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Blair Bigham

Toronto, Canada
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About Blair
Blair is a multimedia freelance journalist and emergency and critical care doctor based in Toronto, Canada.  He received his journalism training at the Munk School of Global Affairs and his research training at the Institute for Medical Sciences, both at U of Toronto. His medical training was at McMaster and Stanford universities. 

Blair has delivered health care on five continents and transported patients on helicopters, boats, and vehicles that could generously be described as pick-up trucks.  In the past he worked as a paramedic, scientist and educator, and frequently speaks at conferences around the globe.

He reports on social, political and biological influences on health and wellness. His first book, Death Interrupted: how modern medicine is complicating the way we die, became a best-seller.
Languages
English
Services
Audio package (Radio / Podcast) Interview (Video / Broadcast) News Gathering
+10
Skills
Technology Science & Environment Health & Fitness
+3
Portfolio

Adding value to scholarship in residency: Supporting and inspiring future emergency medicine research in Canada

16 May 2024  |  www.cambridge.org
The Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine (CJEM) is enhancing its impact by supporting resident physicians in publishing high-quality scholarly work. Despite barriers such as time constraints, the journal encourages a broader definition of scholarship, promoting collaboration and impactful research. The shift in academic focus towards areas like medical education and patient safety is emphasized, aligning with updated CanMEDS scholar role definitions. Institutions are urged to recognize diverse forms of scholarship and foster mentorship and digital collaboration. CJEM offers various opportunities for residents to publish, aiming to inspire excellence in emergency medical care.

Community Builders: For the Kids Gala

22 Nov 2023  |  ottawacitizen
The For The Kids Gala, which supports children and youth with physical and developmental disabilities at CHEO, made a triumphant return on November 22 at the National Gallery. The event, sponsored by TD Bank Group, was a celebration filled with laughter and community spirit, aiming to raise awareness and funds for the cause. The gala highlighted the achievements of the children, including progress in education and therapy, and served as a testament to their resilience. The article also invites readers to share stories of individuals making exceptional efforts to help, with contact information provided.

Cannabis and your health

17 Apr 2023  |  The Globe and Mail
The article discusses the increase in cannabis-related emergency room visits in Canada, highlighting cases of accidental ingestion and overconsumption, particularly with edibles containing THC. Dr. Michael Szabo of the University Health Network in Toronto and other health professionals have observed a rise in such incidents, with symptoms ranging from palpitations to incoherence. The Canadian Public Health Association notes the potency of cannabis has increased, and the unregulated nature of edibles makes dosing unpredictable. The Canadian Institutes of Health Information reports a significant rise in cannabis-related ER visits in Ontario and Alberta. The Canadian Association of Poison Control Centres has seen an increase in pediatric exposure to cannabis. The article also covers the risks of mixing alcohol with cannabis, the phenomenon of cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, concerns about impaired driving, and the potential for child endangerment due to a lack of child-resistant packaging. Additionally, there is a mention of the impact on pets, with a rise in marijuana-related poisonings reported by veterinarians.

Cannabis and your health

17 Apr 2023  |  The Globe and Mail
The article discusses the increase in cannabis-related emergency room visits in Canada, highlighting cases of accidental ingestion and overconsumption, particularly with edibles containing THC. Dr. Michael Szabo of the University Health Network in Toronto and other health professionals have observed a rise in such incidents, with symptoms ranging from palpitations to incoherence. The Canadian Public Health Association notes the potency of cannabis has increased, and the unregulated nature of edibles makes dosing unpredictable. The Canadian Institutes of Health Information reports a significant rise in cannabis-related ER visits in Ontario and Alberta. The Canadian Association of Poison Control Centres has seen an increase in pediatric exposure to cannabis. The article also covers the risks of mixing alcohol with cannabis, the phenomenon of cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, concerns about impaired driving, and the potential for child endangerment due to a lack of child-resistant packaging. Additionally, there is a mention of the impact on pets, with a rise in marijuana-related poisonings reported by veterinarians.

