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Unity Health Toronto researchers and scientists have been awarded more than $5 million in research funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The funding was part of the Fall 2023 Project Grant competition. The competition funds projects with the greatest potential to advance health care, health systems and health outcomes.

A total of 10 projects led by Unity Health Toronto investigators received grants, with Unity Health Toronto having a funding success rate of 25.6 per cent – slightly above the national average.

Here’s a look at a few of the impactful projects that were funded. A full list can be found on the CIHR website. Congratulations to all of the successful investigators: Drs. Venkat Bhat, Claudia dos Santos, Anna Durbin, Benita Hosseini, Fahad Razak, Joanna Sale, Sharon Straus, Amol Verma, Argie Veroniki and Ron Wald.

Can we reduce the chances of re-fracture by opening a Fracture Liason Service program in a rehabilitation hospital?

Dr. Joanna Sale, a clinical epidemiologist at St. Michael’s Hospital, will work with a team to deliver a Fracture Liason Service (FLS) program at Providence Healthcare. FLS are programs designed to reduce re-fracture rates among patients who’ve already had a fragility fracture. FLS programs are typically found in hospital fracture clinics or emergency departments. Sale and her team will deliver a FLS program in a rehabilitation hospital, where patients are more likely to be older and have a greater chance of re-fracturing. The research will examine if the FLS program in the rehabilitation centre leads to better outcomes, including a reduction in re-fracture rates and improved health of patients.

Creating a new model of long-term care for seniors experiencing homelessness

More than 25 per cent of people experiencing homelessness in Canada are older adults. In Toronto alone, more than 3,000 adults older than 50 years are homeless. These older adults are at high risk of adverse health outcomes compared with people who have stable housing. Dr. Sharon Straus, geriatrician and physician-in-chief at St. Michael’s Hospital, will lead a research team examining how to create a new model of long-term care homes for seniors experiencing homelessness.

Testing intravenous ketamine vs. brain stimulation in treatment-resistant depression

Clinical depression affects more than 6 million Canadians, and more than one-third of these people do not respond positively to antidepressant medications, meeting the criteria for treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Dr. Venkat Bhat, psychiatrist at St. Michael’s Hospital, will lead a team that will conduct a pilot trial, testing the effects of ketamine administered intraveneously vs. personalized accelerated intermittent theta-burst stimulation (PaiTBS). Both treatments have been shown to be effective in treating TRD, but this is the first trial that may help identify which one is more feasible, tolerable, safer and effective. 

How can we provide the best primary care for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities?

Adults with disabilities are more likely to experience negative health outcomes, including hospitalizations and dying at a younger age. Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities have more health problems than adults without disabilities. Dr. Anna Durbin, scientist at St. Michael’s, will lead a team examining how primary care is provided in Ontario to adults with intellectual disabilities and which models can best help people with disabilities avoid being hospitalized and lead to better health outcomes.

By: Marlene Leung