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LMP and OSMT: An Interview with Karim Bhaloo

September 26, 2014

KarimLast week, Karim Bhaloo, MLT in our cytogenetics laboratory, was named Vice-President of the Ontario Society of Medical Technologists (OSMT) and Chair of the MLA/T Examination Committee during the recent OSMT conference in Kingston, ON. The editorial team of The Pathology Report recently had a chance to sit down with Karim and talk to him about the OSMT, his new role and why he encourages other laboratory professionals to get involved.

Congratulations on being names Vice-President of OSMT. What are some things you are looking forward to in this new role?

Thank you. The biggest thing I’m looking forward to as Vice-President of OSMT is interacting with various stakeholders, internal and external to OSMT, in order to advance the interests of our profession and members. I am also looking forward to enhancing my leadership and communication skills as a leader in the industry.

Why is being involved with OSMT important to you?

Being involved with the OSMT is important, and should be important to all MLTs and MLA/Ts, because they are the advocate for the profession before the College, they provide leadership opportunities, are part of many stakeholder groups, and provide value added benefits such as educational courses, conferences, and professional liability insurance required by our regulatory body to name a few.

How did you first get involved with OSMT?

In the late 1980’s I wrote my OSMT certification exam as part of my MLA/T education process and worked as an MLA/T at a private laboratory. After further education, I became an MLT and contributed an article on the RHPA for the ADVOCATE magazine.

A little over four years ago, I decided to put my name forward to be the District Director (5) representing Toronto and over that time period, I have been the Chair of the conference committee that was held in Niagara Falls and chaired the Editorial Committee. Even now, as Vice-President, I will continue to be a member of the Editorial Committee and contribute an article whenever time permits.

What are some ways that OSMT helps other MLA/Ts?

The OSMT helps MLA/Ts by administering the certification exam required by many employers, provide leadership opportunities by participating in various committees, keeping its members current and informed about the profession, and providing value added benefits.

What can others do who want to get involved?

Those interested in getting involved can either contact myself or the OSMT office and express their wish to volunteer. Members can serve on various committees such as the conference committee that will be organized soon for next year’s conference.

Changing the Way We Measure Pathologist Workload

September 19, 2014

abacusPersonalized Medicine has been changing the way pathologists work. The volume of work, along with the type of work, has been changing in ways that would have been unimaginable before the incredible growth of complex informational parameters obtained from morphologic, proteomic and genomic analyses . This means that the way pathologists have been measuring and tracking their time and workload has needed to change in order to accurately capture the new ways that they have been working.

Dr. Carol Cheung, pathologist in LMP, has developed a new model, published in Modern Pathology, to capture pathologist workload that leaves behind previous methods based on counting specimens and samples, and rather looks at the whole picture and measures all the different activities of today’s pathologists.

“In the past the workload of a pathologist was manually assigned different values based on the type of specimen” said Dr. Cheung. “However, in today’s world, the same specimen types may require differing amounts of work.  Our new method captures individual components of our work regardless of specimen or tissue type. ”

The new model, called Automatable Activity-Based Approach to Complexity Unity Scoring (AABACUS) captures pathologists’ clinical activities accessed from Laboratory Information Systems (LIS), including specimen acquisition, handling, analysis, and reporting.

“All data used by AABACUS are captured and stored in a departmental LIS as part of usual clinical workflow,” explained Dr. Cheung. “Once those data are exported into AABACUS, they can be translated into clinical workload activities. It’s a robust, novel system that provides a much better picture of workload for modern pathology practice. AABACUS is adaptable to all lab environments and allows for better planning and utilization of the pathology team.”

“There has always been a clear need to define pathologist workload and to effectively measure it,” adds Dr. Sylvia Asa, Medical Director, LMP. “The AABACUS model is useful for laboratory management because it’s objective, automated and applicable across every laboratory discipline. The information it provides is illuminating in terms of the different activities in a pathologist’s day, but also helps us make decision in terms of resource allocation, pressure points within the system and where to spend time and energy growing and adapting our department in order to better serve our patients.”

The paper, entitled “Modeling Complexity in Pathologist Workload Measurement: the Automatable Activities-Based Approach to Complexity Unit Scoring (AABACUS),” can be accessed as an Advanced Online Publication (September 12) on the Modern Pathology website.

LMP and Alzheimer’s Disease Research

September 12, 2014

alzheimer_brainRecently the Government of Canada announced a new national effort to study age-related neurodegenerative diseases in a Canadian context, which includes LMP’s Dr. Lili-Naz Hazrati, along with several other UHN researchers.

Overall, the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) involves more than 300 clinicians and researchers from across Canada. The teams will look at the current research on neurodegeneration and look at new and novel ways around the prevention, impact and progression of these diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, fronto-temporal dementia, and Lewy-body dementia.

We spoke with Dr. Lili-Naz Hazrati, a neuropathologist in LMP and one of UHN’s researchers involved in the project about her thoughts on the project and what this might mean for Canadians struggling with neurological disease:

“Alzheimer’s is a complex disease affecting a large portion of the population and with no known effective treatment,” said Dr. Hazrati. “And this initiative will place us upon a network of national and international researchers.”

In speaking about why UHN and LMP is involved, she explained that “we are one of the nationally recognized centers involved in research on Alzheimer’s disease. Our involvement is two-fold: direct basic research on Alzheimer’s Disease and brain banking of these cases.”

Dr. Hazrati tells us that most funding agencies do not support tissue banking which has limited the collection of brains with and without disease – which can limit how much you are able to investigate Alzheimer’s Disease. The collaborative project is designed to allow more coordinated research effort to understand faster the pathophysiology of this devastating disease and hasten the way to prevention or treatment.