The Debate Over CPR Training in Opioid Overdoses

05 Apr 2023  |  www.vice.com
The article discusses the challenges faced by first responders and bystanders in reversing opioid overdoses, particularly those caused by potent substances like fentanyl and carfentanil. It highlights the increased use of naloxone, an opioid antagonist, and the varying effectiveness of the drug depending on the opioid involved. Medical professionals, including Dr. Lisa Kohler and Dr. Mark Yarema, emphasize the need for different doses of naloxone for different opioids. The article also explores the debate among health care professionals regarding the importance of CPR, especially chest compressions, in overdose situations. While some argue that chest compressions are vital and should be emphasized in training, others worry that it could complicate naloxone training. The article includes insights from various experts, including Dr. Christian Vaillancourt, Dr. Ian Stiell, Sergeant Luc Chicoine, Dr. Aaron Orkin, and Dr. Sharon Stancliff, highlighting the differing opinions on the matter.

The Misinfodemic: Combating the Deadly Spread of COVID-19 Misinformation

05 Apr 2023  |  The Globe and Mail
Blair Bigham discusses the dangers of misinformation in healthcare, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. He highlights studies showing that falsehoods spread faster than the truth on social media and that exposure to misinformation reduces the likelihood of people getting vaccinated. Bigham emphasizes the societal costs of misinformation, including economic damage, social disruption, and loss of life. He advocates for a whole-of-society effort to combat misinformation, including prebunking strategies and social media companies acting as public-health agencies to monitor and control the spread of false information. He also refutes the argument that controlling misinformation infringes on freedom of expression, stating that there is no right to spread harmful falsehoods on private platforms.

Canada’s patchwork air ambulance system leaves patients on the hook for thousands

05 Apr 2023  |  t.co
The article discusses the challenges faced by Canadians, particularly those in rural areas, in accessing emergency medical care due to the country's vast geography. It highlights the recent initiative by Quebec to trial test a helicopter ambulance service, but points out that this alone will not resolve the systemic issues within Canada's air-ambulance network. The author, Blair Bigham, emphasizes the financial burden patients often bear when transported across provincial lines, as the Canada Health Act does not mandate provinces to cover these costs. The article cites specific cases and provincial policies to illustrate the patchwork funding and the lack of reciprocal billing agreements between provinces. Bigham suggests that if provincial governments cannot ensure equitable access to air ambulance services, the federal government should amend the Canada Health Act or federalize air ambulance services to eliminate financial barriers to lifesaving treatments.

For doctors like me, the question of resuscitate or palliate never has an easy answer

22 Oct 2022  |  theglobeandmail.com
Blair Bigham, an emergency and critical-care physician, discusses the challenging decision-making process between resuscitating or providing palliative care to dying patients. He reflects on his own experiences and the evolution of his perspective from his paramedic days to his current medical practice. Bigham explores the complexities of prognostication, the biases that can influence it, and the importance of humility, compassion, and communication in healthcare. He also shares insights from senior intensivist Randy Curtis, who emphasizes the need for careful prognostication and the balance between hope and realistic expectations in critical care.

An Excerpt from Death Interrupted

01 Oct 2022  |  healthydebate.ca
The article discusses the complexities of determining death in medical practice, highlighting the experiences of medical professionals and families dealing with end-of-life decisions. It explores the role of doctors in deciding when life has ended, the variability in determining death across countries, and the impact of these decisions on trust between families and healthcare providers. The article also examines the case of Alma Estable, whose father was in a coma, and the family's struggle with the hospital's recommendations and the Consent and Capacity Board. It reflects on the balance between hope and realism in medical care and the need for clear communication about death to facilitate grief and acceptance.

Blair Bigham’s new book “Death Interrupted” asks: how do we know a patient’s dead and what does that mean for care? Read an excerpt

22 Sep 2022  |  thestar.com
Blair Bigham's book 'Death Interrupted' explores the complexities of determining when a patient is dead and the implications for care. The excerpt reflects on the experiences of two fifth-year residents, including the author, during their training.

Doctors speaking out on public health issues or advocating for social justice is beneficial to their patients and the profession, argue these authors

26 Mar 2021  |  BMJ Blogs
The article discusses the tension between the traditional medical professionalism that advises against doctors engaging in public advocacy and the modern trend where doctors, especially the younger generation, are using social media to speak out on public health issues and social justice. The authors argue that separating personal and professional identities is detrimental to the profession and to patients. They cite examples of doctors facing backlash for their advocacy, such as Toronto surgeon Najma Ahmed, who faced complaints after anti-gun activism. However, they note that times are changing, with physicians increasingly participating in social movements and being more open online, which may benefit patient relationships. The authors, both physicians themselves, advocate for authenticity and the integration of professional and personal selves to build trust in medicine and science.

