A UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY Faculty of Medicine Publication
The Alex Community Health Bus helps those in need—and UCalgary medical students are along for the ride
Teaching trauma care to the world
Creating bovine-friendly BSE testing
Size doesn’t matter to these little philanthropists
Vol 1 Issue 2 | Summer 2009
UCalgary Medicine is published three times a year by the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine, providing news and information for and about our faculty, staff, alumni, students, friends and community. For more information contact: Managing Editor Kyle Glennie 403.210.6577 firstname.lastname@example.org Dean Dr. Thomas E. Feasby Senior Associate Deans Dr. Richard Hawkes, Research Dr. Benedikt Hallgrímsson, Education Associate Deans Dr. Ronald Bridges, Clinical Affairs Dr. Anthony Schryvers, Undergraduate Science Education Dr. Bruce Wright, Undergraduate Medical Education Dr. Taj Jadvji, International Health Dr. Doug L. Myhre, Distributed Learning & Rural Initiatives Dr. Joanne M. Todesco, Postgraduate Medical Education Dr. Frans A. van der Hoorn, Graduate Science Education Dr. Jocelyn Lockyer, Continuing Medical Education Dr. Samuel Wiebe (Interim), Health Research Dr. John Reynolds, Research Dr. Janet de Groot, Equity & Teacher-Learner Relations Design and Production Imagine Creative Photography Mark Coffey, Trudie Lee, Bruce Perrault, Rebecca Rowley, Calvin Sun, Julianne Yip
On the cover: The Alex Community Health Bus parked outside the Alyth Lodge
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Contents Volume 1 Issue 2 | Summer 2009
A socially accountable and responsible Faculty | MESSAGE FROM THE DEAN
Teaching trauma care to the world | ALUMNI
“Improving and contributing to our community is a vital task of the Faculty of Medicine, and something that defines our commitment to social accountability and responsibility”
r. John Kortbeek is Chair of Advanced Trauma Life Support for the American College of Surgeons…oh and he’s a D Faculty of Medicine professor and alumnus as well
COVER STORY PG.
Wheeling and healing | SERVICE TO SOCIETY
F aculty of Medicine students are hitching a ride on the Alex Community Health Bus, and they’re pitching in to help those in need
Creating bovine-friendly BSE testing | RESEARCH
UCalgary researchers are making it easier to detect mad-cow disease in cattle; and their testing method does something other mad-cow tests can’t– keep cows alive during the process
Size doesn’t matter | Philanthropy
T hey’re not even 12 years old yet, but for Kiera and Jenna Mabey, trading birthday presents to help those with spinal cord injuries– including their dad–was a no-brainer
Funding the fight, 25 years and counting | Initiatives
Off to a running start | Research
the music? Medical school | Terminus 15 Behind For these four UCalgary med students, after school activities include performing with their popular jazz
Ready. Set. Global citizenship | Education
Bachelor of Health Sciences students at the Faculty of Medicine are taking their research out of the classroom–and into the heart of developing countries
After recently giving almost $3 million to UCalgary Faculty of Medicine, we asked Alberta Cancer Foundation (ACF) CEO Linda Mickelson about her long-term goal for the ACF. Her answer? “To put ourselves out of business”
It was a busy first week for Dr. Subrata Ghosh, the Faculty of Medicine’s new head of Gastroenterology. He unpacked his office, found his bearings, and landed a multi-million dollar Team Grant from the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research
band ‘Arrhymthia’…and studying of course
Message from the Dean
A Socially Accountable and Responsible Faculty All of our past, present and future endeavours at UCalgary Faculty of Medicine centre around one key theme–people. We educate the next great physicians and scientists; we strive to take our own research to new heights, creating innovative treatments for those in need; and perhaps above all we seek to renew and enhance our social accountability as a Faculty. Improving and contributing to our communities is a vital task of any medical faculty, and something that defines social accountability and responsibility. In this issue of UCalgary Medicine, we outline some of the ways we’re already accomplishing this; like the job our medical students are doing on the Alex Community Health Bus, a medical clinic on wheels that offers free services to Calgary’s homeless and working poor (page 6.) Or the contributions to the international community our Bachelor of Health Sciences’ students are making through the Global Health Program, a unique course where students travel to developing countries to improve their global health research skills. Of course, our Faculty members are involved as well. Dr. John Kortbeek, head of our Department of Surgery, is helping teach trauma care around the world through his role as Chair of Advanced Trauma Life Support at the American College of Surgeons (page 5). While these efforts are indeed making a difference, more can be done. The Faculty of Medicine has established a Social Accountability Task Force to examine new ways to not only improve our social accountability and responsibility, but to also establish measurable benchmarks. As you can see, improving people’s lives is paramount to our success–but it’s also a number of special people who have made us a success already. In this issue you’ll find stories that celebrate our students beyond the ways I’ve already mentioned, such as the group of second-year medical students who’ve formed a talented jazz band that have entertained at several large Faculty events, all while juggling their busy schedules (page 15). If it weren’t for our students, the Faculty of Medicine simply would not exist. Going forward, it is crucial that we as a Faculty continue to attract talented leaders to help us achieve our goals, and to educate all of our extraordinary students. This is exemplified by the recent recruitment of Dr. Subrata Ghosh from Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital, as head of the Division of Gastroenterology. He is off to a fast start, having already earned an interdisciplinary team grant from the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (see page 14). All of us at the Faculty of Medicine are committed to the health and well being of our communities, as you will see in this magazine. I hope you enjoy reading about our endeavours and I welcome your feedback.