“This initiative is hopefully just a start and if the interest in neurodegenerative disease is maintained at the government level, it has the potential to have a huge impact on the Canadian public,” she added. “Most neurodegenerative diseases are chronic incurable diseases that not only affect the patients, but are very difficult on the care givers and the health system with huge economic impact at all levels. The potential benefits of this project are enormous and I couldn’t be more excited to be involved!”

Lab Lifesavers Raise More than $22,000 for the Princess Margaret

September 10, 2014
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Dianne Chadwick, Maria Amenta, Yvonne Bedford, Cherry Have, Michele Henry, Dr. Sylvia Asa, Brad Davis and Tom Clancy

It was the third year that members of the Laboratory Medicine Program took part in the Weekend to End Women’s Cancer and the team proudly pulled in an incredible fundraising total of $22,341.55.

Every penny goes directly to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in support of women’s cancers research, clinical enhancements and survivorship programs.

20140906_111357Thanks to the generous support of everyone in LMP who bought and played in this summer’s 50/50 draws and those who came out for our two Buffet Staff lunches, every member of the team exceeded their goal and the entire Weekend, overall, raised $7.7 million for our cancer centre.

Yvonne Bedford, has participated in the Weekend for the past three years. Initially she joined because Dr. Asa, LMP’s Medical Director, was taking an active role in promoting the walk and she wanted to support her efforts.

“This year, going through my own journey as a cancer patient, I knew that I had to do it,” she says.

“I wanted to prove I had the energy to complete it. In year’s past, I would walk one day and run the second. (Even though you’re not supposed to run!) I didn’t want to run this year,” she added. “But I walked on Saturday with my sister and my friend as support. It was very overwhelming and was great feeling being able to finish.”

DR G small group

Dr. David McCready, Lead, Breast Cancer Site Group, Dr. Danny Ghazarian, Lead, Melanoma and Skin Site Group and Dr. Fei Fei Liu, Head, Radiation Oncology and Chief, Radiation Medicine Program

“I was also surprised by my fundraising total – $5,283.55 – which is incredible to see the support from my friends and colleagues. Of course, it’s not about the actual amount. I’d have been happy just to raise the minimum. But, knowing everybody wanted to help makes me feel truly grateful.”

Cherry Have, MLT from cytogenetics, who participated in the walked as a member of the Lab Lifesavers team talked to us about her experience as a walker:

“I was fortunate to meet and walk with another walker, Kelly, who has been participating for 8 years! She shared her very moving story of why she is walking. Her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer 8 years ago,” Cherry tells us. “Kelly felt helpless and decided to join the walk as it made her feel like she had some control and could make an impact in her mom’s care.  She was empowered to learn she was making a difference!”

Working at UHN, we get to see, first-hand, some of the impacts our investment in cancer care and cancer research. The Princess Margaret Foundation provides literature to all the walkers about the work they have accomplished through the Weekend to End Women’s fundraising efforts, such as a research study that investigates conditions to minimize the side effects of radiation treatment on the heart.


Cherry, 101 and a half year old walker Kitty Cohen and Kelly

In this particular study, the investigators clinically proved that the simple holding of one’s breath during radiation treatment to the left chest minimized damage to the heart.  During the walk, Cherry talked to Kelley and learned that her mom directly benefited from this research in her treatment at Juravinski Cancer Centre.  She witnessed first-hand how research at PMCC was benefiting patients everywhere.

Maria Amenta, a manager in LMP, when asked about her experience, said “I don’t know if it was the small group of young adults wearing t-shirts that read “I’m walking for my mom” or the courage of friend with cancer who walked along side us but one thing is for sure, it was a very humbling experience and I was proud to be part of it.”

She added, “I have to say, walking through the different communities was a blast.  Diversity truly is a wonderful thing!”

Cherry, in summarizing the event and the experience, said that “even if we don’t find a cure in our lifetime, we will certainly be improving the care of our cancer patients.”

LMP and Student Education

September 5, 2014
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From L-R: Michele Henry, Senior Director, LMP, Abby Tan, Christa Axworthy, Rumman Khondker, Sarah Andrews, Patrick Olal, Kathleen Buck, Chris Cursio, Manager.

Education is at the core of our mission statement in the Laboratory Medicine Program. As an academic laboratory we not only have an obligation to teach the future laboratory medicine experts, but it is also something we enjoy and take pride in. We always have rotating medical fellows and residents working in our labs from across the country, but we also invest in teaching the next wave of medical laboratory technologists and assistants (MLTs/MLAs) who will be working on the bench and working for our patients from inside our laboratory. Read more…

Recap: LMP Staff Appreciation BBQ

August 21, 2014


The threat of rain may have pushed the annual LMP Staff Appreciation BBQ indoors, but that didn’t stop our team from coming out, having a good time, and enjoying some delicious BBQ. Staff from across our entire laboratory queued up for some great food and many of the managers and supervisors were on hand to volunteer their time to help organize the flow, and assist in serving the food.

Although we were in a conference room, rather than the RFE patio, it seemed like we still had a record number of attendees from across LMP, which is great news – more food! More mingling!  More food!  More catching up with colleagues! And more food! Read more…

Justine Jackson tours Laboratory Medicine

August 8, 2014


Recently, UHN’s Interim President and CEO Justine Jackson got an in-depth tour of the clinical laboratory space of the Laboratory Medicine Program at the University Health Network.

Led by members of the Laboratory Medicine senior team, including Dr. Sylvia Asa, Brad Davis, Tom Clancy, Laurie Mason, Sally Balmer, Jacquie Beal, Maria Amenta and Chris Cursio, Justine visited some of our lab spaces on the 11th, 3rd, 2nd and Ground floor of Toronto General Hospital. Read more…


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