Christine Cursio Wins Local Impact Award

Nomination for Local Impact Award, Convergence (Individual)

It is with great pleasure that I nominate Christine Cursio from the Laboratory Medicine Program for the Individual Local Impact Award (Individual). Chris Cursio wears many hats, she is the Senior Manager – Point of Care Testing, TWH Laboratory Site Clinical Coordinator, and GTA Client Liaison.  As one of the most seasoned and respected leaders in the laboratory medicine program, she is the epitome of leadership professionalism, quality, safety and inclusion. An illustrious career spanning close to 40 years in LMP, Chris has committed her entire career to laboratory medicine at UHN, even before UHN was UHN!  In 1984 she received her Medical Laboratory Technologist credential at the Toronto Institute of Medical Technology prior to it becoming The Michener Institute, and swiftly joined the laboratory medicine team at TGH, and she has never looked back!.

Currently, as the Senior Manager of POCT, she is successfully leading and mentoring nine programs across all UHN facilities. Most importantly and foundational has been the institutional glucose meter program with more than 7500 operators using 325 glucose meters and building on top of that, the blood gas program boasts 21 blood gas machines with 800 operators. This is indeed a Herculean task of connecting this network of users across a wide spectrum of care, research and education from all centers under UHN umbrella; all the while ensuring a quality and safety focus. With her huge wealth of knowledge and lived experience, this comes very naturally to her. The art of bringing a shared vision to all stakeholders including physicians and surgeons, clinicians, laboratorians, information technologists, external vendors etc. is a skill set Chris demonstrates with incredible ease.  It is inspiring to see her at work.

A great deal of work in the background is required for running these programs in terms of administration, communication, connectivity, education, training, compliance, and development of policies and procedures within the quality management system, to keep up the accreditation standards and licensing requirements. Christine is a pillar of strength and resilience for the Laboratory Medicine Program to address any such challenges that arise, all in the pursuit of delivering high quality diagnostic services. She is a reference source not only for the POCT professionals but also for the entire laboratory POCT community and of course her large LMP team. Her contribution as an expert in LMP helped immensely to set up various laboratories in our external partners sites and remote centers across the Country. She periodically monitors the progress at all centers and help them navigate through their accreditation and licensing requirements as well.

After many years as an MLT in biochemistry, in 2000, she accepted the challenge of starting a new stand-alone unit for POCT at UHN. It was an unfamiliar territory for many of us in healthcare. Developing it into a department within no time was possible just because of her dedication and passion for excellence. She rose to the level of international faculty for the POCT Specialist certification by American Association of Clinical Chemistry (AACC) in 2008. Over the years, POCT has evolved to accommodate the evolving needs and demands of patient care, and demand for swift results to enable decision making. Research and innovation have contributed substantially to the variety of products and services making it a 40 billion dollar business across North America. Keeping in mind the complexities we face in the current healthcare system, choosing and validating the right test for the best interest of our patient is a critical decision. Christine has implemented nine POCT programs in UHN that are running successfully and most of them now are standard of care in our hospitals. Many more are in pipeline or at different stages of implementation.  This pipeline is ever full in a collaborative spirit with clinicians because we need to be more nimble and align to how clinicians want to make their decision, and to not simply acquiesce to how we have always don’t things in the conventional lab.

POCT has limitations in that there always has to be comparability between the POC test and the conventional lab test. The state-of-the-art technology used in the core lab is considered as gold standard and usually not practical to implement at the bedside. This big barrier has been overcome by Christine’s effort to bring the same technology of core lab blood gas analysis to the bedside or operating rooms. This is a game changer and milestone in the implementation of POCT in hospitals and in fact, has been established by UHN LMP through Chris’s thought leadership as an industry best practice.  The cardiac ORs, ICUs in TGH and TWH are all greatly benefited by this flagship program. Over 600 blood gas analysis are currently being done in our hospitals every day to keep our patients safe and this has had a huge impact across UHN.

Chris always says “You know why we do this? Because there is a big H on the building!”  Sometimes we make decisions that require us to change how we do things, and spend our money differently.  Chris always reminding us to look past the nuts and bolts of administration to the benefit.  This was the case in introducing intraoperative PTH testing in the rapid response lab at TWH.  It is not a rapid response test – but was the right thing to do!  Chris’s support in implementing the intraoperative PTH testing at TWH has been a game changer, in that it facilitates day surgery discharge to be much more enabled than ever before.  

When the time came for UHN to implement rapid antigen testing for COVID-19, it was ready and available.  This is in large part, thanks to Chris Cursio who led the evaluation and implementation in LMP for RAT testing to be part of the broader POCT program.  Today RAT testing is just a routine measure we take that is accessible, safe, easy, and reliable – all because it was implemented in such a fulsome, comprehensive and inclusive Cursio-way.

Lastly, if you have ever met Chris, you know how much she cares about lab medicine, but mostly, the learners in lab medicine.  Chris has long been the student placement coordinator for all schools seeking to place medical laboratory professionals in LMP at UHN.  With the current state of health human resources, the system is continuously looking at how to attract and retain its workforce.  Christine Cursio has been a key enabler of bolstering LMP firstly by supporting the federally granted Workplace Integrated Learning initiative from the Canadian Society of Medical Laboratory Science.  The initiative welcomed foreign trained lab professionals to round out their experience at UHN in in targeted learning areas, in the hopes of successfully challenging the Canadian certification exam.  This was a very successful initiative that established the proof of concept for CSMLS in how to successfully transition foreign trained lab staff into the Canadian workplace quickly.  On top of that, Chris has also helped see the LMP double it’s student placement intake from the Michener Laboratory Science program, allowing Michener to accept a net new 20 student applications to the program.

Chris Cursio’s impact and contributions to UHN are commendable.  Her work has created a sustainable foundation that has had a huge impact on patient care and maintaining high standard of service in our hospitals. For this remarkable and long self-less service rendered to the organization, I humbly nominate her for the UHN local impact award, convergence (individual) for the year 2022.  There is no more deserving a candidate.  Thank you for your consideration.

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