Tom Feasby, MD Dean, Faculty of Medicine University of Calgary
Saving lives around the world, from Calgary to Calcutta
After receiving the 2009 Trauma Achievement award for meritorious service from the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma, Dr. John Kortbeek continues to do the Faculty of Medicine proud By Kyle Glennie It’s a program that has changed the face of trauma care around the world. Taught in over 50 countries and to more than one million doctors, the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) course has completely revolutionized the way medical professionals treat those who’ve suffered major traumatic injuries. It’s a program considered the standard for trauma care around the world; and leading the way is a University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine alum. Dr. John Kortbeek, head of the Department of Surgery at both the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services, has seen enough traumatic injuries for two lifetimes. For the patients that come into the trauma wards at Calgary’s Foothills and Rockyview Hospitals, that’s a good thing. But as Chair of ATLS for the American College of Surgeons–a post he took up three years ago– Kortbeek has helped save a countless number of lives not just in Alberta, but around the world. Part of his job as Chair is to edit and publish the eighth edition of the ATLS course book, a Bible of sorts for advanced trauma and life support education. The aim of the publication is to form a foundation of care for injured patients by teaching a universal, common approach. Kortbeek and his team created the eighth edition using an international, multi-disciplinary and evidencebased method. “Anyone who wanted to make a change in the content from the last edition had to have evidence
behind their suggestion in order for us to consider it for the eighth edition, and that evidence was reviewed thoroughly,” explains Will Chapleau, ATLS manager for the American College of Surgeons. Aside from incorporating an evidence-based approach to the course book, Kortbeek also wanted to give the book a new design. “In previous editions, the course book didn’t have any colour or any pictures in it. I wanted to freshen it and improve it both visually and educationally,” says Kortbeek. Mission accomplished. The eighth edition was published in full colour in October 2008, and not only does it contain pictures, it also comes with a DVD adding a multimedia component. Kortbeek was also awarded the 2009 Trauma Achievement award for meritorious service from the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma for his work on the ATLS course.
Hospitals. Following that, he became trauma director at the General Hospital, and then held the same position with the Calgary Health Region (now Alberta Health Services). As his term as Chair of ATLS for the American College of Surgeons draws to a close–his four year mandate for the position is almost complete– Kortbeek’s career as an educator will continue.
“His process was so measured and laid out so well that we went from concept to completion incredibly quickly”, says Chapleau. “Without his leadership this eighth edition of the course book would not be what it is today.”
“I love teaching, especially working with students. They’re always enthusiastic to learn new things and they challenge me as well. I know I’m doing something great for the future of medicine by training these bright young minds. It’s very rewarding.”
Before he set out to shape international trauma standards, Kortbeek was busy shaping the trauma programs at two Calgary hospitals. After splitting his general surgery residency between UCalgary and Birmingham, Alabama, Kortbeek returned to the Faculty of Medicine to do his postgraduate work in clinical care at the General and Foothills
If there’s anyone who deserves to feel that way it’s Kortbeek. His efforts are rewarding for so many others, from the students to the medical professionals around the world who he’s helped educate. But most of all, they’re rewarding for all the people whose lives have been saved by one of the Faculty of Medicine’s best.
Minutes from Death
“That first week in the hospital I was in and out of consciousness. They told me they had to go in a few times and remove sections of my small intestine because it wasn’t healing properly,” Mapletoft explains.
