciences Centre/Network?

We are! And the exciting research done by our own Dr. Mike Kelly and its recent publication in The New England Journal of Medicine is proof.

The College of Medicine – together with the Saskatoon Health Region, the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region and each Regional Health Authority in the province – create an Academic Health Sciences Network.

A very dated concept is the idea of medical school and a small group of core faculty members partnered with a single “teaching” or “University” hospital.

A national task force of universities and health care organizations has described this evolution:

Evolution to Academic Health Sciences Networks (AHSNs): With the emergence of new health care organizations with broad regional responsibilities for health as well as health care combined with emerging trends in academic medicine such as distributed medical education, eLearning, and collaborative inter-professional models of care across a broader range of organizations and institutions, the National Task Force embraced the new model of the Academic Health Sciences Network (AHSN), for which it developed the following definition: “a set of formal partnerships created by health sciences universities, academic healthcare organizations and other provider organizations with the goal of improving patient and population health outcomes through mechanisms and structures that develop, implement and advance integrated health services delivery, professional education, and research and innovation. At the core of this network is the AHSC, working closely with other academic healthcare organizations who focus, in whole or in part, on the care-teaching-research mandate.”

What do they do?

AHSCs deliver three related missions: (1) providing Canadians with timely access to advanced patient care services; (2) training the next generation of health care professionals; and (3) conducting leading-edge research and making it available to clinicians, administrators, policy makers and the public. It is the integration of patient care, education and research that uniquely defines the AHSC mission and differentiates it from other organizations in the health system that focus predominantly or exclusively on the provision of health and health care services. Each mission serves to reinforce the other two, with the objective of providing Canadians with access to world-class patient care, well-trained health care professionals, and state-of-the-art research

Dr. Mike Kelly, MD, PhD, is from Saskatchewan and a CoM graduate from 1999 who also did his Neurosurgery residency here in Saskatoon.  Very importantly, the RUH Foundation contributed to Dr. Kelly’s extra and specialized neurosurgical resident and fellowship training.  At Cleveland Clinic and Stanford University, Dr. Kelly learned endovascular surgical techniques for repairing CNS clots and aneurysms.  Upon return to Saskatoon in 2008 to the Division of Neurosurgery,  Dr. Kelly finished his PhD in 2010 from thesis work entitled “Using synchrotron imaging techniques to solve problems in neurosurgery” that he had started earlier during his residency program.

In 2012 he began work as the Saskatchewan Clinical Stroke Research Chair at the College of Medicine, with a research program supported by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.  The Saskatchewan Clinical Stroke Research Chair allowed for the implementation of dedicated stroke research infrastructure that previously did not exist.

The research that resulted in publication in the NEJM proved that endovascular treatment for the acute management of stroke is now the gold standard. This was an international study and Saskatoon was one of 11 Canadian centers that participated.  Saskatchewan’s participation in this exciting research would never have happened if the research infrastructure had not already been in place. We were very honoured to have been included as one of the first study sites in Calgary’s ground-breaking study.

This is in itself a remarkable accomplishment for any early career academic, and by all accounts, Dr. Kelly is a remarkable clinician, teacher, researcher and leader.  But Dr. Kelly does more than that – he shows us all what we can accomplish at our Academic Health Sciences Centres here in Saskatchewan.  Because of Dr. Kelly’s specialized expertise, ischemic stroke patients are already receiving endovascular treatment.

I have heard some say we are not an Academic Health Sciences Centre/Network, and that given our clinical burden, we cannot do it all  – and so we should leave the research to others. I say they are wrong.  Dr. Kelly is but one example of many health leadership accomplishments in Saskatchewan.  Those by Dr. Sylvia Fedoruk also come to mind.

For me, the two highlights of this story besides Dr. Kelly’s contribution, are key aspects of an Academic Health Sciences Centre/Network.

First the whole community was part of the process that led up to Dr. Kelly being in a position to do this research.  The University, SHR, RUH Foundation, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan, SHRF, among others.  The second point is that we saw knowledge creation here in Saskatchewan that led directly to application and benefit to the people of Saskatchewan.

This is how it is supposed to work and why we all benefit in growing our Academic Health Sciences Centers and Network.

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