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MGH researchers are undertaking important community-based COVID-19 research thanks to TD Bank Group
As part of Michael Garron Hospital’s (MGH) response to the COVID-19 pandemic, several MGH clinicians and researchers are taking part in vital COVID-19 research thanks to a generous grant from TD Bank Group through the TD Ready Commitment.
The research – which spans across various topics such as treatment and medication options, impact of school-based testing, patient outcomes depending on provider workloads and barriers to accessing specialty care during the pandemic – is all community-based and aims to positively impact the very patients MGH serves.
“This research has accelerated our response to the pandemic by helping us discover new knowledge, contribute to international studies about COVID-19 and use novel therapies that would not have been accessible otherwise,” says Dr. Jeff Powis, medical director, Research and Innovation at MGH. “It’s because of work like this that we’ll be able to be COVID-19 leaders nationally.”
The funding for this research comes from the TD Community Health Solutions Fund, which was originally given to MGH to fund up to 20 research grants over an eight-year period that would pursue solutions for the community’s most pressing health concerns. In May 2020, when it became clear that the pandemic would require dedicated attention, MGH’s Department of Research and Innovation worked with the Michael Garron Hospital Foundation and TD to redesignate the 2020 funds to support COVID-specific community research. This was done once again in 2021, in order to fund another five COVID-related studies.
“The TD Community Health Solutions Fund helped us quickly pivot our research strategy and enable locally-driven COVID-19 research that directly impacts our community. It has also allowed us to participate in multi-site studies that include several of our partner hospitals,” says Laurie Bourne, director, Operational Excellence at MGH. “We are grateful for TD’s ongoing support of our program and for their adaptability in response to the pandemic.”
After hosting a grant competition in June 2020, the Research and Innovation Committee selected five projects to proceed with the funding. A second round of funding was completed in 2021 with an additional five successful submissions. The 10 projects are as follows:
1. Interferon Lambda for Immediate Antiviral therapy at Diagnosis (ILIAD): A phase II randomized, open-label, multicenter, trial to evaluate the effect of peginterferon lambda for the treatment of COVID-19
MGH Researchers: Dr. Chris Kandel, Dr. Jeff Powis and Dr. Janine McCready
Research Partner: Dr. Jordan Feld, University Health Network
Description: Interferons are a type of signaling protein that are a part of the human body’s first response to a viral infection. Early studies show that the virus that causes COVID-19 (called SARS-CoV-2) is able to block these interferons and thus get around the body’s immune system. This study will evaluate interferons as a treatment option for individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 to understand if administering them can restore part of the body’s normal defense against viral infections.
2. Coagulopathy of COVID-19: A Pragmatic Randomized Controlled Trial of Therapeutic Anticoagulation versus Standard Care as a Rapid Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic (RAPID COVID COAG - The RAPID Trial)
MGH Researchers: Dr. Roseann Andreou and Dr. Chris Kandel
Research Partners: Dr. Michelle Sholzberg and Dr. Peter Jüni, St. Michael’s Hospital
Description: This international randomized control trial looks at Heparin, an inexpensive blood thinner, to determine if a high dose versus a low dose can improve health outcomes of patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19.
3. Hospital care organization and outcomes in patients with and without COVID-19
MGH Researchers: Dr. Chris Smith and Dr. Chris Kandel
Research Partners: Dr. Amol Verma and Dr. Fahad Razak, St. Michael’s Hospital
Description: This study explores the relationship between physician workload and hospitalized patient outcomes which may impact hospital level performance and patient health outcomes. The findings will be used to inform physician workload strategies moving forward in order to optimize patient outcomes.
4. Primary and Community Care Hubs in response to COVID-19 – Outreach to vulnerable populations and seniors in East Toronto
MGH Researchers: Greg Stevens, Dr. Deanna Telner, Dr. Catherine Yu, Dr. Stephanie Godard, Dr. Tia Pham and Dr. Blaise Clarkson
Description: This study aims to improve access to care and health outcomes among vulnerable individuals in the community (East Toronto). This study will target 16 patients per week who are seen in Care Hubs (a partnership between primary, home and community care that unifies East Toronto providers). These individuals receive a heightened level of multidisciplinary discussion among providers and community organizations and more integrated and seamless care.
5. System Sector Impact of COVID-19 on Access to Withdrawal Management Services for People Experiencing Substance Use: Lessons Learned & Ways Forward
MGH Researcher: Dr. Rosanna Yoon
Research Partner: Kate Manson, South Riverdale Community Health Centre
Description: The goal of this study is to understand barriers to accessing withdrawal management services during the pandemic, which will improve access to care for individuals experiencing substance use and lead to system changes that may improve health outcomes in the population.
6. Co-Design and Mixed Method Acceptability Evaluation of a Bundled Communication Intervention for use in the Adult ICU with Infection Control Procedures
MGH Researcher: Laura Istanboulian and Dr. Louise Rose
Research Partners: Dr. Craig Dale and Dr. Yana Yunusoval, University of Toronto
Description: This study aims to produce a bundled ICU patient communication intervention designed by patients, family members, staff and researchers that can be used in the adult ICU for COVID-19 infection control conditions (such as the use of PPE, isolating patients and visitor restrictions).
7. Asymptomatic Testing for COVID-19 in East Toronto Schools
MGH Researchers: Dr. Janine McCready and Dr. Chris Kandel
Description: This study will integrate asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 into the daily routine of 13 schools in several East Toronto communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. By providing this integrated, low-barrier, equitable asymptomatic testing, the study team will aim to provide regular test results to help inform the actions of local school communities and public health units.
8. Virtual COVID-19 Recovery Pathway (VICORPA)
MGH Researchers: Dr. Ian Fraser, Dr. Chris Smith, Andrea Scrivener and Laura Istanboulian
Research Partners: Courtney Bean and Dr. Sandra McKay, VHA Home Healthcare
Description: Individuals who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 often suffer from weak muscles, tiredness, anxiety and shortness of breath. However, rehabilitation is not easily accessible for many vulnerable populations in East Toronto. This study will assess the effectiveness of an 8-week virtual rehabilitation option for COVID-19 patients who have been discharged home and will see if the program helps accelerate patient recovery to a post-illness state and if it reduces the need for further doctors and/or hospital visits.
9. Measuring the Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic Care on Credentialed Clinician Wellness at an Urban Community Teaching Hospital
MGH Researchers: Dr. John Abrahamson, Christine Devine and Dr. Daniel Cornejo Palma
Description: Clinician wellness has been identified by professional medical organizations as a quality and safety issue that impacts the patient experience and systems of care delivery. Prior to the pandemic, more than 50 per cent of clinicians were experiencing some symptoms linked to physician burnout. This study will compare the impact of COVID-19 on the personal lives of clinicians resulting in disengagement, exhaustion, cynicism and lack of compassion, to the negative impact on wellness attributed to administration and broader system issues. It will also identify the areas of wellness most impacted by COVID-19 to help direct future wellness initiatives
10. East Toronto Urban Training Pandemic Recovery Project (EastTrain)
MGH Researchers: Dr. Rebecca Fine, Dr. Ian Fraser and Dr. Kevin Workentin
Description: The pandemic has worsened the health of patients with chronic illness who have not been infected with COVID-19. Over the last year, many people have gained weight and reduced their daily amount of exercise, which can worsen their chronic illnesses and their mental health and require more visits to a doctor. In partnership with patients and community partner organizations, this study aims to determine the need for a community-based exercise program and to explore potential barriers to implementing programming in four high-risk neighbourhoods in East Toronto.