For one Calgary man, crossing paths with Dr. John Kortbeek was not just a life altering moment, it was life saving “They told me I was about 10 minutes away from dying, I had so much blood loss,” says Shayne Mapletoft. It was just over nine years ago that a brutal car accident left him with a broken back and serious internal injuries, forcing doctors to remove 90% of his small intestine. When Mapletoft arrived at the Foothills Hospital following the accident, Kortbeek and the rest of the medical team immediately went to work on those internal injuries. During his first week in the intensive care unit, Mapletoft underwent seven surgeries to repair the extensive damage to his small intestine. Shayne Mapletoft suffered a broken back and had 90% of his small intestine removed
Dr. John Kortbeek in the Foothills Hospital trauma ward
After all of the initial surgeries–including having his spine fused because of his broken back–Mapletoft spent the next six months at home recovering before returning to the Foothills Hospital for another surgery, this time to reattach his large intestine to the remaining four feet of his small intestine. Even though his back has recovered enough that he can do almost everything he could before the accident–even play hockey and golf–it’s the internal injuries that still hamper Mapletoft to this day. “It’s a daily struggle to digest food. I’m on a lot of medication to help with my digestive problems and there are lots of foods I can’t eat. But I’m still alive and that’s all thanks to Dr. Kortbeek and the rest of the staff. What he did was amazing.” medicine.ucalgary.ca
Service to Society
WHEELING and HEALING The Alex Community Health Bus helps those in need–and UCalgary medical students are along for the ride By Kyle Glennie
It’s 5:50pm when I arrive at the Alyth Lodge. The large, red brick building used to be known as the Ogden Hotel and was built to the same specifications as the upscale Palliser Hotel in downtown Calgary. Those glory days are behind the Alyth, which for a long time was considered a drug haven and a blemish in the community. But since 2007, when the Victory Foundation bought the place and gave it a much needed facelift, the building’s reputation has improved–as have the lives and health of its tenants. At 5:55pm, those same tenants are offered an incredible opportunity to improve their health in ways that would never be possible for many of them. That’s when the Alex Community Health Bus parked in front of the Alyth, lowered its jacks, and prepared to open its doors. “The bus is great, it’s really handy and one of the pluses of the Victory Foundation owning the building,” says David, a resident of the Alyth Lodge. “They really encourage you to take advantage of the free service.” It’s a free service that not only helps the homeless and working poor, but also UCalgary medical students. Both first and second-year students volunteer on the bus and receive invaluable hands-on training. “Being in my second year of med school, I haven’t gone into hospitals that much yet,” says UCalgary student Amy Rosborough, who’s training on the bus this night. “Basically it’s a great opportunity to gain some exposure and apply my knowledge of medicine.” Both the patients and students are in good hands. Bev Strauss is the bus driver, a licensed practical nurse, and one of the funniest people I’ve ever met all rolled into one. Sue Nielsen is a nurse practitioner, and on this night she’s taken Amy under her wing. Right at 6:00pm the bus opens its doors to a few people already waiting outside. Within minutes the line has stretched to seven people. Tom is the first to be seen by Sue and Amy. He has a large abscess on his lower left jaw and looks relieved to finally have someone look at it. While most of those who use the Alex Health Bus are homeless, many patients are employed but struggle to obtain health care services. As Sue begins to look over Tom, Amy takes his blood pressure and notices it’s a little high. “It was fine when I came in here, you must do that to a lot of guys!” Tom jokes. It’s this type of humour that continues as Sue and Amy continue their examination of the night’s first patient. Unfortunately, they’re not always like this.
Service to Society Clockwise from top: Second-year medical student Amy Rosborough on the Alex Health Bus; Bev Strauss, LPN, behind the wheel of the bus; Rosborough and Sue Nielsen (right), nurse practitioner, speak to a patient; Strauss with a patient; The Alex Health Bus parked outside the Alyth Lodge
“A lot of the people who come in tell me they’re human garbage and that nobody ever looks them in the eye,” says Bev. “But we don’t treat them like that; we’re not here to judge.” No, they don’t judge. They merely listen to patients, treat their wounds, provide medication the patients otherwise couldn’t afford, and educate them about the importance of good health practices. As the mobile medical clinic’s two hour stop continues, a steady stream of patients come in for various treatments. One is having some problems with asthma; a couple are there for simple checkups. One patient wearing only shorts and sandals boards the bus despite the temperature dropping to around -5°C.
This is why I got into medicine, it’s helping people who need it most, those who don’t have access to regular care. - Amy Rosborough, second-year medical student
Still, they don’t judge. Not the medical student and two dedicated professionals aboard this bus. While many–including myself–might shy away from contact with people struggling with issues like these, it’s precisely what draws these women to this job. “This is why I got into medicine, it’s helping people who need it most, those who don’t have access to regular care,” says Amy.
