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BUSY Lab: Riding motorcycles with Kenny

July 15, 2016

BUSY Lab- Kenny

This week the BUSY Lab connected with LMP Financial Analyst, Kenny Chieu to learn a bit about what he does to take a break from the BUSY and shape his personal health and wellness. The theme: Riding motorcycles.

Kenny says it all started when he rented a scooter while vacationing in Taiwan. He was 21 at the time, cruising up and down the coast, taking in beautiful scenery and a rich ocean breeze. The picturesque experience naturally left a void when Kenny arrived back in Canada – so it wasn’t long before he started looking into riding a motorcycle.

“Most Saturday or Sunday mornings I’ll wake up and just go out for a morning ride,” says Kenny. “That’s the relaxation/wellness piece – it’s just me and the road.”

Before being able to get on a bike and start riding, Kenny had to get his motorcycle license and learn the basic skills of operating a motorcycle. He did a bit of research and enrolled in a course that pairs in-class theory and on-bike riding.

Kenny says the course was straightforward and covered pretty much everything you need to know to be able to ride. From learning how to turn a motorcycle on, to actually maneuvering it, Kenny was able to get some valuable experience on a bike and ended up passing his final test to get his license.

Now riding a motorcycle is a lot of things for Kenny. It’s a mode of transportation, it’s a way to explore, and it’s just fun to do.

“It’s caused me to become much more patient on the road,” he says. “I used to always get frustrated with traffic, but now I’m just relaxed – even when I’m in a car.”

Kenny rides into work for the better part of the year too, so it’s not really a hobby that’s difficult to make time for. On the other hand, it seems to be a hobby that makes time for other things, like enjoying nature. Kenny will sometimes make small day trips to go hiking, or he’ll even just keep riding until he finds a scenic road or gets lost.

I’m sure there are probably a few LMP staff who have thought about riding a motorcycle, so if you’re one of them or have been on the fence for a while, hopefully this is the motivation you need. Kenny suggests investing in doing a course first to make sure it’s something you enjoy, or, if riding a full motorcycle seems daunting at first, maybe try a scooter or moped rental to see if you’re comfortable with that.

Kenny says, “Sure, it’s dangerous – but if you’re smart, not reckless, and in control, you shouldn’t have any problems!”

If you’re interested in learning more about riding a motorcycle, see what the Ontario requirements are HERE, or click HERE to check out possible courses at the Rider Training Institute.


What do you do when you need to feel “BUSY”?

                                       What’s that thing you do that makes you happy (“Bliss”),

                                                                                         or helps you relax (“Unwind”),

  or makes you feel like you can take on anything that comes your way (“Strength”)?

              Kenny might go for a long ride on his motorcycle.  What would YOU do?

The BUSY Lab

Check in next week as we hear from another LMP staff member about their BUSY activity.  We hope these stories may remind you about your BUSY thing, or even inspire you to try something new!


BUSY Lab: Gaelic Football with Martin

July 8, 2016


This week the BUSY Lab connected with LMP Pathologists’  Assistant, Martin Grealish to learn a bit about what he does to meet new people, let off some steam, and shape his personal health and wellness. The theme: Gaelic football.

“We obviously play with an agenda to win, but it’s about more than that,” says Martin. “The team really supports each other and the family atmosphere is carried off the field into everyday life.”

Martin’s family has always been passionate about Gaelic football. They had Martin playing at just five years old, and at eight, Martin moved with his family from Canada to Ireland, getting the opportunity to take up the sport where it was founded.

As most LMP staff probably aren’t familiar with Gaelic football it’s a sport that dates back to 1885 and combines the skills of soccer and rugby to create a high scoring, fast paced game. Click HERE to watch a brief video outlining the rules.

Martin describes the perks of playing Gaelic football like those of many team sports: You get to know your local community, develop close bonds and friendships, participate in regular physical activity, and learn valuable leadership skills useful on and off the field.

By joining Gaelic football clubs, Martin has been able to reap all the benefits team sports have to offer, and when he moved back to Canada at 19 he continued to embrace the game and joined Toronto’s St. Vincent’s Football Club.

“I recently retired from playing, but I’m still active with the club,” says Martin. “I’m now more on the management side, helping with the team selection and fundraising. It’s definitely a sport for younger men and women, but it’s great being able to stay involved supporting the club and the community.”

Martin shared a story about the family aspect of the club, and talked about a kid in his twenties joining St. Vincent’s while visiting from Ireland.

The team would regularly help newcomers find steady work, and in this case a teammate’s father offered a job doing renovation and construction. Things were going fine for a while, but eventually their new teammate stopped showing up for work.

Martin and some others went to his house to make sure everything was alright and when they got there they found him just lying around as though he took the day off. Surprised, they questioned him on where he’s been and what he’s been doing, but all they got in response was that sometimes it’s just hard to get out of bed.

