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UHN’s team is using state-of-the-art technology, like the pictured surgical robot, to reduce wait times, train next-generation surgical teams and help patients recover faster and get home quicker

How UHN is leading Canada to the forefront of medical innovation

University Health Network is the country’s No. 1 hospital—changing the health-care space at home and across the globe

March 25, 2024

From next-generation drugs to advances in AI and robotics, we’re in a golden era of leveraging innovation to help people live their healthiest lives. In downtown Toronto, University Health Network (UHN) is leading the charge to deliver better care, not only for Canadians but for patients around the world.

“At University Health Network, we’re constantly challenging old thinking to change the status quo in health care and provide a better experience for both patients and providers,” says Dr. Kevin Smith, president and CEO of UHN.

Collaboration and community support

But breaking new ground requires the participation of more than just UHN’s community of 5,000-plus research staff. As the world’s No. 1 publicly funded hospital, UHN needs the help of Canadians to deliver on its mission to revolutionize health care.

“The reality for all hospitals in Canada is that the only way to truly push the boundaries of medicine is through community support,” says Julie Quenneville, CEO of UHN Foundation. “Donors fuel research and innovation at UHN, and because of their support we can make the latest treatments available to members of our community—regardless of their financial capacity.”

Pioneering innovation

It’s a massive collective effort—and it’s giving way to a lot of firsts. UHN is one of the first hospitals in the world to use remote deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson’s disease, restoring function to patients with hand tremors so severe they make everyday tasks impossible. UHN has developed a remote heart monitoring platform that uses patient data to prevent heart attacks before they happen. UHN is also leading the way in robotic surgery—and using advances in communications and virtual technology to pioneer telesimulation for surgeries, enabling surgical teams around the world to learn new techniques and improve recovery times for patients.

“Our work makes it possible to achieve the once unthinkable,” Dr. Smith says. “UHN scientists are responsible for the breakthrough of ex vivo lung perfusion, a model now deployed around the world to keep donor lungs alive outside the body as a surgical team prepares them for transplant. That spirit of innovation also extends to our social medicine and population health initiatives focused on the social determinants of health, including food security and housing, where we’re redefining the role of a hospital. We are also immensely proud of our pioneering work with integrated care, a model that seeks to deliver a seamless care experience and help patients transition to their homes and communities sooner with one care team, one shared digital record, one 24/7 phone number to call and one integrated interprofessional team.”

The list goes on—and on. And these advances are improving care not only for those who live in Toronto but for patients right across the country.

Helping Canadians wherever they live

“The expertise held across UHN’s sites—Toronto General, Toronto Western, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Toronto Rehab—makes us a referral centre for the entire country, helping patients whose health situations may be too complex for other hospitals,” Quenneville says.

It’s not just funding that makes it all possible, she adds—it’s the donor model itself. “Most traditional granting agencies typically fund ideas once they are proven to work—they tend to be more risk-averse. It’s our donors who have made all these huge leaps and breakthroughs possible.”

To learn more about how you can help UHN transform health care for Canadians from coast to coast, visit UHNITED.ca.