“I’ve done a lot of nursing jobs, but this is the one place where I know without a doubt that I’ve made a difference,” Bev agrees. As 8:00pm hits, the line of patients has cleared and the bus gets ready to head out. As I prepare to do the same I joke that it’s Bev who I’ll remember the most from the evening. But that’s not true. It’s the image of Tom and David as they leave the bus, feeling much better than they did just 30 minutes before. And if I run into them again, I’ll be sure to give them the respect of looking them in the eye.
Alex Health Bus Facts and Figures
• • • • • •
About 75% of patients who use the bus are homeless The staff aboard the bus includes a Licensed Practical Nurse and a Nurse Practitioner The bus is also a roaming food bank, with hampers and emergency food on-board for those in need. The bus was originally created through a donation from the Calgary Community Lottery Board, and is funded completely through charitable donations During the first year of operation, it was projected the bus would make 1,600 client contacts. The actual number of client contacts was over 3,600 In 2008, the bus saw an average of 60 patients a day
creating Bovine-friendly bse testing UCalgary researchers are making it easier to detect mad-cow disease in cattle; and their testing method does something other mad-cow tests can’t–keep cows alive during the process By Marta Cyperling
Researchers at the University of Calgary along with collaborators in Germany may have found a new way to test for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cows that could revolutionize the cattle industry and eventually change beef inspection protocol worldwide. A team led by scientists at UCalgary has discovered that a simple and inexpensive blood test can diagnose chronic wasting disease (CWD) in elk several months before clinical signs of the disease become evident. They believe the test can be used to screen cattle for BSE, also known as mad cow disease. Researchers studied CWD-infected and non-infected elk, and BSE-infected and non-infected cattle and were able to identify specific DNA sequences in blood samples of live animals infected with CWD (elk) or BSE (cattle). “While other tests being developed try to detect the misfolded protein believed to cause the disease, our test is DNA based. DNA tests are robust and relatively inexpensive, which are two key criteria for the industry”, says Paul Gordon, a UCalgary researcher and lead author on the study. “Additionally, a live animal test is the holy grail of BSE testing, because it allows you to intervene a lot earlier.” This new research is seen as a major breakthrough because until now the diagnosis of BSE could only be confirmed by examining brain tissue of the infected animal after its death. In May 2003, three cows tested positive for BSE in Canada, resulting in several countries closing their borders to shipments of Canadian live cattle and beef products. According to Statistics Canada, by the end of 2004 financial losses for Canadian beef producers as a result of BSE reached $5.3 billion. While trade borders have since reopened, scientists have been working hard to develop a BSE-test for live animals, giving cattle farmers the potential to stamp Canadian cattle as’BSE-tested’.
A live animal test is the holy grail of BSE testing, because it allows you to intervene a lot earlier. - Paul Gordon, UCalgary researcher
“The next steps are to analyze a complete time course series for BSE-infected cattle, to screen different cattle breeds for variances in the sequence patterns and also to look at cattle with brain tumors, brain trauma and other brain infections to make sure we are really picking up BSE,” says Christoph Sensen, PhD, the principal investigator from the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine. “Once that is done, our team sees the possibility for the production of a low-cost, high-output standard test kit for industry use in the next few years.” It is expected that a future test kit would be less expensive than currently used post-mortem BSE tests, available at a price that would be affordable for most farmers. Keeping the cost of the test low could be done by pooling together blood samples from a number of cows, and if the batch tested positive then individual tests would be done. Kevin Keough of the Alberta Prion Research Institute–who funded the study along with US-based Chronix Biomedical–says the research findings hold much promise. “There is currently no reliable way to tell if an animal may have a prion infection before it becomes obviously sick. If there were a reliable way to know, it would be of great benefit to producers, processors and wildlife managers.” The research findings are published in the January edition of the Oxford Journal Nucleic Acids Research. The study is a collaboration between researchers from the University of Calgary, scientists from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and collaborators at the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, the University of Göttingen, Germany and Chronix Biomedical. Canada’s total beef exports are worth $2.2 billion annually, with Alberta being the country’s largest exporter of cattle, followed by Ontario. Canada is the third largest exporter of beef in the world.
