Know Your Heroes: Moira Kapral

Know Your Heroes showcases the many different people and roles that make up #TeamUHN. We celebrate these people, who strive to make the world a healthier place every day.

Name: Moira Kapral
Title: General Internal Medicine Physician, Clinician-Scientist and Lillian Love Chair in Women’s Health, UHN.
Number of years working in health care: 25
I was born and raised in: Princeton, New Jersey, U.S., and moved to Toronto at age two

I decided to get into health care because I wanted to make a difference, both at the individual level by treating people with urgent medical problems, and at a societal level by working to ensure that good health care is available to all.

My role here at UHN is that I work on the General Internal Medicine (GIM) inpatient wards at Toronto General Hospital. Some people aren’t familiar with GIM, but we have a huge role in the hospital, with 40 per cent of all patients who come through the emergency department admitted to our wards. We care for patients with diverse conditions, including cardiovascular and neurological disease, cancer, liver and digestive diseases, blood disorders, kidney disease, addictions, infections and many other diagnoses. Many of our patients are older and have complex multisystem conditions, and we work closely with our colleagues in physiotherapy, occupational therapy and social work to help people recover from their illness, ensure safe discharges and coordinate ongoing care. We also provide the majority of internal medicine training to medical students, residents and other learners, and our inpatient wards incorporate special teaching teams known as clinical teaching units.

When I’m not on the wards, I perform research aimed at reducing healthcare disparities. I have a specific focus on women’s health and stroke in women, but my research also looks at how things like socioeconomic status, rural residence, immigration status and other factors affect healthcare outcomes. My goal is to understand where potential disparities and gaps in care exist, so that we can develop targeted solutions to address these and ensure good health for all.

COVID-19 has affected me, and the GIM team, significantly. GIM has provided care for approximately 70 per cent of all of the patients hospitalized with COVID-19, so this has meant a large amount of additional time caring for patients on the wards. As citywide Director for GIM, I’ve spent time coordinating our city’s COVID response, including working with the Ontario Health GTA Incident Management System to transfer patients across the province when needed to maintain the integrity of the healthcare system.

The thing I love the most about my job is that I love it all: caring for patients, teaching, doing research to improve health outcomes and working with my wonderful colleagues. My hours are long, but I find that they fly by and it never feels like a job to me. I’ve recently learned that this is called a state of flow.

The most incredible thing I’ve seen at work is during the first wave of COVID-19, before vaccines, and when we knew so little about virus transmission and severity, it was incredible to see healthcare workers at UHN step up and provide outstanding patient care despite all of the risks.

I’m inspired by my colleagues, who in addition to providing direct inpatient care, have led the coordination of COVID-19 units and resources for virtual care; provided outreach and care to long-term care homes and people experiencing homelessness; assisted in vaccination efforts, including in remote and Indigenous communities; served on provincial organizations like the Ontario Science Table; and conducted important clinical trials and other research studies related to COVID-19.

One of my personal heroes is Dr. Paul Farmer, who dedicated his life to reducing global health inequities.

I sometimes worry about climate change. What will the world be like for my children and grandchildren?

I’ve found joy recently from spending time outside. Even when the weather is cold, sunshine and fresh air always feels wonderful.

My favourite book is… It’s too hard to pick just one! Probably something by Margaret Atwood or Ian McEwan.

My ideal day off is starting off with coffee and the paper (yes, a proper print version) and the crossword puzzle, then getting outdoors with my family (skiing/biking/walking/paddling, depending on the season), then relaxing with a great book.

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