Generous donation transforms brain and heart care at St. Michael’s Hospital

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Generous donation transforms brain and heart care at St. Michael’s Hospital

Toronto, February 5, 2020

By Selma Al-Samarrai

The BRAIN&HEART Centre’s leadership team
This photo includes the BRAIN&HEART Centre’s leadership, not all physician leads are featured: (L to R) Muhammad Mamdani, Vice President, Data Science and Advanced Analytics; Tim Dowdell, Radiologist-in-Chief; Gyl Midroni, Acting Head, Division of Neurology and Director, Clinical Neurophysiology; Stephany Intriago, Senior Philanthropy Officer; Ashley Downey, Director, Philanthropy; Emily Harris, Project Manager, BRAIN&HEART Centre; Desa Hobbs, Senior Clinical Program Director, Heart, Lung and Vascular Program; Mark Peterson, Medical Director of BRAIN&HEART Centre and Co-Director of the Structural Heart program; Howard Leong-Poi, Medical Director, Heart, Lung and Vascular Program; Julian Spears, Division Head of Neurosurgery; Tom Marotta, Division Head of Interventional Neuroradiology/Neurovascular. (photo by Fernando Diez, Data Analyst for Cardiology)

When asked about what the Walter and Maria Schroeder BRAIN&HEART Centre means for St. Michael’s Hospital, its Medical Director Dr. Mark Peterson describes a vision of excellence.

“BRAIN&HEART is a catalyst for innovation that will transform the way we provide care for our patients,” says Dr. Peterson.

“Not only are we revolutionizing our physical spaces but we’re creating optimized patient flow pathways and enhancing our ability to collaborate with each other to further develop minimally-invasive, image-guided excellence in care.”

Thanks to the support of multiple generous donors, the centre’s ambitious vision of modernized patient care spaces and state-of-the-art equipment is coming to life.

To expand and modernize St. Michael’s medical imaging capacity, the hospital is receiving two brand new neuro interventional bi-plane suites, which enable image-guided and minimally-invasive procedures that repair multiple neurological conditions. One existing neuro interventional bi-plane suite will be replaced with the two brand new suites to enable more advanced and precise procedures for complex neurological conditions including acute strokes, aneurysms and vascular malformations.

“Having two angiography operation rooms side-by-side will make a difference for our brain patients. With this increased capacity for procedures, our team can mobilize quickly to provide the best care urgently,” explains Dr. Tom Marotta, Division Head of Interventional Neuroradiology/Neurovascular at St. Michael’s.

The new area will increase capacity for research and innovation by providing space for simulation and will also allow collaboration with health care partners far and wide using broadcast technology.

“New equipment is key for enhancing patient care but how it is utilized by our Neurovascular team to train on new techniques is equally important,” says Dr. Marotta.

“For instance, when one of the rooms is not occupied by a patient, we will use it to simulate difficult cases, allowing us to practice and perfect the repair before doing it live.”

Research activities within the BRAIN&HEART Centre will also help identify, invent and implement cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to solve clinically important patient care problems, says Dr. Errol Colak, Radiologist and Lead of Diagnostic Imaging and Learning Algorithms at St. Michael’s.

“The centre will act as an innovation hub that will bring together local and international talent, multi-disciplinary expertise, and resources to translate research into real world solutions,” says Dr. Colak.

There will also be a new, private space for patients and their loved ones to recover after procedures.

Amplifying and enhancing cardiac care

Construction of the BRAIN&HEART Centre also includes the renovation of the echocardiogram lab, four catheterization labs and a corresponding recovery room, and the creation of a brand new Structural Heart Clinic.

“We have been functioning as a multidisciplinary team for a long time and we need a space to represent this shifting structure,” explains Dr. Peterson, who is also a Staff Surgeon in Cardiovascular Surgery and a Co-Director of the Structural Heart program.

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“We’re already doing this incredible, cohesive work with our patients but we’re doing it in outdated facilities. These donations will allow us to harmonize our activity and provide the highest-quality patient care with a new and modernized space where we can maximize our patients’ time with us, minimize duplication, and eliminate any unnecessary stress to their appointments.”

Through fully integrated and holistic care, the new Structural Heart Clinic will provide a “one-stop shop” experience for patients. Depending on the patient’s unique needs, the clinic’s integrated care model can include an initial preliminary team discussion for diagnosis and treatment, a multitude of specialists, and a coordinated and collaborative health care plan.

The renovations to the four catheterization labs will include a new imaging system and an expanded footprint, and will result in increased capacity for cardiac procedures. The associated recovery area is being renovated to provide patients who don’t require intensive care after cardiac surgeries a nearby and dedicated space to recover.

The soon-to-be renovated echocardiography lab performs a specific ultrasound test that produces detailed images of the heart with immense information on its structure, function and health.

“Our echocardiography lab uses advanced modalities such as 3D speckle-tracking imaging that allows us to achieve more precise diagnostics and enables us to provide individualized treatment. This lab doesn’t provide a one-size-fits-all solution for our patients — we can tailor the treatment to each patient and ultimately contribute to improving their outcomes,” explains Dr. Geraldine Ong, physician lead of the Echocardiography Core Lab at St. Michael’s.

The realization of the new vision for the BRAIN&HEART Centre, officially named the Walter and Maria Schroeder BRAIN&HEART Centre, was made possible by many generous donors including the Schroeder family, Tim and Frances Price, and Bob and Marilyn Beamish. Lou Odette has also provided generous donations to advance the centre’s research and advanced analytics.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

About Unity Health Toronto

Unity Health Toronto, comprised of Providence Healthcare, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital, works to advance the health of everyone in our urban communities and beyond. Our health network serves patients, residents and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education. For more information, visit

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