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Big Data at the 41st Gallie Day celebration

Each year we strive to improve Gallie Day. The 41st Gallie Day celebration was no different. Drs. James Rutka and Michael Fehlings reflected on the major social, medical, scientific and political changes which have occurred over the past 41 years. The theme of this year’s Gallie Day was “Is Bigger Better? Opportunities, Challenges and Limitations of Big Data in Health Research”. The ways in which surgeons apply big data have many things in common with other fields of medicine and yet at the same time are associated with unique challenges which differ from those confronted by other disciplines. Could we be doing more, collecting data through alternate sources? What are the key limitations? What will be the next “disruptive” analytical approach? The opportunity to exploit big data to provide novel insights into disease pathobiology, optimize patient care strategies or influence health policy are all opportunities for surgeons as translationally oriented researchers and as health care leaders. These challenges exemplify the core of what it means to be an academic surgeon and researcher.

The “big data” symposium, which was chaired by Michael G. Fehlings featured 4 outstanding speakers. Geoffrey Anderson (Professor, Chair in Health Management Strategies, Department of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto) presented his viewpoints in his talk, entitled “Linking Broad and Deep Data to Create the Infrastructure for Discovery Research”. Professor Anderson discussed the importance of creating interdisciplinary collaborative networks of researchers to explore novel areas of science. Nancy Baxter (Colorectal & General Surgeon, St. Michael’s Hospital; Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto) expressed her perspectives and clinical interests as they connect with health research in her talk, entitled “Volume, Variety, Velocity, Veracity - How do we harness the power of big data for health research?”. Dr. Baxter gave important perspectives on the power of “big data” to refute conclusions on best medical practice based on small biased datasets. Steven Gallinger (Head, Hepatobiliary/ Pancreatic Surgical Oncology Program; Head, PanCuRx, Translational Initiative in Pancreas Cancer, OICR; Professor of Surgery, University of Toronto) presented “Big Data in Cancer Genetics Research - It Isn’t Easy, but it’s Worth It”. Dr. Gallinger discussed the impact of large international datasets to provide novel insights into cancer pathobiology. Avery B. Nathens (Surgeon-in-Chief, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre; DeSouza Chair in Trauma Research; Professor of Surgery, University of Toronto) presented “From Crashes to Care to Prevention: Tales of Big Data in Injury Control”. Dr. Nathens described the use of large administrative datasets to improve systems of trauma care delivery. The formal presentations were followed by a lively discussion which explored the various themes introduced by the speakers. The timeliness of the symposium on “Big data” is further reflected by the recent cover article in the April issue of the Bulletin of The American College of Surgeons (“Big promise and big challenges for big health care data” by Matthew Coffron and Frank Opelka)

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Michael Fehlings, Clifford Ko, Rosalind Bradford, James Rutka

This year’s Gordon Murray Lecture presented by Dr. Clifford Ko (Professor of Surgery, UCLA School of Medicine; Director, Division of Research and Optimal Patient Care, American College of Surgeons), was entitled “Perspectives on Data for Achieving Quality of Care”.

We introduced a new way of presenting and viewing posters this year. Electronic Posters or E-Posters are similar to traditional paper posters, but they are displayed on-site on a large LCD screen. E-Posters increase poster visibility after the event, providing another highly effective platform for promoting continuous education and extending the meeting lifecycle with options to share, comment and even raise questions to the author. E-Posters are a modern, attractive and innovative way to display traditional paper posters. E-Posters save space and cost of printing paper and at the same time allow for the application of modern electronic presentation formats. We had a record number of abstracts submitted by trainees working with our faculty. There were 10 platform presentations and 74 e-poster presentations. The Gallie Bateman Awards (for Surgeon Scientist Training Program participants) and the McMurrich Awards (for any trainee working with a member of the faculty of surgery) were judged for both platform presentations and poster presentations. The range of assorted topics and researchers highlighted the wide-ranging and tremendously high quality research being conducted in our Department.

We had 10 outstanding oral presentations, all of which were of exceptional quality.

