• Achievements
    Report 2020

We are living in extraordinary times; and the spirit of innovation, research, collaboration and community engagement at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry has become more important than ever.

Faculty staff and learners continue to advance the School's vision of being a global leader in optimizing life-long health. Through their commitment to discovery, knowledge translation, innovation, their enthusiasm to embrace innovative research and new educational approaches and their valuing of partnerships, social accountability and responsibility, we are achieving our strategic plan goals.

The six stories featured in the 2020 Achievements Report are just a few examples of the outstanding mission-focused and values-driven work undertaken at the School before the COVID-19 pandemic changed all of our lives. In addition to this and much other work, members of the Schulich Medicine & Dentistry community have undertaken initiatives further demonstrating their commitment to innovation, resilience and compassion in the face of the pandemic.

PhD Candidate Ornela Kljakic, A simple desire to give

A simple desire to give

Drs. Anthony Nichols and David Palma, Clinical trial sheds light on treatment for throat cancer

Clinical trial sheds light on treatment for throat cancer

Drs. Ricardo Viana and Ali Bateman, Life-long wellness

Life-long wellness

Dr. Harris and Harsh Zaran, Forging compassion and community

Forging compassion and community

Greta Bauer, PhD, and Ayden Scheim, PhD’17, Understanding varied experiences in trans and non-binary health

Understanding varied experiences in trans and non-binary health

Dr. Narinder Paul, Collaborating for greater imaging expertise

Collaborating for
greater imaging expertise


A simple desire to give

In early 2020, PhD Candidate Ornela Kljakic was recognized with the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers from the Governor General of Canada for her commitment to the community and for valuing social responsibility.

What started as a simple desire to get involved with the community and give back, transformed into eight years of dedicated voluntarism and numerous roles with Frontier College – an organization focused on delivering literacy programs to children and adults across Canada.

As part of the Teddy Bear Hospital Project, 92 medicine and dentistry students visited 87 different classrooms and reached more than 2,000 children in London and the surrounding region. The Project aims to alleviate some of the fears and anxiety that children experience during medical and dental visits and introduces them to some of the tools and procedures they may encounter.

To address a gap in the community, Drs. Hannah Ernst, Danielle MacNeil and Henry Lapointe established an oral cavity screening program at a local Salvation Army. The program provides a screening examination and education regarding oral cavity cancer risk factors and addresses oral health concerns with assessment and referrals. The team sets up the screening sessions during the Salvation Army’s Sunday community meal, providing care to upward of 40 people per week.

Studies led by researchers at the School were used to inform a public health campaign called ‘Cook Your Wash,’ helping to reduce rates of HIV transmission in London, Ontario. For the first time, researchers found that HIV can be transmitted through the sharing of equipment used to prepare drugs for injection, and that a simple intervention – heating the equipment with a cigarette lighter for 10 seconds – can destroy the HIV virus, preventing transmission.

Generation Vape was launched as a unique community education initiative that shared the latest vaping research and policy from a panel of clinicians and researchers. The School hosted it in partnership with Lawson Health Research Institute.


Clinical trial sheds light on treatment for throat cancer

In 2019, Drs. Anthony Nichols and David Palma reported findings from the world’s first clinical trial comparing robotic surgery to radiation therapy for the treatment of oropharyngeal cancer. Published in The Lancet Oncology , the seven-year ORATOR trial looked specifically at quality of life one year after treatment, including swallowing function.

Schulich Medicine and Dentistry received $113 million in research funding in the 2018-2019 academic year.

The School is home to 39 endowed research chairs and 12 Canada Research Chairs.

From January 2019 to January 2020, researchers at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, including those at Robarts Research Institute received $18 million in Project Grant funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The Imaging Pathogens for Knowledge Translation Facility was officially opened and became operational. The research facility is unique in North America, housing a cutting-edge suite of imaging equipment within a high-level containment environment. The Facility will allow researchers unprecedented ability to investigate infectious pathogens like HIV, Staph A and Zika virus.

Canada’s first Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI) system was installed at Robarts Research Institute. MPI is an emerging, ultrasensitive imaging technology that will provide better understanding of disease progression, treatment and early detection.

Western University was named one of the fastest-rising institutions for scientific research by Nature Index.

Researchers received $998,840 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to establish and test an effective vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19. At the same time, the research team is also developing a ‘vaccine bank’ that would contain ready-made vaccines to be used rapidly at the start of another coronavirus outbreak. Two researchers also received funding from CIHR to study issues connected to the COVID-19 virus. Anita Kothari, PhD, is developing a social media toolkit for public health agencies. Maxwell Smith, PhD, is proposing ethical pathways to expedite treatment and vaccine research for COVID-19.