As Martin and the senior teammates were about to give some tough love explaining responsibilities and the significance of working for a teammate’s father, the young Irish kid clarified a bit saying that some days it was actually just a real struggle to move himself and get out of bed because he has multiple sclerosis.

The focus of the conversation immediately changed to how the team could help.

Martin and other teammates made arrangements so the kid could keep his job and come into work when he was feeling able to. They also checked on him regularly, making sure things were going okay and offering him any help he needed.

It wasn’t long until their new teammate had to go back to Ireland to be with his family, but while he was in Canada St. Vincent’s football club took on that role – even if only for a short while.

“When you play on a team like this you end up meeting all different kinds of people,” says Martin. “And because you all support each other on the field, you’re naturally there for each other off of it.”

Gaelic football may not be for everyone, but if you’re interested in learning more – check out Toronto’s Gaelic Athletic Association HERE.


What do you do when you need to feel “BUSY”?

                                       What’s that thing you do that makes you happy (“Bliss”),

                                                                                            or helps you relax (“Unwind”),

or makes you feel like you can take on anything that comes your way (“Strength”)?

               Martin might help out St. Vincent’s Football Club.  What would YOU do?

The BUSY Lab

Check in next week as we hear from another LMP staff member about their BUSY activity.  We hope these stories may remind you about your BUSY thing, or even inspire you to try something new!

The Blood Lab’s commitment to patient experience

June 24, 2016



Each day hundreds of patients have their blood drawn and sent in for analysis at UHN’s Blood Lab Collection Centres. It’s often a place where patients begin their hospital journey, and as a result LMP Blood Lab staff have an important role to play in setting the tone for patient experience.

“As a first point of contact, patients will come to blood lab staff with all sorts of questions,” says Maria Amenta, LMP site lead, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and manager, specimen management. “We want to be able to provide them with answers, and direct them to tools and services that will make their hospital visit as seamless as possible.”



One of the most recent initiatives undertaken by the Blood Lab at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre focuses on the completion of the Distress Assessment and Response Tool (DART), which provides increased detection and early intervention for distress in out-patients at Princess Margaret.

Patients start by self-assessing their level of distress on provided DART iPads. That information is then sent to the patient’s ambulatory care clinic, where clinic staff assess the information. Depending on the level of distress (low, moderate, high) different support options may be provided, including nurse and oncologist intervention for high distress patients.

DSC03211The DART program started in the Princess Margaret Blood Lab as a pilot project in mid-January, and Blood Lab staff were looked to for help in educating and assisting patients in the completion of distress assessments.

There were obvious concerns to consider, such as additional workload, and the possible impact on patient flow and wait times, but over the course of the pilot it became clear the Blood Lab team fully supported the initiative.

“I think staff see the impact the DART program can have on patients,” says Maria. “Our phlebotomist jumped on board as members of the patient care team, and I think the effort stems from just wanting to help patients get the care they need.”

The pilot was quickly determined a success and the DART program became fully integrated into the Princess Margaret blood lab in February. Since then, DART assessments in the blood lab have had a steady increase in completion, with 101 DART assessments completed in February, 126 in March, and 181 in April.

“Thanks to the great level of engagement of the blood collection team, and our ambulatory PFCs we have consistently seen improvements in the number of DART assessments completed,” says Terri Stuart-McEwan, Executive Director, Princess Margaret. She credits much of the project’s success due to staff engagement and points to an “exceptional level of teamwork and true commitment to improving the patient experience.”

There are now three iPads available for patients as they wait for blood collection, and both patients and staff have become increasingly familiar with DART assessments making the process seamless.


Patient Rapport

The high uptake of the DART program in the Blood Lab is partly due to the volume of patients seen daily – but it’s also largely due to the connections staff are able to make.

Even when seeing 100 plus patients in a week, blood lab staff are often able to develop bonds with patients as individuals, and begin to know them on a personal level.

It’s one of the few areas of LMP where staff work and engage with patients directly and it requires a certain understanding, patience and care to build the relationships sometimes seen between repeat patients and technicians.

“Having one’s blood collected can be a very personal experience,” says Maria. “As a patient, you want to feel comfortable and relaxed – so having trust in your phlebotomist is important.”

“We’ll sometimes see repeat patients request their phlebotomist by name, or even give up their place in line to wait for someone they’ve developed a relationship with. It’s a great thing to see, and really speaks to the connections built in the Blood Lab.”




Maria Amenta and Patsy Raymond, congratulate Myrna Galvey (centre) on being recognized as a DART Star.

One staff member who sees nearly every patient in the Princess Margaret Blood Lab is Myrna Galvey, Blood Lab receptionist. She has played an integral part in the DART programs success so far and was recognized this week for her contributions in the third annual DART Star Recognition Program.