MEDICAL POST - Opinion - Ontario public health hasn’t stepped up—we need it to, now. Doctors have been getting conflicting information about how to handle this pandemic, and PHO has failed to clarify the confusion

MEDICAL POST - Opinion - As pandemic arrives, Canada's medical training colleges must not fail in their duty to certify new doctors.

Doctors find their voices to combat “infodemic” of fake news

01 Jun 2020  |  Healthy Debate
The article discusses the spread of misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasizing the role of social media in amplifying false information. It highlights the challenges faced by health professionals in combating lies and conspiracies, particularly those endorsed by public figures like former U.S. President Donald Trump. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have taken steps to direct users to credible sources, but the article suggests that more action is needed to prevent the spread of harmful misinformation. Health experts are increasingly engaging with the media to advocate for public health measures and counteract misinformation. The article underscores the importance of collaboration between social media companies, health experts, and journalists in addressing the 'infodemic' and promoting accurate health information.

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t going to be as bad as we thought in Canada

05 Apr 2020  |  The Globe and Mail
Blair Bigham, a resident physician in emergency medicine at McMaster University, discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canada's healthcare system. Initially, there was significant concern as hospitals prepared for a surge in cases following reports from New York and Italy. However, Canada's hospitals have managed to double their capacity, and the expected surge has not materialized to the feared extent. Bigham notes that the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care has decreased, and emergency departments are seeing fewer patients, though those who do arrive are often sicker than usual. This decrease in patient numbers is attributed to people avoiding hospitals for fear of the virus. Bigham emphasizes the need to plan for reopening hospital services and addressing the backlog of medical procedures. Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, Theresa Tam, has expressed cautious optimism as the epidemic slows down, but warns that vigilance is necessary to prevent new outbreaks.

We must prepare now for the death of a health-care worker from coronavirus

30 Mar 2020  |  The Globe and Mail
Blair Bigham, a resident physician at McMaster University, reflects on the concept of line-of-duty death (LODD) in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing parallels with his experience as a flight paramedic when he lost colleagues in a helicopter crash. He discusses the impact of LODDs on first responders and the importance of preparation and mental health support for healthcare workers. Bigham highlights the recent death of Kious Jordan Kelly, a nurse in New York, and the risks faced by healthcare workers globally. He emphasizes the need for hospitals to plan for LODDs, learn from first-response organizations, and provide support to ensure healthcare workers can continue their fight against the coronavirus.

Four things Canada needs to do NOW to support frontline health care workers and save lives

25 Mar 2020  |  Healthy Debate
The article is a critical analysis of Canada's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing parallels with the situation in Italy and emphasizing the urgency for more decisive action. The author argues that the Canadian healthcare system is ill-prepared for the impending crisis, citing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and mechanical ventilators. The article calls for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to enact the Emergencies Act, deploy the Canadian Forces to hospitals, allow regulatory flexibility, and enforce strict social distancing measures. The author highlights the need for immediate action to prevent unnecessary deaths and to support healthcare workers who are on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus.

When hospitals fail to create a culture where doctors and nurses can speak up patients pay the price

20 Oct 2019  |  BMJ Blogs
Blair Bigham and Amitha Kalaichandran discuss the critical issue of hospital culture and its impact on patient safety and staff well-being. They highlight cases where systemic problems in hospitals were exposed by journalists rather than medical professionals, due to a culture of silence and bullying. The article references studies showing that unprofessional behavior among surgeons correlates with higher patient complication rates and that a collaborative and open culture can improve patient outcomes, such as in the case of heart attack treatments. The authors suggest measures to improve hospital culture, including staff surveys, hiring leaders with soft skills, and promoting diversity and inclusion. They argue that creating a culture where staff feel safe to speak up is essential for patient and staff safety, and that leadership training in the medical field is lacking.

When Is Dead Actually Dead?

29 May 2019  |  The Walrus
The article explores the complex nature of defining death in the medical field, particularly in the context of brain death and organ donation. The author, a former paramedic and current medical student, reflects on their experiences with death in the field compared to the hospital setting, where the process of dying can be prolonged. The article discusses the medical and legal challenges in determining when a person is dead, especially when advanced technologies can maintain bodily functions. It highlights cases in Ontario where families contested the medical declaration of brain death based on religious beliefs, leading to legal battles. The article also touches on the ethical dilemmas faced by healthcare professionals and the impact of prolonged ICU stays on hospital resources. The author grapples with their role in communicating death to families and the broader implications of defining death in an era of advanced medical technology.

HAMILTON SPECTATOR - We must not let up in our battle to reduce the global burden of tuberculosis.

