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A new place to call home

September 22, 2010

This September, Sunnybrook's Women & Babies Program opened at 2075 Bayview Avenue, following a landmark relocation. The move transferred critically ill and premature newborns, women in labour and Sunnybrook staff from rented space at 76 Grenville Street.

As part of the permanent relocation, researchers from the program are also moving to 2075 Bayview. The opening will create new collaborative opportunities for scientists previously based at 76 Grenville, and enable better access to research infrastructure and resources for their research groups.

"Evidence-based innovations in care depend upon close interaction between physician-researchers, patients and basic scientists," says Dr. Jon Barrett, director of the Women & Babies Research Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI), and chief of maternal-fetal medicine at Sunnybrook. "Locating these teams together-in and near the stunning new home for the Women & Babies Program-will enable us to bring those innovations to patients more quickly."  

The largest new group at the Bayview campus will be the Centre for Mother, Infant and Child Research (CMICR), led by Dr. Elizabeth Asztalos, an associate scientist at SRI and neonatologist at Sunnybrook. Most of the centre's 16 staff will be on the eighth floor of C wing, where they will continue to run large, randomized controlled trials that seek answers to critical questions in the care of women and their babies.

Researchers in the centre-the roots of which stretch back to 1990-have conducted high-profile international trials on caesarean section versus vaginal birth for delivery of multiples, and whether repeated courses of steroids improve the outcomes of preterm babies, among others.  

"With the skill set we have in CMICR, we hope to collaborate with other investigators at Sunnybrook on clinical trials in the perinatal domain and other areas," says Asztalos. "Clinical trial skills are transferable-you still need to collect the data, maintain its integrity, ensure sites follow proper procedures and work with a principal investigator to provide the content expertise."  

Asztalos hopes the centre's physical presence at Sunnybrook will entice SRI investigators across programs to develop new trials. She estimates her group could handle up to eight studies at once, and they are waiting on news from submitted grant applications that could push them closer to that number.  

The Obstetric Anesthesia Research Unit (OARU) is also moving. The unit's director, Dr. Pamela Angle, and Drs. Stephen Halpern and Pamela Morgan, are associate scientists at SRI and bring with them six research staff and students. The group has published studies describing issues and barriers in maternity anesthesia care in Ontario and potential solutions; development of a multiattribute health index to measure the quality of epidural pain relief during labour and delivery; and work on ultrasound for epidural placement, obstetric team training and crisis management. The unit recently completed a national trial on the impact of smaller epidural needles on postdural puncture headache.  

Two ongoing research programs within OARU relate to developing and testing tools to measure labour pain and the quality of pain relief provided by epidurals. "One problem with research in obstetrical anesthesia is that we don't have validated tools that capture many of the advances we've made in the care of women during labour and delivery," says Angle.  

In another study, Angle found that in rural Ontario, anesthesia services for maternity care are often delayed or unavailable. She wrote a report recommending more anesthetists for those areas and the formation of networks linking university-based anesthesia specialists to staff in small and remote hospitals. Angle hopes to establish those mentorship networks using the knowledge-transfer resources and collaborative approach that made Sunnybrook's Northern Ontario Remote Telehealth Network a success. "We want to provide a minimum standard of care for women across the province, which could also serve as a model for the country," says Angle.  

Other Women & Babies researchers moving to the Bayview campus include Drs. Sharyn Gibbins, Clifford Librach, Adrian Ziino, Julia Lowe and Ori Nevo