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UHN/KCCC collaboration thrives at 3rd Annual Pathology Conference in Kuwait

December 2, 2016



As we, at UHN’s Laboratory Medicine Program (LMP) wrap up our recent conference, it seems fitting to acknowledge another successful conference which took place just a month earlier and halfway around the world – the Kuwait Cancer Control Centre’s (KCCC) annual Pathology Conference.

Our colleagues in Kuwait, many of which LMP staff have built close relationships with, have continued with their annual conference, an initial product of the UHN/KCCC partnership, and have once again featured LMP medical staff in the three day event.

This year marked the conference’s third anniversary and its third consecutive year collaborating with the University Health Network. LMP Neuropathologist, Dr. Kenneth Aldape was in Kuwait representing UHN at the event, and presented a slide session focusing on various types of brain tumours. Dr. Aldape was just one of the 10 international speakers featured throughout the three day conference, which included experts from Canada, the United States, England, and Germany.

The conference was once again an incredible success, and we at UHN congratulate the KCCC organizing committee for continuing with the annual conference, and thank them for inviting LMP medical staff as participants.


For more information on the KCCC 3rd Annual Pathology Conference visit:

LMP technologist named new president of provincial lab tech society, OSMT

November 4, 2016


Karim Bhaloo, medical laboratory technologist, LMP has once again moved up the ranks at the Ontario Society of Medical Technologists (OSMT) being named the new president at last week’s annual general meeting.

Over the last six years Karim has been actively involved with OSMT, holding multiple positions including, district director, director at large, chair of the editorial committee and most recently vice-president. But now, Karim has a much larger role to play in advocating for the profession and is accountable for the society’s board of directors and is also the primary liaison between the board and executive director, Blanca McArthur.

Karim identified a couple key priorities that he will focus on over his two year term, one of which is to increase OSMT’s presence on social media. He notes that there are a lot of opportunities to engage with stakeholders through channels such as Twitter, and sees it as a good forum to advocate for the profession and connect with related organizations.

Another focus of Karim’s will be engaging medical laboratory technicians/assistant (MLA), and encouraging more involvement with OSMT and MLA regulation.

Karim started as OSMT’s district 5 (greater Toronto region) director roughly six years ago, and he laughs, saying despite his climb up the ranks to president, there is still no limo or security detail (though he doesn’t seem to mind).

It’s an exciting time all round for the OSMT with new appointments on the board of directors, a new president, and as of January 1, 2017 the society will also have a new executive director in Michelle Hoad, former director of marketing and communications at The Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS).

For those on the fence about joining organizations like OSMT, Karim would strongly encourage you to go for it. Whether it’s OSMT, CSMLS, the College of Medical Laboratory Technologists of Ontario (CMLTO), or any one of the other organizations tied to the medical laboratory k-bhaloo-2profession, Karim says, “it doesn’t matter if you’re involved for two year or two days, you’ll be able to learn from the experience and grow as a professional.”

About the OSMT

The Ontario Society of Medical Technologists (OSMT) was founded in 1963, and is a member driven, non-profit society advocating for laboratory professionals and acting as a voice for medical laboratory technologists and medical laboratory assistants/technicians in Ontario.

Click HERE for more information.

Laboratory Medicine Program staff living double lives

October 14, 2016

Gastrointestinal pathologist and immunometablosim scientist, Dr. Daniel Winer, impressively balances clinical care and innovative research to best serve current UHN patients and those who may need care in the future. (Photo: UHN/Laboratory Medicine Program)


In case you missed it on UHN News (10.05.2016): 

The infamous, “So what do you do?” question can stir an inner conflict in most. Even when the question is specific to profession, medical staff from UHN’s Laboratory Medicine Program (LMP) may struggle to choose a definitive answer.

Between balancing clinical work and research, for LMP staff, the answer may just depend on the day.

In LMP, there are hundreds of different specialized laboratory professionals who practice clinically each day. Many of these same staff also dedicate huge portions of time outside of their clinical work to advance medical research and conduct innovative studies.