Myrna was nominated by her peers in the Blood Lab and was selected as a DART Star winner based on her leadership, teamwork, and ability to use DART to provide exemplary patient experiences.

“Encouraging patients to complete DART just makes sense,” says Myrna. “Asking patients how they feel and directing them to the DART iPads can get them the help they need faster.”

“It’s not all just about about drawing blood in the blood lab. We have to manage patient questions and help get them answers.”

Apple Trees in LMP…

June 17, 2016

apple tree logo


For a program as large and busy as LMP, it can be challenging for staff to find opportunities to meaningfully recognize their peers. With rotating shifts, altered schedules, and various absences – even those who put extra effort into saying thanks might not get the chance to.

The issue became a focus for LMP’s Pow-Lee Cheng and Ivana Vidovic, Core Laboratory charge technologists, and Jay Hockley, Specimen Management supervisor – who after attending last year’s Toronto General Hospital Goals and Objectives Retreat became inspired by the power of peer-to-peer recognition.

“We don’t say ‘thank you’ enough,” says Pow-Lee, “and we should.  Recognizing your peers for even the small gestures they make can mean a big deal – even if it’s just an everyday task like putting paper in the printer.”

The proposed system for capturing peer recognition was inspired by another UHN unit, and consists of two components: a tree mural and an assortment of apple shaped sticky notes. When someone in the lab wants to recognize someone for a favor, an exceptional performance, or just a simple act of kindness they write a message on one of the notes and post it to the tree.

Not the complex system you’d expect from a modern clinical laboratory, but effective in allowing simple gestures to be formally recognized.

Pow Lee, Ivana and Jay brought the idea up at lab meetings to gauge interest and support, and then took a step back, leaving the initiative to be led by staff.

“We just planted the seed,” Pow Lee says, tongue-in-cheek.“ Once it was introduced, staff throughout the lab definitely made it their own.”

There were various levels of support including those skeptical of the significance of the messages, or the maturity of the apple/tree practice, but there were also those who took the challenge of encouraging peer recognition upon themselves. Core Laboratory technologists, Laura Schurman, Meriam Ghorbanian, Dipti Doshi, and Arti Patel were the latter, and became ambassadors of the initiative ultimately bringing the idea to life.

“There are times that we can feel as if we are running around like headless chickens trying to keep the lab running smoothly – and having someone notice and say something about our efforts is very encouraging,” says Laura. “I was happy to help with setting up the thank you tree, and felt that having a place in the lab used just to provide that acknowledgement could help make the lab environment more positive.”

Like an ordinary tree, it took some time before the core lab saw any significant growth, but now, after six months it’s proven to be a complete success.

“Staff have really engaged each other and embraced the tree!” says Pow Lee. “Being able to get that recognition and acknowledgement just makes people feel good. It’s definitely enhanced the relationships among co-workers in the lab and impacts how we come together to work as a team.”

The Core Lab’s peer recognition tree has now become a shining example of teamwork and comradery for LMP. What started off as a small staff initiative has grown program wide – with plans for 10 more trees, across five different sites.

So when the time comes – post an apple and see how your tree grows!


Check out TGH Core Lab’s apple tree in the photos below:



Read more…

BUSY Lab: Birdwatching with Dr. Blasutig

June 10, 2016
I.Blasutig and daughters

The love for birds seems to be hereditary based on both of Dr. Blasutig’s daughter’s Halloween costumes. Top right is a microraptor dinosaur in a stage of its evolution to a bird, and bottom right is the majestic snowy owl.


This week the BUSY Lab connected with LMP clinical biochemist, Dr. Ivan Blasutig to learn a bit about what he does to take a break from the craziness of life and shape his personal health and wellness. The theme: Birdwatching.

“No matter where you go, if you take a moment to stop what you’re doing and pay attention, you’ll notice all different kinds of birds,” says Dr. Blasutig. “Even in the city there’s lots of wildlife to be seen.”

He doesn’t actually recall an exact time when birdwatching became a thing of interest, but just knows he’s always loved animal and has always been fascinated by birds. A possible reason could be because Dr. Blasutig had a pet canary as a kid (which he reluctant shared the name of: Cheepy), but there’s no specific thing or event that started the hobby.

Now, no longer the owner of any birds, Dr. Blasutig is able to casually maintain his pastime at home by putting up a couple bird feeders and even using feed that can attract specific species or keep squirrels away.

“Not sure what I really get out of it,” says Dr. Blasutig, “I guess solitude, reflection, just being able to shut the world out. It can be a great break from the BUSY.”

Dr. Blasutig is able use his hobby as an opportunity to get active as well – be it just going on a casual walk or gearing up for a hike with some binoculars and a bird book. He’s now seen over 100 different types of birds and is able to enjoy the nuances and the different behaviours and calls from each species. It takes a bit of an investigative nature to determine the type of bird you’re looking at or listening to, but that shouldn’t be difficult for LMP staff given the investigative work of the labs.

