New local institute to combine health care, academic research

A new collaborative research centre in Windsor, combining the efforts of the local health care and academic communities, took a big step forward this week and is set to launch in the spring.

Windsor Regional Hospital’s board of directors on Thursday approved supporting a new Windsor Health Institute — a hub that would combine the best minds from the health care and academic sectors who would work in tandem to elevate research success. Supporters believe it will also help retain locally the best health care talent and improve patient care.

“What it would do is elevate what already exists,” said Lisa Porter, a University of Windsor professor and director of the Windsor Cancer Research Group. “It would put an administrative structure in place to support growth.

“It is the hospitals, the university and the college all coming together to unite and really say this is a priority. I think we’ve got all the foundation work accomplished. We know we can do it and now it is just rolling it out on a larger scale.”

The hospital’s board agreed this week to support the research initiative — scheduled to get off the ground this spring — with $500,000 over five years. The funds are on top of $1 million over five years to be contributed by the University of Windsor.

It is anticipated that other funding support will come from Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare and St. Clair College in the weeks ahead as both are also partners in the planned health institute.

Discussions to launch the local research centre began nearly a decade ago, but the effort grew serious with the formation of a board of directors in early 2018, Porter said.

The health institute would feature training programs, academic support, professional development and think tanks at every level starting from elementary school students all the way up to the area’s top graduate students and health care professionals, Porter said.

While cancer research would be natural area of focus, other areas could include mental health, sexual health and physical rehabilitation — each important needs for the local area.

Provincial and federal grants to advance local medical research could be more easily secured through collaborative teams that would be created within the new institute, Porter said.

“You would be supporting cutting-edge clinical trials (in Windsor) that would equate to cutting-edge (patient) care,” she said. “We don’t have an academic hospital, but we want to start creating momentum.

“This would put everybody’s heads together in one place. You want to support clinicians who are working on health care problems so they can find solutions.”

Somewhere between $2 million and $2.5 million is anticipated to be in place locally by the spring to help launch the new research centre, said Porter, adding that the only initial funding requirement is for staff.

It is anticipated either government grants or fundraising will help support the institute and research efforts in the years ahead.

“I’m confident we can do this,” Porter said. “I think we have to work together as a region. We have a lot of strengths in Windsor.

“I think the community maybe doesn’t realize how many great things are going on. We are doing what we can to elevate what we are doing together.”

Source: The Windsor Star