This type of juggling between research and clinical practice is one that many in LMP choose to embrace, as their clinical experience can often help steer research towards practical applications.

“‘From bench to bedside’ is a phrase we use a lot in LMP and our staff research is a great example of how we deliver innovation from our labs to our patients,” says Dr. Runjan Chetty, interim medical director, LMP.

“Lab medicine is often considered an essential aspect of any study, and our medical and technical staff routinely contribute to and lead investigative studies, bringing clinical experience to the forefront of medical research.”



Blood transfusions are now quicker, simpler for patients

October 11, 2016
Sally Balmer, Kate Uchendu and Ina Cherepaha-Kantorovich

Sally Balmer, (C), Manager, Blood Transfusion Laboratories, shows a unit of donor blood which will be cross-matched for the patient ahead of a clinic visit to Kate Uchendu, (L) Nurse Practitioner, UHN Red Blood Cell Disorders Program, and Ina Cherepaha-Kantorovich, (R), Nurse Manager of the Medical Day Unit. (Photo: UHN)

In case you missed it on UHN News (10.05.2016): 

David, 71, and Kayla, his foster daughter, used to travel 320 kilometres in total to Toronto General Hospital every month for Kayla’s transfusion. Now their time on the road and in clinic has been reduced by half.  (Photo: UHN Visual Services)

A program developed by the Toronto General Hospital (TGH) Red Blood Cell Disorders Clinic, UHN Transfusion Medicine, Medical Day Unit and LifeLabs Medical Laboratory Services decreases patient trips to the hospital and cuts wait times for blood transfusions in half.

TGH patients can now have their initial blood drawn at a location near their home or work. These blood samples are then transported to the Blood Transfusion Laboratory at TGH where the sample is used to crossmatch the patient with donor blood in preparation for transfusion.

Having the samples collected and tested before patients come for their transfusions reduces time spent in clinic and the need to come to the hospital twice.

“This program has had a profound effect on our patient experience,” says Kate Uchendu, Nurse Practitioner, UHN Red Blood Cell Disorders Program, who spearheaded the new process with a team from UHN Blood Transfusion Labs, UHN Red Blood Cell Disorders Program, LifeLabs and the Medical Day Unit.



IQMH Q&A with Mary Fountas

September 30, 2016



During the week of November 14-18, LMP and all of its labs will undergo a peer review assessment by the Institute for Quality Management in Healthcare (IQMH).

The assessment is a familiar process for many LMP staff as Ontario labs are required to renew their accreditation every four years, but for newer staff there can be a lot of unknowns. To shine some light on IQMH, the purpose of the assessment and what LMP staff can expect we asked Mary Fountas, LMP Quality and Safety Manager a couple of key questions. So if you’d like to learn more, read the Q&A below!


  1. What’s the purpose of IQMH accreditation?

Successful IQMH accreditation is all about showing patients, clients, and ourselves that we are meeting our commitment to safe and effective patient care, and continually improving our practices.

  1. How has LMP scored in past IQMH assessments?

In the past we’ve received very few citations in IQMH assessments. In 2012 we actually had zero majors and zero repeat citations. Though, it’s important to point out that receiving citations isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in fact I think it’s often a reminder that there’s always room to improve how we do things.

  1. What does it mean to receive citations from IQMH?

You know how in your house you stop seeing things that other people might notice at first glance? A lot of the time citations are just like that. That’s what makes it an important practice. If there’s anything we’re doing incorrectly or anything we can improve on we want to receive that citation, so we can address the issue and make our practice better for everyone.

  1. As an LMP staff member, what role do I play in the assessment process?

Your primary role is the same as it is on any other day, and you just continue to perform your work as it’s documented to be done. If an assessor from the IQMH team asks you a question, answer them to the best of your ability and try to show evidence in Paradigm or lab documents to support your answer. If you’re unsure what the assessor means or what they are looking for, ask a colleague or manager for assistance.