Canada's new system for training junior doctors puts emphasis on constant coaching

23 Dec 2018  |  The Globe and Mail
The article discusses the implementation of a new system for teaching and evaluating junior doctors in Canada, known as competency-based medical education (CBME). This system, which began on July 1, emphasizes direct observation and constant coaching of resident doctors by senior doctors. The goal is to identify and assist struggling residents early and ensure they acquire necessary skills before independent practice. The traditional model, in place since 1910, relied on a time-based approach and a final exam, often lacking in detailed feedback and skill assessment. The new model allows for residents to be declared 'entrustable' in certain competencies and potentially shorten their residency if they demonstrate readiness. The article also explores the debate over the effectiveness of CBME, with some educators and studies questioning its superiority over the time-based model. The article includes perspectives from various medical professionals and educators, as well as a specific example of a resident, Dr. Winny Li, benefiting from the new system.

HAMILTON SPECTATOR (Opinion) - Tuberculosis is the world's #1 infectious killer. Here's what we're doing about it.

Toronto Star: Kids in Canada are dying by suicide at alarming rates. Why? An investigation covering 10 provinces, 2 territories and 13 years finds over 5800 Canadian children and youth have died of suicide.

Doug Ford's Rollback on Sex-Ed Curriculum Fails Ontario's Children

07 Sep 2018  |  The Globe and Mail
The article criticizes Ontario Premier Doug Ford's decision to revert to the 1998 sex-ed curriculum, which excludes discussions on modern issues such as sexting, same-sex couples, and consent. The author argues that this move discriminates against LGBTQ students and fails to provide them with necessary sexual health education. Education experts and associations have opposed the government's stance, and legal challenges have been initiated. The author reflects on personal experiences and emphasizes the importance of inclusive education for creating a society where LGBTQ individuals feel safe and accepted. The article also compares Ontario's curriculum with those in other Canadian provinces and countries, highlighting the global trend towards inclusive sex education.

Ontario’s dated sex-ed plan is a lesson in homophobia

30 Aug 2018  |  The Globe and Mail
Doug Ford's enforcement of a 1998 sex-ed curriculum in Ontario, which excludes modern topics like same-sex couples and consent, is criticized as discriminatory and homophobic. Education experts and various organizations oppose the rollback, arguing it harms LGBTQ students by omitting critical sexual health information. The article highlights the negative impact on LGBTQ youth, drawing comparisons with more inclusive curriculums in other regions and countries. Ford's actions are seen as pandering to a conservative base, risking the reversal of progress towards an inclusive society.

A lesson on blood and bullets for Rick Santorum

04 Apr 2018  |  CanadiEM
The article criticizes former Senator Rick Santorum's comments on CNN's 'State of the Union' where he suggested that students should learn CPR to respond to school shootings instead of advocating for gun control. The author, an emergency physician, refutes Santorum's suggestion by explaining the medical futility of CPR in high-caliber gunshot wounds, such as those from an AR-15, which cause massive tissue damage and rapid blood loss. The author argues that instead of impractical advice, Santorum should support measures to enable the CDC to research gun violence and promote legislation to create a safer society.

CBC The National: A mother shares the story of her son, who died in jail of a fentanyl overdose. As inmate deaths rise, experts are questioning if Ontario's jails are doing enough to treat those with drug addictions.

'A human rights issue': Lack of treatment for drug users means deaths behind bars

03 Apr 2018  |  CBC
The article discusses the issue of drug addiction and overdose deaths among inmates in Canadian correctional facilities, with a focus on Ontario. It highlights the case of Curtis McGowan, who died of an overdose in the Maplehurst Correctional Complex. The article notes that drug-related fatalities in federal prisons have nearly doubled from 2010 to 2016 and that provincial jails likely have higher numbers due to their transient population. It criticizes Ontario's policies that restrict methadone treatment for inmates and contrasts this with more progressive approaches in Nova Scotia, Alberta, and British Columbia. The article also mentions an upcoming inquest into overdose deaths at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre and calls for improved addiction treatment in prisons, citing the high risk of overdose upon release. It concludes with the story of Michelle McPherson, whose son did not receive the treatment he needed while incarcerated.

If a nerve agent like Novichok was used here, there are antitodes on hand to save a few of victims. A larger attack would test Canada’s readiness.