Robert Church, PhD (left) and Christoph Sensen, PhD at Church’s Lochend Lung Ranch near Airdrie, Alberta
Ready. Set. Global Citizenship. Bachelor of Health Sciences students at the Faculty of Medicine are taking their research out of the classroom– and into the heart of developing countries By Andrea Di Ubaldo High atop a mountain in Ethiopia, racers crouch into position–a lifeenhancing race about to begin. “Ready. Set…Go!” Third-year O’Brien Centre for Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHSc) student, Lucas Badenduck takes off, a young Ethiopian boy in tow. Racing down the mountain stride for stride, the two laughing, a misstep is taken. Down goes Badenduck. “I slipped and fell. The boy stopped and all he wanted to do was help me,” Badenduck smiles. “That one small experience furthered my resolve to work within the field of global health.” Badenduck, who has wanted to be a physician since taking medical studies in grade 10, would never have had this experience were it not for the Global Health Program (GHP). He was able to travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to conduct research at the Armauer Hansen Research Institute. Each year the GHP offers a short course on Molecular Biology and Bioinformatics. Badenduck’s project was involved in looking at how that course is designed and how various aspects could be evaluated to ensure continual course improvement. “My project was International Short Course Design and Evaluation and I was able to present it at the Canadian Conference on International Health this past October in Ottawa,” Badenduck says. The GHP is an interdisciplinary program designed to develop global health research skills and competencies at the undergraduate and graduate level. It allows about 12 students to participate each year and is based on three components: a summer field research placement in developing countries, a pre-departure preparation course and a senior level seminar in global health. The BHSc students work with UCalgary faculty and international partners and travel to both developed and developing countries from Hong Kong or Norway to Ethiopia, Tanzania and the Dominican Republic. It’s in these countries that they conduct a variety of research activities in basic laboratory sciences, public health and community engagement. Jennifer Hatfield, director of Health and Society with the BHSc program, says the GHP is the only undergraduate program of its kind in Canada.
“The key thing that makes the BHSc Global Health Program different from other programs is that we prepare students to be global citizens. We teach them to understand Alberta’s place in the world and address our multicultural society in a more understanding way through innovative projects.” This inventive philosophy has earned the program an award at the Internationalizing the Teaching and Learning Practice Awards of Distinction 2008 from the Government of Alberta. It’s the government’s belief that Alberta’s citizens must acquire the skills, knowledge and ability to function effectively within a global context, and the internationalization of Alberta’s post-secondary education is crucial to the positioning of our province’s future. Erin Hetherington, educational research associate with the BHSc program, says the GHP challenges students in many different ways. “This is a unique experience that enables them to complete their own research projects in settings with extreme poverty and inequity. Having to face those realities makes this program remarkable.” Hetherington also says the program would not be as unique as it is without the funding provided by David and Gail O’Brien. “For a lot of international experiences, the student will have to pay themselves,” Hetherington explains. “The O’Briens had a vision that enabled us to open the program up to a more diverse group of students who wouldn’t be able to come up with the funds. Now we can select participants based on merit, leadership and research capacity.” “It’s very exciting to be recognized for what we’re doing and it’s great for the Faculty of Medicine,” Hatfield smiles. “We’ve also won a prize to fund 20 students in global health research next year.” Coming home from Ethiopia, where people were warm and welcoming despite their struggles with disease and poverty, Badenduck is now officially a global citizen. “As soon as you become one, you have a responsibility to continue and do all you can to pass it on. You just want to go out and change things to make a better world.”
Lucas Badenduck, a third-year UCalgary medical student, and a young Ethiopian boy race down a mountain near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Two Partners, O n e
E n em y
For a quarter century, the Alberta Cancer Foundation has been leading our province’s fight against cancer. This year is no different; and because of that, the Faculty of Medicine has about three million reasons to smile By Gen Handley When you ask Alberta Cancer Foundation CEO Linda Mickelson what she envisions for the organization, her response may surprise you. “It would be to put ourselves out of business,” Mickelson says with a chuckle. “Ultimately our goal is a cancer-free future and if that happens, we’ve done our job.” Unfortunately, cancer is still an illness that affects everyone. But the Alberta Cancer Foundation (ACF) is doing everything it can to battle the disease, including almost $3 million in contributions to UCalgary’s Health and Research Innovation Centre, which will house labs for cancer and other types of research. “The Alberta Cancer Foundation is one of our largest funding partners, both philanthropically and through grants,” says Brendan Robinson, executive director of development for UCalgary Faculty of Medicine. “We would be a tiny fraction of our size without them and their funding is contributing towards making breakthroughs in cancer research.”
Linda Mickelson, CEO of the Alberta Cancer Foundation, in the Faculty of Medicine’s Health Research and Innovation Centre
Dr. Peter Forsyth, director of the Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute and associate director of research at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, says the ACF has made a significant and lasting difference in Alberta.
