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A culture of discovery

Toronto, November 7, 2016

By Geoff Koehler

It’s Research Month at St. Michael’s Hospital, so there was no better time to host its first Keenan Research Awards.

“These awards recognize those around the centre who perform or support exceptional research and make the Keenan Research Centre such a special place to work,” said Dr. Ori Rotstein, director of the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science and surgeon-in-chief at St. Michael’s. “Culture is vital to the collaborative nature of successful basic and translational research.”

The centre was named in honour of Pat and Barbara Keenan and their family, in recognition of generous contributions to the hospital, particularly to its research enterprise. The basic and translational research program at St. Michael’s also has the honour of carrying the Keenan name.

Dr. Andrew Baker directs a brain injury laboratory in the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science. He was awarded the Keenan Legacy Award, given to a scientist who exemplifies the mission of the centre — generating new knowledge and translating scientific discoveries to improve patient health.

Dr. Baker, who is also chief of the Department of Critical Care and medical director of the Trauma and Neurosurgery Program of St. Michael’s Hospital, leads a highly skilled lab. His studies truly span from bench to bedside. As a member of the iBEST collaboration, Dr. Baker has established several lines of research with Ryerson collaborators. Dr. Baker has also spearheaded an Ontario strategy for collecting, storing and comparing standardized data on patients with concussions — the project will inform critical care, research and quality initiatives across the province.

“Andrew’s research spans biomedical mechanisms underlying head injury to the development of improved concussion care for Ontarians,” said Dr. Arthur Slutsky, vice-president of Research for St. Michael’s. “Dr. Baker’s work exemplifies biomedical and translational research and he has been a superb mentor to the next wave of great scientists.”

Pamela Speight was the first-ever winner of the Keenan Culture of Discovery Award.

“Pam is an amazing research associate, whose superb technical skills, enthusiasm for discovery and outstanding work ethic have helped in a number of original discoveries,” said Dr. Rotstein.

One of her nominators described Speight as “the most skilled experimenter with whom I ever worked.” That same nominator said “I believe that her key contributions make her an extremely strong candidate for recognition through this new prestigious award.”

The Keenan Culture of Discovery Award is for a staff member working regularly or full-time with one or more Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science scientists. Candidates must be committed to the constant strengthening of St. Michael’s Hospital and its Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science, particularly for investing in the future of research by supporting development of staff, students and trainees.

Sahil Gupta is the inaugural winner of The Keenan Research Excellence Award. The award is for a student or trainee studying in the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science who possesses significant potential as a scientist and lives the values of St. Michael’s and the centre.

First author of a provisionally accepted paper, Gupta has co-authored five other publications.

“Beyond his scientific work, Sahil has been a dedicated collaborator and a true champion of the vision of the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science,” said Dr. Roststein.

Last year Gupta organized an educational evening for students that focused on the interface between inner city health and critical illness. The event attracted more than 60 attendees.

“It was a wonderful evening of science and social responsibility that truly fits the spirit of compassion St. Michael’s is known for,” said Dr. Rotstein. “Each of these winners and the nominees for each category were chosen by peers from a large number of phenomenal scientists, trainees and other staff. I couldn’t have picked a stronger, more suitable trio for our inaugural Keenan Research Awards.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.