10 Mar 2018  |  Macleans.ca
The article discusses Canada's preparedness to handle a nerve agent attack similar to the Novichok poisoning that occurred in Salisbury, UK. It details the nature of Novichok, a deadly organophosphate nerve toxin, and the medical response required to treat those affected. The authors highlight the challenges Canada would face in such an event, including the limited availability of antidotes like atropine and pralidoxime, and the potential for overwhelmed healthcare resources. The article also touches on the role of emergency responders, hospitals, and national agencies in managing a chemical attack. It concludes with a call for reassessment of Canada's readiness to respond to chemical weapon attacks, given the limited stockpiles and confusion over accessing antidotes.

Medical distress on planes is rising—but what each airline keeps handy, and how flight crews are trained to respond, varies wildly

02 Mar 2018  |  Macleans.ca
The article discusses the increasing number of medical emergencies on commercial flights and the varying levels of preparedness among airlines to handle such situations. The author, Blair Bigham, shares his own experience as a doctor responding to an in-flight emergency and highlights the inadequacy of medical supplies on board. The article notes that while passenger numbers are rising, the regulations for on-board medical equipment remain minimal, with some airlines carrying only the bare minimum required by regulators. The author criticizes the lack of robust international regulations and calls for modernization of lifesaving supplies and technology on commercial aircraft, citing examples of airlines like Emirates and Lufthansa that have taken steps to improve their in-flight medical response capabilities.

The 'Tide Pod Challenge': A Dangerous New Trend

15 Jan 2018  |  CMAJ Blogs
The article discusses the health risks associated with the 'Tide Pod Challenge,' a social media trend where individuals post videos of themselves eating laundry detergent pods. The authors, affiliated with McMaster University, review literature and consult experts to provide key information for clinicians. They emphasize the importance of understanding the reason for ingestion, as intentional ingestions can cause more severe gastrointestinal injuries. The article details the chemical properties of the pods, the potential for metabolic acidosis, and appropriate emergency management, including airway management and the use of endoscopy to assess esophageal damage. The authors call for manufacturers and regulators to take further action to prevent harm from laundry detergent pods, citing ongoing safety concerns despite previous efforts to make the products safer.

An ER Doc Explains How Not To End Up on Life Support

07 Dec 2017  |  www.vice.com
The article discusses the emotional and legal complexities surrounding end-of-life decisions in healthcare. The author, a physician, reflects on the impact of patients who suffer severe injuries or illnesses that leave them critically impaired but not deceased. The focus is on the legal and ethical challenges when patients cannot communicate their wishes, and decisions fall to family members or, in the absence of clear directives, to government-appointed guardians or the courts. The cases of Shalom Ouanounou and Taquisha McKitty, who were declared brain dead but kept on life support due to family objections, highlight the need for clear end-of-life directives. Lawyer Mark Handelman emphasizes the importance of millennials discussing their wishes with family and establishing legal documents like a power of attorney. The article also mentions resources like The Conversation Project to facilitate these discussions.

Patients needing admission to hospital stuck in ER longer, report says

03 Dec 2017  |  CBC
The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released a report indicating that emergency department wait times in Canada are on the rise, especially for patients requiring admission to in-patient wards. The report highlights that most patients visiting emergency departments are treated and discharged within eight hours, but there has been a 20-minute increase from the previous year. However, elderly or severely ill patients needing in-patient care are experiencing longer waits, with seniors waiting up to 36 hours. Dr. Howard Ovens of the Sinai Health System and Dr. Blair Bigham from McMaster University Medical Centre note that hospitals are overburdened, and the issue stems from a lack of available beds due to patients awaiting discharge to long-term care or home care. Dr. Anil Chopra of the University Health Network emphasizes the negative impact of hallway stays on patient outcomes and the overall patient experience.

Emergency room wait times on the rise

03 Dec 2017  |  CBC
The article reports on the increasing wait times in emergency rooms as stated by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. The rise in wait times varies from 20 minutes to as much as three hours, depending on the specific case. The article emphasizes the importance of every minute for patients waiting in emergency rooms, highlighting the critical nature of the issue.

CBC RADIO - Matt Galloway interviews Blair Bigham on Metro Morning. Youth mental health demands are surging and Universities can't keep up.