In addition to supporting the new centre, the Alberta Cancer Foundation has “The Alberta Cancer Foundation has been a shining light in fundraising for been a significant funding partner for every level of the cancer battle, which cancer research in the province of Alberta, in particular for the last 10 years entails research, equipment since Linda Mickelson became for prevention and screening the Chief Executive Officer,” says initiatives, and patient care Forsyth, also a professor in the programs. The ACF has also Departments of Oncology and contributed heavily to creating Clinical Neurosciences at the academic programs, research Faculty of Medicine. “Last year grants and endowed positions. for example, the ACF raised - L inda Mickelson, Chief Executive Officer, “We see in centres like the nearly $30 million for research, Alberta Cancer Foundation Tom Baker Cancer Centre how prevention and care. It’s really patients are benefiting from been a tremendous opportunity the work we support,” says Mickelson, who has been with the foundation for to accelerate our research, purchase important pieces of equipment and 10 years. “For every dollar invested today, we will see the benefits tomorrow or outfit research space so we can make a difference for our patients.” in a few years from now. We are developing a strong research community” Listening to Mickelson speak, you can hear that she truly believes in all the Now in its 25th year of operation, the Alberta Cancer Foundation has made work her foundation is nourishing. She has also experienced the benefits of significant impacts in research taking place in southern Alberta and the rest this research herself; her daughter is a Hodgkins lymphoma survivor. of the province. “My daughter is here because somebody funded cancer research 20 years “Research has grown significantly in Calgary in the last 10 years and we’ve ago. I count my blessings everyday and that’s why I became involved.” played a big role in that,” explains Mickelson, who also points out they invest For more information on how to donate to the Alberta Cancer Foundation in a provincial team effort in the cancer battle. “We believe research is the visit www.albertacancer.ca. key to developing a future without cancer, so building a critical mass of research talent in the province is our priority.”
My daughter is here because somebody funded cancer research 20 years ago. I count my blessings everyday and that’s why I became involved.
Jenna Mabey, 9 and her sister Keira Mabey, 11 in their hometown of Kelowna, B.C.
For Kiera and Jenna Mabey, birthday gifts aren’t as important as spinal cord research. Not a bad outlook for two girls who aren’t even 12 yet By Krista Goheen
“We’ve heard a lot of great things about what’s coming out of Calgary,” he says.
The world “philanthropy” often brings to mind images of adults attending large charity events, auctions or galas. But two young girls with a strong connection to the Faculty of Medicine are redefining what it means to be good samaritans, proving even small acts of kindness can make a big difference.
“I don’t know many kids that would give up their birthday gifts for medical research! But I’m also really honoured by the trust that they place in medical research and their confidence that their gift will help us achieve breakthroughs in spinal cord injury research.”
Two years ago 11-year-old Kiera Mabey and her nine-year-old sister, Jenna, decided to ask friends and family to donate to spinal cord research at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) at UCalgary Faculty of Medicine, in lieu of giving them birthday presents.
Although the girls have grown up with Robert’s injury, both he and his wife say the situation has been hard on their family.
The sisters wanted to help their dad, Robert, who suffered a C-6 spinal cord injury when they were young. The injury left him confined to a wheelchair. “I was very proud of their decision,” Robert says. “But it really came as a shock because the girls just came up with the idea all on their own.” When it came time to choose who to donate the money too, Keira says the decision was simple. “It was easily the best program. And, my grandma goes to brain awareness seminars there.” Although the Mabeys live in Kelowna, B.C., they have personal attachments to both Calgary and the Institute. Robert and his wife, Lisa, have family in Calgary and are both UCalgary alumni. Robert also underwent surgery at the Foothills Hospital several years ago, a procedure that was performed by doctors at HBI. 12
Lisa Shea, director of Fund Development for the Faculty of Medicine, says she was struck by Jenna and Kiera’s generosity at such a young age.
“From the girls’ perspective, I don’t think anyone ever really gets psychologically over a spinal cord injury, even kids two or three years old. You move on, you still have fun and good times, but there’s always that piece that’s missing.” Nevertheless, the Mabey’s approach life and Robert’s injury with a positive outlook, love, and humour. When Robert first got home from the hospital, he had trouble maintaining balance in his chair, which would often upset the girls. It was his wife who came up with the idea that anytime this happened, Kiera and Jenna would be allowed to put makeup on their dad. “Now when I fall out,” Robert says, “the girls will quickly make sure that I’m okay and then laugh and run frantically up the stairs to grab the lipstick. I have photos under lock and key.” Lisa says she is continually inspired and encouraged by the girls’ hope for spinal cord patients.
