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  • Released September 17, 2014

    The University of Toronto (U of T) and The Scarborough Hospital (TSH) are embarking on a new partnership that will provide new answers for the 74% of Canadians who are using some form of complementary and alternative medicine, including traditional Chinese medicine. Called the Centre for Integrative Medicine (CIM), it will bring together researchers from U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy and Faculty of Medicine alongside health care professionals at TSH to provide evidence-driven practices. Together, U of T and TSH will create a living laboratory that will allow us to study ways to safely and effectively integrate evidence-informed complementary therapies and traditional Chinese medicine with conventional medical care.

    Led by Professor Lynda Balneaves, the Centre’s inaugural director, CIM will focus on research, as well as outreach to both patients and health care professionals to help them make evidence-informed decisions about the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

    “A vast majority of Canadians are using some type of CAM. This includes different practices and products, including natural health products, massage, meditation and acupuncture, to name just a few. And many are doing so without consulting a health care professional,” explained Balneaves, who is also the KY and Betty Ho Chair in Integrative Medicine at U of T. “The Centre’s role will be to explore how Canadians are using these therapies, how these therapies interact with other care they are receiving and to communicate our knowledge to ensure they are used safely and effectively.”

    The Centre will take an interprofessional approach, bringing together scientists, physicians, pharmacists, nurses, CAM practitioners and others who work in the health care field. U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy and Faculty of Medicine will be actively engaged in the scientific research that will ground the Centre’s evidence-based approach.

    “Because an overwhelming number of Canadians are using complementary and alternative medicines, it is critical that we understand how these products and therapies work and how they interact with conventional care practices and medications,” said Professor Heather Boon, Dean of the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. “By undertaking a rigorous scientific evaluation of these therapies, we will be in a better position to understand what works – and what doesn’t – and provide the evidence necessary to guide their proper use to a patient base that is eager to utilize these products.”

    A Clinical Hub will be established at TSH’s Birchmount campus that will help patients manage their day-to-day health with an emphasis on disease prevention, health promotion and chronic disease management for conditions such as diabetes.

    “The establishment of this Centre at our Birchmount campus is in keeping with The Scarborough Hospital’s commitment to serving our diverse community. It also fulfills our mission of providing an outstanding care experience that meets the unique needs of each and every patient and our vision of being recognized as Canada’s leader in providing the best health care for a global community,” said Robert Biron, President and Chief Executive Officer of TSH.

    A fundraising campaign will soon be launched to support the Centre and its development.

    “Already, this Centre has attracted considerable interest from our extended community who recognize the important contribution it can make to improving our system of care here at home and around the world. Thanks to the generosity of KY and Betty Ho, we have been able to establish a chair in this important field. But with further support, we can establish a Centre that the Scarborough community deserves and that is representative of the world-class research for which U of T is known,” said Catharine Whiteside, Dean of Medicine and Vice Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions.

    Phase one of the Centre’s development, which is already underway, is focused on consulting the local community to ensure CIM serves the needs of this area. It will also establish the strong foundations needed for effective clinical care and research. By spring 2015, the Centre will launch a series of pilot projects that we meet the needs of the TSH community and be ready to announce its long-term plans.

    There will be an official launch of the Centre at an event in October. The details are:

    Date: Friday, October 17, 2014

    Time: 9:30 – 11:00 a.m.; remarks at 10:00 a.m.

    Location: Colonel Irene Stickland Centre, Birchmount Campus, The Scarborough Hospital 3030 Birchmount Road, Toronto M1W 3W3

    The event is open to media, but prior registration is required.

    To register, please contact Krista Luxton, Communications Officer, The Scarborough Hospital. Tel: 416-438-2911. Ext. 8090; Email: kluxton@tsh.to.

     

    Backgrounder: Centre for Integrative Medicine (CIM)

    Canadians are using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) — including traditional Chinese medicine — in overwhelming numbers. A 2006 report by the Fraser Foundation found that 74% of Canadians had used at least one complementary therapy at some point in their lives. That is, nearly three-quarters of the population regularly incorporate complementary therapies into their health practices, often without a discussion with a healthcare professional. But how do complementary therapies work? How do they interact with conventional medications?