Ontario courts must uphold medical definition of death

17 Nov 2017  |  CBC
Ontario courts have ordered that life support remain in place for Taquisha McKitty and Shalom Ouanounou, despite medical diagnoses of irreversible brain death, due to legal challenges by their families based on religious definitions of death. The article discusses the medical criteria for diagnosing death, which have evolved to include brain death in addition to the traditional cessation of heartbeat. The author argues that while death is a process, the diagnosis of death is binary and should be determined by medical experts, not delayed by religious beliefs. The courts' decisions to keep McKitty and Ouanounou on respirators are seen as pausing the grieving process and causing moral distress to healthcare teams. The author emphasizes the importance of adhering to medical science in defining death, despite the families' grief.

Unprecedented plague outbreak in Madagascar could 'explode' without intervention

23 Oct 2017  |  The Globe and Mail
The article discusses a severe outbreak of pneumonic plague in Madagascar's capital, Tananarive, which has resulted in over 1,300 cases and 102 deaths. The Red Cross and the World Health Organization are actively working to contain the epidemic, with the Red Cross deploying a Canadian assessment team and preparing to send a specialized infectious disease field hospital. The WHO has provided 1.2 million doses of antibiotics. The article highlights the challenges of urban spread, the risk of transmission to neighboring countries, and the strategies being implemented to control the outbreak, drawing on lessons from the 2014 Ebola epidemic. These strategies include public communication, clinical treatment centers, disease mapping, prophylactic antibiotics, safe burial practices, psychological support, and vector control. The situation remains critical, and the international community is closely monitoring the outbreak to prevent further spread.

Pneumonic plague in Madagascar could ‘explode’ without intervention: Red Cross

20 Oct 2017  |  The Globe and Mail
The Red Cross warns that the pneumonic plague outbreak in Madagascar's capital, Tananarive, could worsen without effective intervention. Over 1,300 cases and 102 deaths have been reported since August 31. The World Health Organization assesses a high local risk but a low global spread risk. Efforts to contain the epidemic include local and international Red Cross volunteers, specialized infectious disease field hospitals, and 1.2 million doses of antibiotics from WHO. Lessons from the 2014 Ebola epidemic are being applied, focusing on public communication, medical support, and vector control. The outbreak's severity is attributed to the highly contagious pneumonic plague spreading in urban areas.

CBC Radio - Syndicated coast-to-coast medical column: this week we discuss sepsis - what is it, and why is it so hard for doctors to find it and treat it?

CBC RADIO - Is coconut oil healthy? We talk about saturated fats, unsaturated fats, cholesterol and heart attack risk.

Opinion: Quebec's hospitals need advanced technologies, not threats

06 Sep 2017  |  montrealgazette
The article criticizes Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette's approach to solving emergency department overcrowding by threatening hospital executives with termination. The author argues that this method is ineffective and that similar strategies in other provinces have also failed. The article suggests that the real issue is the healthcare system's failure to adopt advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, which could transform hospital operations. It points out that while other industries have successfully integrated complex analytics and AI, the healthcare system lags behind due to budget constraints and a lack of competitive pressure. The author, Blair Bigham MD, calls for a technological revolution in healthcare and implies that computers should replace certain administrative roles to improve efficiency.

TORONTO STAR - Dr. Robert Chu’s suicide is not an anomaly. It is emblematic of a deeper problem that threatens the future of Canada’s health care system by ignoring — or worse, abusing — doctors-in-training, and it’s only getting worse.

Investigation finds a big hike in youth demand for mental health care

03 Jun 2017  |  Radio-Canada
The Toronto Star and Ryerson School of Journalism have conducted a joint investigation revealing a significant increase in mental health issues among Canadian youth, particularly university students. The investigation, which involved emergency doctor Blair Bigham, found a 50% rise in depression and anxiety in the past three years. Factors contributing to this surge include the pervasive nature of social media, economic pressures, and changes in parenting styles. Despite more open discussions about mental health, the demand for services has outpaced the support available at universities and in the public health system. The article highlights the need for a comprehensive mental health strategy to address the growing needs of young Canadians.

TORONTO STAR: "Overwhelmed" investigation. Unprecedented demand for mental health services among young people today is raising alarm among medical experts and transforming the financial plans of universities, businesses and governments.

Lack of Defibrillators on Porter Airlines Flights Highlights Gap in Canadian Air Safety Regulations

10 Apr 2017  |  The Globe and Mail
The article discusses the absence of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) on short-haul flights from Toronto's Billy Bishop airport, highlighting that Canadian safety regulations do not mandate AEDs on planes, unlike American regulations. Most air carriers in Canada, such as WestJet, Air Transat, and Air Canada, carry AEDs voluntarily, but Porter Airlines has chosen not to. Jazz, under the Air Canada Express brand, is preparing to install AEDs. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada is advocating for Transport Canada to require AEDs on all medium and large aircraft. Medical experts argue that AEDs are critical for saving lives in the event of cardiac arrest and should be mandated on Canadian commercial airplanes. The article also references a case where Ryanair installed AEDs following public pressure after a passenger's death. Porter defends its decision by stating its ability to quickly divert to airports due to the short distances it flies.

