Feature: Patient-inspired care and research

Dr. Heather MacKenzie arrived in London in 2011 to begin her residency training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Nine years later, the resident alumna finds herself teaching medical students and residents at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry and directing her energies to caring for patients living with brain and spinal cord injuries. She’s also conducting a research program that focuses on predicting outcomes for those individuals who have sustained a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion.

Dr. MacKenzie was inspired to follow her career path by the work of physicians who cared for her own family members. And today, it’s her patients who inspire her.

“I learn a lot from my patients,” she said. “I have learned about creativity and resilience in the face of adversity. I continue to be amazed by the solutions that patients develop – often independently and successfully that bring them comfort and empower them. Seeing this empowers me as a physician and I feel very fortunate to be a part of their journeys.”

She meets these patients daily through her work at the Acquired Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injury programs at St. Joseph’s Health Care London. As part of a collaborative team, she works with patients to meet their goals, whether that is helping them to return to the community and take on the roles that were part of their life before their injury or developing plans so that individuals can reintegrate into the community in the future.

Through her patient-centred research program, Dr. MacKenzie is focused on bettering our understanding of what factors are associate with a higher risk of prolonged and persistent symptoms after a concussion.

“This research is designed to help clinicians with their decision making and to help with triaging patients, so people get the right treatment at the right time,” Dr. MacKenzie said.

Fully understanding this is translating into the development of a tool that clinicians can use when first seeing patients with a concussion and allows them to identify individuals at risk and thus, intervene earlier and treat them better. The research team is in the process of publishing results from a retrospective research study. They are now working on a prospective study to provide more comprehensive data that will be more predictive.

To hear more about Dr. MacKenzie’s work and the value of her research, watch her presentation as part of the Brainstorm: Straight Talk on Concussion video series.