Paying it forward By Kyle Glennie Kiera and Jenna are definitely two girls that seem wise beyond their years, but even they couldn’t have known the effect their story would have on some people.
y family, with dad Robert
“They’re just so inspiring. Two kids giving up their birthday presents at that age is pretty impressive, I just wanted to help out as well,” says Mark Coffey, the photographer who took the photos of the Mabey family for this story.
and mom Lisa
As Managing Editor of UCalgary Medicine, I called Mark to see if he would be interested in working his magic for this charming story. After I filled him in on the background of the two small girls’ great big gift, he immediately offered to donate half of his fee for the photo shoot to the same cause Kiera and Jenna support. “These little girls sure love their dad and the whole family is just great. They’re just two ordinary kids but you can see where the girls’ character comes from.” Two ordinary kids doing extraordinary things.
I don’t know many kids that would give up their birthday gifts for medical research. I’m honoured by the trust that they place in medical research.
- Lisa Shea, director of Fund Development University of Calgary, Faculty of Medicine
“It’s a very devastating injury to wrap your head around,” she says. “So to help find a way to prevent these types of injuries from being permanent, or to help people who currently have spinal cord injuries in even the smallest of ways, is very important.” For now, Kiera and Jenna say they have no plans to stop donating and have since raised several hundred dollars for the Hotchkiss Brain Institute. With their youthful optimism, far removed from the cynicisms of adulthood, Kiera and Jenna know what many adults have never learned, or have otherwise chosen to forget: that often times the greatest change is brought about by taking small, but important, steps. “It will help other kids who have a parent in a wheelchair,” Kiera says. “It will help more than just us.”
Off to a
Running Start A new office, new colleagues, and a new $5 million research grant greeted Dr. Subrata Ghosh when he first arrived at UCalgary in March. Not too bad for a first week By Ian Weetman
Given the choice between the rain-soaked streets of London or Alberta’s infamously sunny skies, many people would choose the latter. And Dr. Subrata Ghosh is no exception. As UCalgary’s newly minted head of Gastroenterology tells it, it may have been the region’s outdoor lifestyle and unspoiled beauty that first attracted him, but it was the quality of its people that made him stay. “Like many people, I knew Calgary by virtue of skiing in Banff,” says Ghosh, “but it was through my travels around the world speaking at conferences that I came to know several members of UCalgary’s Gastroenterology faculty. In conversations with them I quickly discovered what an excellent division they had.” As a result, Ghosh−who held a similar post at Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital since 2002−found himself traveling to Calgary more and more often before accepting UCalgary’s offer to head its program earlier this year. “Calgary impressed me because it’s a very large Faculty, with one of the biggest Gastroenterology divisions in the world. It’s also a very young and dynamic team, full of very clever researchers ready to innovate. Many of them are in the early phases of their careers and are hungry to get things done. My responsibility is to mold them together into a completely world-class division.”
“To find out shortly after arriving the grant proposal was accepted was a very good welcome,” beams Ghosh. “It made my day.” It’s estimated that 170,000 Canadians are afflicted with IBD, an incurable disease affecting a patient’s gut resulting in pain, bleeding, anemia and weight loss. As a result, patients are often on medication for their entire lives. With Canada having one of the highest incidence levels of IBD anywhere on earth, and Alberta having one of the highest incidence levels
and Dr. Subrata Gh
in the nation, Ghosh says any new research that could lead to a cure can’t be underestimated. “Because IBD and Crohn’s disease often appear in children, teenagers and young adults, the societal costs can be huge.” He adds that patients often need parts of their bowel removed, which can leave them with a permanent stoma on their stomachs; something he says can be a very big blow to a young person’s emotional and educational development. In addition to the team of researchers at UCalgary’s IBD clinic led by Dr. Remo Panaccione, experts from several other Canadian universities and Alberta Health and Wellness are also participating in the study, which hopes to examine 1,000 cases throughout the province over the next five years. But perhaps most surprisingly, the research is being led by Dr. Herman Barkema, department head of Production Animal Health at UCalgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and professor in Epidemiology of Infectious Disease.
It’s estimated that 170,000 Canadians are afflicted with irritable bowel disease (IBD), and Alberta has one of the highest incidence levels of IBD in the world.