NATIONAL POST - One in five willing organ donors have their wishes vetoed by family, meaning perfectly good organs end up in the trash as transplant waitlist grows.

Live Colonoscopy Broadcast on Facebook Aims to Raise Cancer Screening Awareness

07 Apr 2017  |  CBC
Dan Logan agreed to have his colonoscopy broadcast live on Facebook by Dr. Barry Lumb of Hamilton Health Sciences to raise awareness about colon cancer screening. Dr. Lumb, who has performed over 15,000 colonoscopies, believes in the importance of early detection and is using social media to increase screening rates. The article discusses the low screening rates among men, the benefits of early detection, and the potential of social media to engage and educate the public. It also references the 'Katie Couric effect' from her live colonoscopy on NBC's The Today Show, which temporarily increased screening rates. The live broadcast of Logan's procedure was considered a success with over 2,000 live views and significant engagement on social media.

MDs under pressure: U.S. Navy SEAL training adapted to help Canadian doctors fight stress

07 Apr 2017  |  CBC
The article discusses how Canadian hospitals and medical schools are adopting psychological training techniques originally developed for U.S. Navy SEALs to help doctors manage stress and prevent burnout. Dr. Sean Wilson, a family doctor with a military background, found his resiliency skills from the Canadian Forces beneficial during his medical residency. A 2015 study showed a high rate of depression among medical residents, prompting the adaptation of military training for medical professionals. The training includes recognizing stress levels and learning skills to control the body's stress response. Resident Doctors of Canada, with Dr. Christina Nowik's involvement, has piloted a four-hour resiliency course at various universities. The Ottawa Hospital has also adapted the training for its staff. Wilson is now promoting resiliency training at McGill University, aiming to change the culture around physician mental health.

'Be calm': How to deliver a baby coming quickly any time, anyplace

07 Apr 2017  |  CBC
The article recounts the experience of Lakin Afolabi, a lawyer who unexpectedly delivered his first child at home in London, Ontario, with guidance over the phone from a midwife. It discusses the phenomenon of 'born before arrival' (BBA) emergency childbirth, which is rare but does occur. In Ontario, there were 3,039 calls to 911 related to imminent childbirth last year. Midwives like Melissa Coubrough and Emily Eby prepare for such possibilities in birth plans, especially for women known to have quick deliveries. The article outlines the steps to take during an unexpected home delivery, from calling for help to keeping the newborn warm and dry. Shannon Kosick, a medical communications officer in Nova Scotia, shares insights from her experience in assisting deliveries over the phone. The article emphasizes the importance of staying calm and present during such an event, which is described as a beautiful experience.

EMS WORLD - Pimping has long been used in medicine to shame students into studying harder. But times are changing - what's the role of questioning learners in this day and age? Here's a guide to how to do it right, and how to do it wrong.

EMS WORLD - First responders in Canada are dying by suicide at an astonishing rate. Advocates demand the government steps up and supports mental health for the front lines.

NATIONAL POST - Why don't doctors take sick days? And should they? Turns out the answer isn't so simple. Patients can be put at risk either way.

CBC RADIO - The Early Edition - Does hockey cause heart attacks? Medical advice for older people considering vigorous exercise.

Defib Drones

01 Feb 2017  |  CBC
The article discusses the potential use of drones in emergency situations, specifically their ability to carry defibrillators to assist during 911 calls. The guest host, Helen Mann, interviews Dr. Blair Bigham about new research that explores this innovative application of drone technology. The focus is on how drones could improve response times and outcomes in medical emergencies by delivering defibrillators to the scene more quickly than traditional emergency services.