  1. What types of things will assessors look for as they tour our labs?

You can expect the IQMH team to look for records or evidence showing that we meet the requirements set in our quality management system. Assessors will also follow along in our work and ‘buddy’ with staff at the bench to see the process we use to conduct a particular test or activity.

  1. Is there anything we need to do to prepare our lab space?

As someone who specifically focuses on quality and safety, it’s always a good time to tidy up your workspace and check to make sure you know where specific documents and records are kept. If you see anything out of place or of possible concern, notify your manager or supervisor.

  1. What do we hope to learn from this assessment?

When it comes down it – we want to confirm what we’re doing right, and learn what areas we can improve on.

  1. Any other thoughts you’d like to share as we get closer to our assessment dates?

I think the most important point to make is that the IQMH team is not here to assess you, but here to assess our facility and how our quality management system supports you in your work. It should be taken as a positive to have this type of peer-review assessment and it ties in with our commitment to Caring Safely and becoming a High Reliability Organization.


Stay tuned for more details on LMP’s upcoming IQMH assessment in the weeks to come!

Going above and beyond: Laboratory Medicine Leadership Awards

August 26, 2016

leadership awards

Since 2008, the annual Laboratory Medicine Leadership Awards have awarded 20 staff members who are nominated by peers who want to recognize their value in the workplace.


Originally published internally on UHN’s Intranet newsroom.

Laboratory Medicine Program (LMP) staff enjoyed great food, music and company at its Staff Appreciation BBQ last week. And standing out from the typical barbecue fixings were the ninth annual Laboratory Medicine Leadership Awards, which were given to three deserving staff for their outstanding approach to patient care.

“Leadership can mean many different things in laboratory medicine,” explains Michele Henry, Senior Director, LMP.

“We have roles for ‘official’ leaders, but these awards recognize those who go above and beyond what is expected from them, and lead by example to bring out the best in others.”

Candidates are nominated by their colleagues and co-workers, and a committee must narrow the selection down to three staff members who display formidable qualities of leadership on a daily basis. There have been 20 winners of the annual awards since 2008. This year, the awards committee received over 25 nominations.


The winners of the ninth annual Laboratory Medicine Leadership Awards are:


Janice Hawes – Blood Transfusion Lab


Award winner Janice Hawes (L) was presented with her certificate by Michele Henry, Senior Director, LMP. (Photo: UHN)

Janice was nominated by six of her colleagues

“Anytime she sees that there are a number of her co-workers that have the same questions, she will start a little ‘talk’ to educate all of us… If I have a problem she is there welcoming me with a solution and then also teaches me how to solve it myself next time.” – Sally Poon

“She is a fantastic lab tech and employee. She is unique, outspoken and an extremely valuable asset to Transfusion Science and UHN.” – Megan MacQuarrie

“Janice approaches every problem and provides very practical solutions. Recently she has revised many SOP’s/ procedures in serology that will help improve the workflow of the lab. She is committed to excellence and seeks and enforces continuous improvement in each area of the lab.” – Neeru Sahni


Ivana Vidovic – Core Lab – Hematology


Ivana Vidovic (L) receiving her Laboratory Medicine Leadership Award at last week’s LMP staff barbecue. (Photo: UHN)

Ivana was nominated by Jaimelyn Rara and Maryam Ghorbanian, who both wrote the following nominations.

“Ever since I started at UHN as a student, Ivana had always stood out as someone who goes out of their way to help others. After working with her for four years, she has remained that dependable person you can always go to for help, guidance and support. She is easy to talk to, welcoming and very inclusive. She works so hard and pushes herself to the limit and beyond to get things done. She is one of the most selfless individuals I know and everything she does is ultimately driven by providing the highest quality of patient care. I aspire to be as great a technologist as her and can’t think of anyone else more deserving of this award. She’s a true leader in every sense of the word.” – Jaimelyn Rara

“One of the most important benches in hematology is the morphology bench. Ivana trained all new staff in morphology with patience and enthusiasm, and then suggested weekly Morphology Rounds with LMP hematopathologists so all staff could benefit from their knowledge and experience.” – Maryam Ghorbanian


Magda Waszul – Cytogenetics


Magda Waszul (L) was also nominated last year and received the Laboratory Medicine Leadership Award this year after being nominated a second time. (Photo: UHN)

Magda was nominated by Cherry Have, who described the leadership qualities that Magda brings to the cytogenetics lab.