“You really don’t need much to get started birdwatching,” says Dr. Blasutig. “Just go outside and pay attention. You can go for walks, or put up a bird feeder and try to attract birds you’re interested in. If you find that you enjoy it you can get a bird book to reference, or binoculars to see them up closely.”

Overall Dr. Blasutig made it sound like a very easy hobby to get into, and if you’re interested the bird book of choice is, Birds of North America, and there’s also a fabulous birds of prey conservatory in Halton, Mountsberg Raptor Centre.

As a final point Dr. Blasutig shared a story about walking across Gerrard toward University and seeing a red-tail hawk swoop down in front of him and pick up a pigeon just west of the TGH Gerrard entrance… So keep your eyes peeled!


What do you do when you need to feel “BUSY”?

                                       What’s that thing you do that makes you happy (“Bliss”),

                                                                                            or helps you relax (“Unwind”),

or makes you feel like you can take on anything that comes your way (“Strength”)?

                   Dr. Blasutig might go for a hike and birdwatch.  What would YOU do?

The BUSY Lab

Check in next week as we hear from another LMP staff member about their BUSY activity.  We hope these stories may remind you about your BUSY thing, or even inspire you to try something new!

Chetty’s Cheetahs raise over $3000 for Heart and Stroke

May 27, 2016




This year the LMP Big Bike team, led by cytopathology MLT and first-time team captain, Mathew Carter raised over $3000 to support the Heart and Stroke Foundation and all those who battle against heart disease and stroke.

The ride brought out staff members from across the program to endure the heat and humidity, and pedal the oversized 30 seat bike in a loop around Queen’s Park. We were fast on the downhills, sluggish on the up-hills, but enthousiastic from start-to-finish.

The ride was a first for a couple of new riders, a first for our team captain, and a first for our newly named bike, Chetty’s Cheetahs named for LMP Medical Director, Dr. Runjan Chetty. We were also the first team from TGH to kick off the annual Big Bike ride today, and I we can all rest assured we set the bar high!


Check out all the photos from the day below!

DSC03021DSC03023DSC03032 Read more…

BUSY Lab: Sewing with Heather

May 27, 2016



This week the BUSY Lab connected with LMP hematology administrative assistant, Heather Stevenson to learn a bit about what she does to keep herself going and shape her personal health and wellness. The theme: Sewing.

“For me wellness isn’t just about your mind, your body, your soul,” says Heather. “It’s about being able to give and do things for others less fortunate.”

Heather was first introduced to sewing by her family, who for the most part could all sew and make clothing. They went on to enroll her in lessons so she could properly develop her skills – and at just 13 Heather made her first two articles of clothing: an apron and a dress. The sewing program also made the students model their finished products at the local mall, so the stakes were quite high for Heather, despite being a beginner.

“I was interested at first because it was a family affair that went generations, but once I finished those first pieces of clothing it gave me an amazing sense of accomplishment,” says Heather. “It’s not for everyone, but if you can choose something easy, stay committed, and see the project through –  you’ll be rewarded in the end.”
Heather now gets a sense of relaxation as she goes through the process of choosing patterns, fabrics, and designs. She’ll put on Classical 96.3, layout the pieces, and peacefully begin to cut and sew. The whole process can take as few as 4-5 hours start to finish.

“It helps with controlling and improving your mental stamina and patience,” says Heather. “It also teaches you to accept failure as a learning opportunity – because it doesn’t always work out how you planned.”

Grenada sewing_Dec2015

The first group graduates from the Grenadian sewing program Heather supports proudly put their clothes on display so the picture could be shared.                            

Now, what started off as a creative outlet introduced to Heather by her family has grown into a sustainability initiative connecting Heather to her native country of Grenada. She has garnered support from friends and family and has helped acquire donations including a sewing machine and assortments of patterns and fabrics so young Grenadian girls and women can learn how to sew. With that skill, Heather hopes the participants learn the value of what they’re doing, and find themselves able to earn money for the clothing and products they produce. So far 16 women have gone through the course.

When asked how a newbie should go about starting sewing, Heather says to first take the sewing machine out of storage, then start with an easy project, and stay committed to finishing.

“It can be important to give yourself a deadline,” says Heather. “It’s so easy to walk away from the project and never complete it, so challenging yourself and encouraging yourself to stay committed is key.”

What do you do when you need to feel “BUSY”?

                                      What’s that thing you do that makes you happy (“Bliss”),

                                                                                            or helps you relax (“Unwind”),

or makes you feel like you can take on anything that comes your way (“Strength”)?

                                   Heather might sew a shirt for a friend.  What would YOU do?

The BUSY Lab

Check in next week as we hear from another LMP staff member about their BUSY activity.  We hope these stories may remind you about your BUSY thing, or even inspire you to try something new!


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