Dr. Sara Shearkhani

#IamMGHresearch – Meet Dr. Sara Shearkhani

#IamMGHresearch tells the stories of our researchers. Meet Dr. Sara Shearkhani, Evaluation Scientist at Michael Garron Hospital (MGH).

“I started my journey at Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) in 2020 after graduating from the University of Toronto with a PhD in Health Services Outcomes and Evaluation. I wanted to apply the skills and knowledge I gained in my undergraduate economics degree and doctoral degree in health services evaluation to conduct research that focuses on improving the care system at MGH.

My lived experiences as a caregiver have played an important role in shaping my career journey. My experiences made me want to give back and help improve the healthcare system for patients, communities and care teams.

As an Evaluation Scientist, I work to build a learning health system within MGH and the hospital’s Ontario Health Team (OHT), East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP). As a member organization of ETHP, MGH works with more than 100 other care providers – in sectors such as community care, home care and long-term care – to develop integrated programs and services that aim to improve the health of our East Toronto communities.

In a learning health system, researchers like myself work to ensure that healthcare is continuously improving by learning from the experiences that patients and providers have within the healthcare system. We use data, technology and evaluations to continuously identify areas for improvement in patient care and to make evidence-informed decisions that help make healthcare delivery better for our patients, care teams and communities.  

To achieve this goal, part of my role is building internal evaluation capacity. This means I collaborate with different teams who are developing programs and services at MGH or across ETHP to ensure they are able to measure the process and progress of their efforts, to showcase their success and identify areas for improvement, and to measure their efforts and impact.

One of the projects I am really proud to be working on at MGH is evaluating our winter surge initiatives. ‘Winter surge’ is the period of time during fall and winter when our healthcare system typically sees increased demand for care because of flu season, injuries due to snow or ice, and other incidences. During this period, MGH works with other member organizations of ETHP to develop seasonal programs and services that help people get the care they need closer to home. This helps to build capacity across the care system and divert volumes from hospital emergency departments where possible.

I am currently working on several other research projects at MGH, most of which involve improving health equity in East Toronto. This is work I am very passionate about.

I enjoy being a part of a dynamic health team that is driven by providing the best care possible to our patients and community because research is truly a collaborative effort! I appreciate how, at MGH, we make it a priority to work closely with patients, caregivers, community members and community partners to conduct research. Patients’ voices are powerful and I strongly believe that their lived experiences are invaluable sources of information that are critical to helping both our hospital and the community we are nestled in. One key lesson I’ve learned from working with patients and community is to be humble. Their experiences and expertise are vital to my work and what I do.

Outside of work, I love playing pickleball. I am the Vice President of the York Region Pickleball Club, a non-profit organization that uses sports practices to improve population health and encourage healthier communities. Evidently, helping to improve the health and well-being of local residents is something I am passionate about in all areas of my life!”

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