Life-long wellness

In a 2019 systematic review, " Burnout Among Specialists and Trainees in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation," published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, Drs. Ricardo Viana and Ali Bateman found that more than half of all rehabilitation doctors, including specialists and trainees, experience burnout. This rate is higher in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation than it is in other specialties. “Working in physical medicine and rehabilitation is a unique risk factor among doctors,” they wrote.

It served as just one of the reasons that the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, which already had a strong culture of wellness, formally integrated wellness activities into the postgraduate medical education curriculum.

Implementation of a new clinic model is underway for the Doctor of Dental Surgery and Internationally Trained Dentists programs. This model will provide students with an improved clinical education experience, streamlined clinical operations and allow for more comprehensive patient care.

The Clinical Neurological Sciences Program celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019. The world-renowned program was established based on the collaborative vision of Drs. Charles Drake and Henry Barnett.

The development of a new MSc program in Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences is underway. The one-year, course-based master’s degree will provide in-depth and advanced skills to enhance students’ research literacy.

The Doctor of Medicine program launched its new curriculum that has a competency-based medical education framework. The curriculum embraces new ways of learning, with emphasis on early integration of clinical experiences and case-based activities.

A new Postgraduate Medical Education program in Infectious Diseases launched.

In November 2019, 53 of the School’s residency and area-of-focused-competence programs participated in an accreditation site visit. All programs were accredited.


Forging compassion and community

Through the FORGE AHEAD project, Indigenous communities across Canada developed unique ways to improve care for people living with diabetes.

The project improved the compassionate, patient-centered care available in nine Indigenous communities by empowering them to design and implement their own health-care initiatives for patients with Type 2 diabetes.

The Prevention and Early Intervention Program for Psychoses (PEPP) Physician Team received the 2019 President’s Award for Physician Leadership from London Health Sciences Centre. The Team supports individuals who are experiencing their first episode of psychosis and works to destigmatize mental illness in the community.

Faculty members at the School co-authored a case study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Canada’s first reported case of vaping-related lung injury. The case study was the first to describe a new type of injury from vaping products.

A new digital tool is improving the experiences of young people entering the mental health care system. Collaborating with Mind Your Mind, Dr. Javeed Sukhera developed an online module called Shared Humanity that helps youth learn about the system and build a trusting relationship with their health care provider.

The Renal Community Photo Project empowered dialysis patients to document their lives using photography, helping researchers better understand healing and resilience in the face of chronic disease. Thirty-four people took nearly 1,500 photos, providing a wealth of information for researchers and clinicians.

A simulation program at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry is helping train surgical residents to effectively manage high-stress, emotional scenarios. Developed by Dr. Robert Leeper, the program uses team-based simulation scenarios to train general surgery residents in trauma resuscitation. Simulating real-life clinical scenarios exposes surgical residents to the suite of emotions they will encounter once they are in the field.


Understanding varied experiences in trans and non-binary health

In 2019, a team of researchers across Canada led by Professor Greta Bauer, PhD, and Ayden Scheim, PhD’17, undertook a massive nationwide survey to get a clearer picture on the health and wellbeing of trans and non-binary people across the country.

Called Trans PULSE Canada, the research project is the first of its kind to collect all-ages data on trans and non-binary health for every province and territory in the country. The goal was to gather data not just about the trans community as a monolithic group, but to understand the differences in peoples’ varied experiences. That meant incorporating members of other diverse communities into the research team and was reflected in the survey questions.

The School appointed an Indigenous Leader in Residence, with the aim of fostering an inclusive and culturally safe environment. In this role, Danielle Alcock, PhD, will champion the Indigenous Health Action Plan, lead the School in achieving the goals outlined by the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada and forge respectful relationships with Indigenous communities, particularly those in Southwestern Ontario.

The School launched the second phase of the changes to the admissions process for the Doctor of Medicine program. Named “the ACCESS Pathway,” it is geared to applicants who have been potentially adversely impacted by circumstances that created a disadvantage, including medical, financial and/or socio-cultural barriers.


Collaborating for greater imaging expertise

A new partnership between Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, London’s academic teaching hospitals and medical technology pioneer Siemens Healthineers is continuing to build on the region’s established excellence in medical imaging, improving patient care, research and teaching. It came on the heels of a multi-million dollar partnership with Canon Medical Systems Canada.

The Office of Military Academic Medicine opened, building upon a long-standing relationship between the School and the Canadian Armed Forces. It will bring together current education, research and partnership activities.

A new Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and the La Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong. This agreement brings together top researchers and medical educators to improve health care in Canada and abroad.

Faculty and researchers across Schulich Medicine & Dentistry are engaged in numerous partnerships with collaborators and partners around the world. In addition to these ongoing relationships, the School has active partnerships with more than 20 international institutions, health care providers and networks that are coordinated through the Dean’s Office and enhance strategic goals in education, research and clinical care.

Western University logo

Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University
Clinical Skills Builiding
London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 5C1