Fortunately for Ghosh, he won’t have to wait long to see that hunger put to good use. Within the first week of arriving at UCalgary in March, the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR) awarded the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) team a $5 million grant to study the genes, environmental exposure, and microorganisms that are thought to play important roles in the development of the disease.
Dr. Herman Barkema
While some might question why animal researchers are participating in a study seeking to unlock the mysteries of a very human disease, Barkema says the disease crosses several species.
“IBD doesn’t just affect humans, but also other species including cats, dogs and cattle. As researchers we cannot see veterinary medicine separate from human medicine because there is so much interaction between the two, with pathogens and with environmental factors. Basically, we are looking at the same thing.” Besides moving one step closer to a possible cure of IBD, the project will also create a comprehensive database and DNA bank, a boon for future medical researchers of all disciplines. “By itself the study will be a great success,” says Ghosh. “But the DNA bank and database will also be a launching pad for anyone else who wants to study a more specific aspect of this disease down the road. We are creating a legacy for the future.”
t r a e h Medic at the Faculty of The band plays n eo ch lun e cellenc Celebration of Ex
Baker Saxophonist Ava
Parties? Groupies? Rehab? Not for this group of talented musicians, where behind the music is medical school By Teresa Scarlett For the Beatles, it was stepping off the plane at New York’s Kennedy Airport, February 7, 1964 to 3,000 awestruck fans. For Elvis, it was the moment on the Ed Sullivan Show when he looked into the lens that would connect him to some 55 million mesmerized viewers. And for Arrhythmia, a jazz band made up of four second-year UCalgary med students, the moment they knew for certain they were something their audience had never seen before was just last year, at a little-known music venue called Psychiatry Grand Rounds.
So why juggle jazz riffs with scholarly pursuits? Stress relief? Fame? Money for tuition perhaps? “Well, let me put it this way, I’ve definitely made more money as a musician than a student this year but that’s not really saying too much,” laughs Baker. “To be honest, we didn’t start out with any big ambition other than trying to find some time to do what we love–playing music together.”
We didn’t start out with any big ambition other than trying to find some time to do what we love– playing music together.
Given the busy schedules of these med students, that hasn’t always been easy. In early days, Brandman’s mother, a piano teacher, kindly lent the band her baby grand and her living room so they could practice. As schedules got busier, Arrhythmia decided if they were going to play it would have to be closer to classes.
“We started just playing in the student lounge,” “People were shuffling in and clutching their says Baker. “It was really cool because after a while coffees, just expecting to hear the usual kind of people would drop by after class just to listen or - Ava Baker, Arrhythmia saxophonist and talk, I think,” explains saxophonist Ava Baker. “Their study or whatever. It was great to get to play for second-year medical student faces were priceless when they walked in and there our classmates and it turned our rehearsals into we are standing there with a full drum kit and me a social event.” with my horn. I don’t think they quite knew what to think, to tell you the truth. But it was a fantastic thing to be part of because by the For Baker, who grew up in Oshawa, Ontario and completed her Bachelor of Science at McMaster University, the choice between music and medicine was end, I think we had them really interested–the music was just the hook.” more than just a time management issue. What the doctors and psychiatry residents got hooked into that morning was Sex, Drugs and Saxophones, a musical collaboration by Arrhythmia about the link “I started playing sax in elementary school and right up until high school, I wanted between creative genius and jazz music. It’s a performance that Baker—along to be a jazz musician,” says Baker. She applied to post-secondary music programs with bassist Nathan Evaniew, drummer Steven Peters and keyboard player David but ultimately decided that her love of music would have to share her time with Brandman—have also taken on the road. In May of last year, they were invited to her love of medicine. present it at the International Conference on Humanities in Medicine in Halifax Just like all great bands, this one craves more time to play together. They’ll try, but and then took it to downtown Calgary at Banker’s Hall in October during Canadian for the next few months, it won’t be easy. Unlike other bands, it won’t be creative Mental Health Awareness Week. tension or fights with record labels that keeps them apart–at least not yet. No, this Obviously there aren’t too many bands out there who can play those kinds of gigs. summer Arrhythmia will be taking a break for an excellent, but unusual reason in But Arrhythmia is also quite happy to dispense with the history lessons between the music business. songs and give audiences some plain old, soul cleansing jazz. On that note, they “We’re all going off on different clerkship rotations,” says Baker. “But I’ve got my delighted jazz fans at gigs last year that included the Art of Medicine teaching sax with me in Canmore and I told those guys they’ll definitely be seeing me.” conference and a dinner for the Dean’s Advisory Committee. medicine.ucalgary.ca
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Published on Jun 22, 2009
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