Bringing cardiovascular care to the world

GUATEMALA: Helping hearts

In August 2019, Dr. Douglas Lee, Cardiovascular Program Lead and Ted Rogers Chair in Heart Function Outcomes at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, went to St. Pedro Hermano Hospital in Antigua, Guatemala, with a charitable organization called Health Mission Outreach. While there, Dr. Lee provided free cardiology and medical care to locals and gave a talk to 200 physicians in Guatemala City on hypertension and heart failure. “We’ve started a relationship with the hospital, and they’ve asked us to return next year,” he says. “One of my goals is to encourage more trainees to serve abroad.”

UGANDA: Creating new technology

Dr. Heather Ross, Division Head of Cardiology at the Centre, site lead for the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research, Loretta A. Rogers Platinum Chair in Heart Function and Pfizer Chair in Cardiovascular Research, has travelled to many locales around the world, but her work in Kampala, Uganda, stands out. It was there that she, masters student Jason Hearn, Joe Cafazzo, Executive Director, eHealth Innovation at UHN and a team in Uganda implemented a text-based mobile platform to manage heart failure. The platform, called Medly Uganda, an offspring of the original Medly technology developed at University Health Network, is a mobile app where patients can monitor their heart failure symptoms. Based on these symptoms, the patient will receive a text with self-care instructions or a call from a clinician on next steps. “The goal is to grow local capacity to ultimately hand the reins over to the team in Uganda,” says Dr. Ross.

GUYANA: Mentoring medical staff

Over the last several years, Dr. Phyllis Billia, Director of Research at the Centre, along with doctors from the University of Toronto and the University of Calgary, have travelled to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation in Guyana to provide training to staff in the coronary care unit and heart function clinic. They’re also providing guidance on how to perform and interpret echocardiograms. There is a personal reason for Dr. Billia to support the team in Guyana: “My husband is Guyanese, and this is a way for us to give back to his home country,” she says. “We’ve seen progress — that’s what keeps motivating us.”

MIDDLE EAST: Training local doctors

For Dr. Jane Heggie, a cardiovascular anesthesiologist at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, giving back is a core part of her job. “I want to be part of a better world,” she says. To that end, Dr. Heggie has travelled to the Middle East to provide training to local healthcare workers. Working with the International Committee of the Red Cross, she went to Bajil, Yemen, in 2019, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in 2018 and Al-Sheikhan, Iraq, in 2017. “I want to continue building capacity in conflict zones and humanitarian disaster areas,” she says. “University Health Network has many talented and innovative teachers who are well-suited to this work.”

This article originally appeared in the 2020 Peter Munk Cardiac Centre annual report. Read it here.

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