Transforming care through research

As the new Clinical Trials Manager, it didn't take long for Munaza Jamil to realize the wealth of opportunity in research at North York General Hospital (NYGH). “There's a real spirit of inquiry here,” she says. “People feel very strongly about enhancing patient- and family-centred care. Integrating clinical trials into the hospital is one way we will achieve this goal.”

Munaza Jamil, Clinical Trials Manager, North York General Hospital
Munaza Jamil, Clinical Trials Manager, North York General Hospital

A clinical trial (also called a study) is a test of a drug, therapy, surgical procedure, medical device, or of nutrition or behavioral changes in people. The purpose is to gather information to confirm that the drug or therapy is safe and effective for people as well as to provide a new option of treatment for patients.

Currently, North York General has about a dozen active clinical trials or research projects in different areas, including Oncology and Genetics, that have gone through the vigorous vetting of the hospital's Research Ethics Board as well as many other internationally accepted good clinical practice requirements (for more information please read “Who ensures the trial is safe?”).

The focus now, according to Munaza, is to grow the hospital's participation in clinical trials. “The more clinical trials available, the more treatment options available to our patients,” she says. “I call it patient-centred research. It's all part of our commitment to providing the best patient- and family-centred care.”

One example of a new clinical trial at North York General involves gastrointestinal surgery. Studies show that patients commonly feel nauseated and otherwise uncomfortable immediately after surgery, which could prolong hospital treatment. Researchers in this study propose that parts of the gut can be stimulated prior to surgery, as a way of preparing the intestine for content to be passing through it again. Doing this may help decrease the rates of infection and reduce other discomfort faster in patients after surgery and reduce the length of their hospital stay.

Another example is North York General's participation in Enroll-HD, a worldwide observational study for Huntington Disease (HD) that monitors how the disease appears and changes over time. One of the leading authorities on HD in Canada, NYGH's Genetics Department is one of the top worldwide enrollers for Enroll-HD in 2015.

North York General Hospital's Genetics Department is one of the leading authorities on Huntington Disease in Canada.

Research site of choice

Munaza says that North York General is quickly becoming a research site of choice. “We know that the majority of Canadians who receive care in a hospital, receive it in a community hospital setting such as North York General,” she says. “We're uniquely positioned to study and improve the delivery of care and treatment options for a large segment of the population.”

As clinical trials gain momentum at the hospital, Munaza advises patients interested in participating to consult with their physician. Not every area has a clinical trial and not every patient is eligible for one, due to strict criteria.“We put patients first in everything we do at North York General and this includes clinical trials,” Munaza says. “People want to be part of a study or a trial for a multitude of reasons; others don't. It's a personal choice that is always respected. Ultimately, clinical trials are just another way we provide exceptional health care to our diverse communities.

Expanding our clinical trials base is part of North York General overall strategy of transforming care through applied research and innovation. Please visit Clinical Trials for more information.

This article first appeared in the November 2016 issue of The Pulse.

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