Epilepsy Program Co-Founders Honored with Plaque

Drs. Steven, Girvin, Blume, and BurneoPictured Above: Dr. Dave Steven, Epilepsy Program Co-Director; Dr. John Girvin, Epilepsy Program Co-Founder; Dr. Warren Blume, Epilepsy Porgram Co-Founder; Dr. Jorge Burneo, Epilepsy Program Co-Director.

On March 27th, 2018, 36 years after the Western University Epilepsy Program was originally founded, the Department of Clinical Neurological Sciences honored its co-founders, Dr. Warren T. Blume and Dr. John P. Girvin, with a plaque to be placed outside of what has become Canada’s largest Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU).

In the early 1970s, Dr. Blume, a neurologist and epileptologist, and Dr. Girvin, a neurosurgeon and neurophysiologist, recognized the need for a specialized epilepsy unit in southwestern Ontario, one of Canada’s most heavily populated areas.  

Dr. Blume and Dr. Girvin were concerned that patients whose epilepsy could not be controlled by medication were finding themselves facing a very uncertain future. Blume and Girvin knew, even at that time, that the complexities of treating epilepsy and performing epilepsy surgeries were best dealt with through a team approach and they set out with this goal in mind.

In 1977, the Epilepsy Program was formally established with the generous support of grants from the Academic Development Fund of The University of Western Ontario, the Richard and Jean Ivey Fund, and the London Health Association, which were the owners and operators of LHSC. A multidisciplinary team of health care professionals with expertise in epilepsy gradually took shape.

In 1986, a four-bed inpatient epilepsy unit was officially established with a focus on the investigation and monitoring of seizures. It opened on the 10th floor of University Hospital at Western University. Having all the beds in one area increased efficiency greatly, leading to more comprehensive inpatient evaluations, and allowing a greater number of patients to undergo surgery and other treatments for epilepsy.

Over the years a growing need for inpatient evaluation provided a need to expand the EMU to eight beds in 1992. This was a chance to streamline the entire unit which was accomplished in conjunction with the adjacent EEG department. This vastly improved service efficiency.

More recent innovations include the installation of eight fully digital state of the art video-telemetry systems in 2002. These were developed in collaboration with XLTEK Corporation of Oakville, Ontario for monitoring of complex epilepsies at University Hospital.

The next natural step was the opening of a dedicated paediatric epilepsy monitoring bed, using the same kind of equipment and team approach, at the London Children’s Hospital in 2007. This approach mirrored the team-based focus that was used for adult inpatients which was a proven formula for looking at all aspects of patient care including medical realities, surgical decision-making, and quality of life.

In 2012, the EMU celebrated 35 years of excellence as one of the two largest centres for the treatment of epilepsy in Canada.

Most recent innovations have included an expansion of the EMU to 11 beds, the performance of stereoelectroencephalography, and the acquisition of intraoperatory robotic arm for the placement of intracranial depth electrodes.

The Epilepsy Program is renowned throughout the world for its highly qualified team of professionals. Today, this team consists of neurologists, neurosurgeons, nurses, psychologists, EEG technologists, neuropathologists, neuroradiologists, and neurophysiologists – all of whom are dedicated to the management of epilepsy, particularly epilepsy surgery.

All of this was accomplished thanks to the vision and forethought of Dr. Blume and Dr. Girvin in 1970.