Software helps save lives by alerting doctors to crisis before a 'Code Blue' is called

01 Feb 2017  |  CBC
The article discusses the efforts of Dr. Alison Fox-Robichaud at Hamilton General Hospital to reduce 'Code Blue' incidents, which signal critical patient conditions. In 2006, nearly 400 Code Blue calls were recorded at the hospital. To address this, Fox-Robichaud developed a warning score system based on vital signs to identify at-risk patients early. The Ontario Ministry of Health funded rapid-response teams, and Hamilton General partnered with IBM to create a computer program that automatically calculates the warning score. This has led to a significant reduction in Code Blue calls. The article also mentions similar initiatives at the Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto and highlights the importance of early warning systems in improving patient safety, as emphasized by the Canadian Patient Safety Institute. Despite the progress, Fox-Robichaud acknowledges that more work is needed to eliminate Code Blue calls entirely.

TV ONTARIO - A medical resident has created a true-to-life model to train junior surgeons how to operate inside the mouth of a one-year-old; it's a gamechanger for the millions of children around the world who suffer from cleft pallate, say senior surgeons.

Defibrillator-equipped drones could be 1st on scene in cardiac arrest

01 Feb 2017  |  CBC
The article discusses the potential of using drones equipped with defibrillators to improve response times for cardiac arrest incidents in Canada, particularly in rural areas. Marsha Hawthorne's personal tragedy, losing her husband Curtis to cardiac arrest while waiting for an ambulance, highlights the urgency of the issue. Research by Timothy Chan and his team at the University of Toronto suggests that drones could significantly reduce response times, thereby increasing survival rates. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada notes that survival chances decrease with each passing minute without defibrillation. Trials in Renfrew County are looking to test these drones, with regulatory considerations being addressed by Transport Canada. The technology, which includes autonomous flying capabilities, could bridge the gap between urban and rural survival rates for cardiac arrest victims.

This surgery has been taught for decades using Styrofoam cups. 3-D technology is changing that

09 Jan 2017  |  STAT
The article discusses the innovation in surgical training for cleft lip and palate repair, which has traditionally been taught using a Styrofoam cup. Dr. Christopher Forrest from the University of Toronto highlights the challenges and precision required in the surgery. A new 3-D printed model, developed by Dr. Dale Podolsky, a resident at SickKids Hospital, is providing a more realistic and low-risk training tool. The model, commercialized through Podolsky's company Simulare Medical, has been purchased by organizations like Smile Train to improve surgical training globally. The model costs about $500 and includes various training tools. However, concerns about cost and accessibility have been raised by Dr. Ruben Ayala of Operation Smile, emphasizing the need for more affordable training solutions to meet the global demand for cleft palate care.

Twas the night before Christmas; all through the North Pole

24 Dec 2016  |  Blair Bigham
The article is a satirical poem reflecting on the potential impact of President-Elect Donald Trump's policies on Santa Claus and his operations at the North Pole. It touches on various appointees, such as Jeff Sessions as Attorney General and their potential stance on immigration, which could affect the elves. The poem also discusses Wilbur Ross's influence on commerce and NAFTA, Andrew Puzder's views on minimum wage, Tom Price's intent to repeal Obamacare, Scott Pruitt's appointment as EPA head and his stance on climate change, and Rex Tillerson's relationship with Russia. The poem ends with a somber Santa contemplating the future of Christmas in light of these political changes. The article also includes a call to action to spread the word about paramedics saving lives.

Thoughts: On the incredible influence of mentors

16 Apr 2016  |  Blair Bigham
The article reflects on the profound impact of mentors in the author's life, emphasizing the importance of having a supportive and diverse group of advisors. It highlights the role of the MedicAlert Board of Directors and recounts a memorable lesson from a mentor, Al Craig, who valued mentoring others as his greatest legacy. The author expresses gratitude for the guidance and unconditional support received from mentors, which has significantly influenced their personal and professional growth.

Ontario makes PTSD an occupational illness for first responders after series of suicides

19 Feb 2016  |  bemergency.wordpress.com
The Ontario government introduced the Promoting Ontario’s First Responders Act to recognize PTSD as a work-related illness for first responders, allowing quicker access to benefits and treatment. The legislation, supported by various associations and individuals, covers police, firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, correctional officers, and dispatchers, and includes current appeals. It also mandates employers to implement PTSD prevention plans. The move follows a series of first responder suicides and aims to address mental health stigma and provide adequate support.

Stories: Choosing Today

14 Feb 2016  |  Blair Bigham
The author reflects on an experience during a 26-hour internal medicine call shift amidst a blizzard. They recount meeting a 93-year-old patient, James, who had fallen and was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. James, content with his life, refused treatment, seeking only to enjoy his remaining time. The author, initially disconnected from James's choice, later understands the importance of supporting patients in realizing their most cherished moments, rather than solely focusing on prolonging life.
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