“Magda actively participates in laboratory meetings and works together with the team to address initiatives to improve laboratory services. While working on her initiative to test less expensive consumables, she constructively designed a systematic study to solve and determine reasons for poor quality testing during winter months.”

“Magda continues to approach both her work and life with tremendous positive energy and passion – a trait admirable in leaders.” – Cherry Have


Congratulations to all other outstanding nominees: Sally Campos, Core Laboratory; Peter Faure, Pathology; Stephen Fitzgibbon, Transfusion Medicine; Vivienne Jones, Specimen Management; Paul Martens, Biochemistry; Jaimelyn Rara, Hematology; Jeanette Campbell, Specimen Management.



BUSY Lab: Knitting sweaters with Mary

August 26, 2016



This week the BUSY Lab connected with LMP quality and safety manager, Mary Fountas to learn a bit about what she does to take a break from the BUSY and shape her personal health and wellness. The theme: Knitting.

“It’s fun to make something yourself, and really doesn’t require a large investment,” says Mary.

But that being said, knitting didn’t become an enjoyed hobby for Mary right off the bat.She was first introduced to the activity by her mom at around 10 years old, and lacking the coordination and maybe a bit of patience it didn’t take. The second time was still as a kid and knitting was a component of a class at school, but again Mary wasn’t able to fully embrace it. Finally, years later and enrolled at the Michener Institute, Mary noticed one of her classmates knitting and after seeing the progress she would make throughout a class – it seemed time to give it another try.

“It looked doable – and I’ve always had the mindset ‘well if they can do it, I can too.’”

So the third time was the charm, and from there it didn’t take long before it became a fun, productive, and economical hobby. Mary points out too that as Canadians we have lots of opportunity to be wearing wool sweaters, and we also have a lot of opportunity to actually knit when we’re stuck inside during those winter months.

“You’re able to feel a little better about staying in and watching T.V.,” says Mary.

The benefits of knitting can really differ depending on the person. For some it may be to relax or to keep occupied, others might use it as a creative outlet and challenge themselves with different designs and patterns, and some might just want save money on a new sweater or toque. Whatever the benefit may be there are certainly lots of reasons to try and pick up the hobby.

Mary says knitting doesn’t even have to be a solo activity. When first starting out, she and a roommate spent the better part of a winter knitting together and watching football.

Mary would knit the lower half of sweaters, and her roommate, who was good at knitting tightly around collars, would do the upper half. Working together they were able to make nine sweaters that year for friends and family.

“It’s really neat to make your own clothes, but it’s just as great to see people wear the clothes you made for them,” says Mary.   *Though it was pointed out that she’s not ready to take on any requests!

For those that may be interested in trying knitting there are tons of great resources to get started. You can take lessons at knitting/wool shops (they also offer some at Toronto’s Public Libraries), there are lots of instructional YouTube videos and there are even online social groups with active communities that share tips, tricks, designs and patterns (Mary suggested

Mary’s current project is a sweater for her son Michael. And though she’s still in the early stages of it you can see what is going to be an awesome recreation of The Dude’s sweater from the movie the Big Lebowski!



…Though as a true quality manager, Mary pointed out that the weave could be a bit tighter if she were following the quality control procedures perfectly.


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”)?

                       Mary might put aside time to knit a sweater.  What would YOU do?

The BUSY Lab

Stay tuned for the next time we hear about another LMP staff member’s BUSY activity.  We hope these stories may remind you about your BUSY thing, or even inspire you to try something new!