    The Centre for Integrative Medicine is being established to answer these questions.

    A partnership between the University of Toronto (U of T) and The Scarborough Hospital (TSH), the Centre will harness the considerable scientific and clinical expertise of these two institutions to evaluate CAM and its integration with conventional medicine. It will bring together researchers from U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy and Faculty of Medicine alongside health care professionals at TSH to provide evidence-based practices to ensure you can make informed choices about the safe and effective use of CAM therapies as part of your health care. These therapies include many different practices and products such as natural health products, massage, meditation, and acupuncture, to name just a few.

    Delivering needed answers

    The Centre has three goals:

    • To conduct research to enable individuals to make evidence-informed decisions about the safe and effective use of CAM as part of their care. This will include basic science research to better understand how natural health products affect wellbeing, as well as clinical research to know how patients are using CAM and its impact on health.
    • To identify evidence-informed practices that improve the planning, delivery, outcomes and cost-effectiveness of health care across diverse patient populations.
    • To educate health professionals and patients about CAM.

    The Centre will take an interprofessional approach, bringing together many health professionals including nurses, physicians, pharmacists, CAM practitioners and others who work in the health care field. The Centre will include researchers from multiple disciplines including pharmacology and toxicology, biochemistry, population health, health economics and more. This will ensure that the knowledge gained at a bench in a laboratory is put into action at the bedside. It will also ensure that the lessons learned from how patients currently use CAM inform future research. The Centre will deliver the answers you seek for your day-to-day health with an emphasis on disease prevention, health promotion and chronic disease management for conditions such as diabetes.

    The Scarborough Hospital

    Situated in one of the most diverse communities in Canada, Scarborough’s multicultural community, and in particular, its large Asian community, turn to TSH for both acute and chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular and renal disease. TSH is a regional centre for dialysis and is renowned for its chronic disease prevention and management, mental health, orthopaedic surgery, maternal newborn and paediatrics and cancer care programs. It is a natural home for the Centre’s clinical program, which will be based at TSH’s Birchmount campus. This location will serve as a hub to administer and coordinate interdisciplinary programs in research, education and direct clinical care services related to CAM. Working collaboratively with the hospital’s primary care network and community agencies, special projects will be implemented in clinical settings and will be focused on the blending of evidenced-informed CAM and Western Medicine.

    University of Toronto

    U of T is consistently ranked among the best public universities in the world and has an international reputation for excellence in health research. At the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, researchers investigate questions relevant to modern drug therapy, including the role of pharmacists in the health care system, the mechanism of action of novel compounds, drug discovery and delivery, and countless others. The results of this research have a profound impact in drug therapy on both the molecular level and on entire populations. The Faculty of Medicine strives for international leadership in improving health through innovation in research and education. Driven by its mission of social responsibility, the Faculty works to improve the health of individuals and populations through the discovery, application and communication of knowledge. Together, these faculties will be the research engine powering the Centre.

    Experienced leadership

    Leading this new Centre is Professor Lynda Balneaves, a talented and award-winning researcher who has been investigating complementary and alternative medicine for 20 years. Since 2008, she has led a University of British Columbia-BC Cancer Agency initiative called the Complementary Medicine Education and Outcomes Research Program (CAMEO), which provides evidence-informed education and decision support for cancer patients and cancer health professionals. Lynda has been a co-investigator on several clinical trials examining CAM therapies and she has been a member of the National Cancer Institute of Canada’s Clinical Trials Group since 2008. She is superbly qualified to lead this Centre and will ensure the research conducted by its team is translated into results that benefit patients, health care professionals, and the Canadian health care system.

    Making connections

    Phase one of the Centre’s development, which is already underway, is focused on consulting the local community and key stakeholders to ensure CIM serves the needs of this area. It will also establish the strong foundation needed for effective clinical care and research. By spring 2015, the Centre will launch a series of pilot projects that will meet the needs of the Scarborough community and be ready to announce its long-term plans.

    As this new Centre develops, strategic partnerships are being established that will maximize its impact and reach. If you’re interested in engaging with the Centre, please contact:

    Maurine Kwok
    Project Manager, Centre for Integrative Medicine
    Telephone: 416 978-8561
    Email: maurine.kwok@utoronto.ca

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