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Michael Fehlings and Karineh Kazazian

Surgeon Scientist Training Program (SSTP) residents are awarded the Gallie Bateman prizes for best oral presentation. First prize went to Karineh Kazazian (Roland Xu, Hannah Wu, Christopher Go, Olga Brashavitskaya, James W. Dennis, Carol J. Swallow), for her presentation on “The protrusional protein polo-like kinase 4 (plk4) enhances cancer invasion” (Supervisor: Carol J. Swallow); second prize was awarded to Andrea M. Covelli (Nancy N. Baxter, Margaret I. Fitch, Frances C. Wright), for her talk entitled “Examining health-beliefs: Why mastectomies are on the rise” (Supervisors: Nancy N. Baxter, Frances C. Wright); third prize was given to James P. Byrne (Wei Xiong, David Gomez, Homer Tien, Avery B. Nathens), for his very interesting presentation entitled “When is dead “dead”? Identifying the unsalvageable patient for the purpose of performance improvement” (Supervisor: Avery B. Nathens).

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Michael Fehlings and Dale Podolsky

Gallie Bateman prizes were also awarded to e-Poster presenters. First e-poster prize was awarded to Dale Podolsky (David Fisher, Karen Wong, James Drake, Christopher Forrest) for his e-poster entitled “Development of a robotic approach to cleft palate repair” (Supervisors: James Drake & Christopher Forrest); second prize tie goes to Natashia M. Seemann (Tamara I. Gimon, Dorotea Mutabdzic, Vicki R. LeBlanc, Carol-Anne E. Moulton) for her presentation entitled “The complex phenomenon of stress in the operating room” (Supervisor: Carol-Anne Moulton), and Ashton A. Connor (Michelle Chan- Seng-Yue, Robert E. Denroche, Ayelet Borgida, Sheng- Ben Liang, Lincoln Stein, Michael H. Roehrl, John McPherson, Faiyaz Notta, Steven Gallinger) for his work on “Insights into tumour evolution from whole genome sequencing of metachronous pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma” (Supervisor: Steven Gallinger).

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Michael Fehlings and Hiroyuki Kawajiri

The McMurrich Awards are presented to research trainees who are not in the Surgeon Scientist Training Program. The oral presentations were phenomenal. The first place award was won by Hiroyuki Kawajiri (Laura Tumiati, Arash Ghashghai, Julieta Lazarte, Liza Grosman- Rimon, Filio Billia, Ren-Ke Li, Mitesh Badiwala, Jagdish Butany, Vivek Rao) for his oral presentation, entitled “Nrf2 protects against ischemia reperfusion injury via inhibition of Nf-Κb activation and suppresses subsequent development of cardiac allograft vasculopathy in murine heart transplantation” (Supervisor: Vivek Rao). Simon P. Kelley (Chunying Yu, Heather Whetstone, Benjamin Alman) received second prize for his oral presentation entitled “Fgfr3 regulates fracture repair by controlling the balance of intramembranous and endochondral bone formation” (Supervisor: Benjamin A. Alman). Third prize was received by Michael Chang (Suzie Dufour, Taufik A. Valiante), for his work entitled “Optogenetic activation of interneurons triggers ICTAL events in in vitro and in vivo seizure models” (Supervisor: Taufik A. Valiante).

Kasra Tajdaran
Kasra Tajdaran

McMurrich Awards were also bestowed upon a group of individuals who presented amazingly stupendous e-posters. There were two first prize ties as well as two second prize ties. First prize ties go to Kasra Tajdaran (Matthew D. Wood, Molly S. Shoichet, Tessa Gordon, Gregory H. Borschel), entitled “GDNF sustained release from a surgically implantable hydrogel makes decellularized nerve allografts as effective as isografts in supporting nerve regeneration” (Supervisor: Gregory H. Borschel), and Jonathan W. Yau (Krishna K. Singh, Fina Lovren, Yi Pan, Adrian Quan, Azza Ramadan, Pratiek N. Matkar, Mehroz Ehsan, Paul Sandhu, Laura E. Mantella, Nandini Gupta, Hwee Teoh, Matteo Parotto, Arata Tabuchi, Wolfgang M. Kuebler, Mohammed Al-Omran, Toren Finkel, Subodh Verma), entitled “The essential autophagy gene ATG7 modulates organ fibrosis via regulation of endothelial- to-mesenchymal transition” (Supervisor: Subodh Verma). Second prize ties were awarded to James Y.L. Hong (Jian Wang, Yang Liu, Mahmood Chamankhah, Anna Badner, Reaz Vawda, Michael G. Fehlings) for his presentation entitled “Timing of cell therapy for spinal cord injury should be level dependent: Evidence for temporal differences in inflammation” (Supervisor: Michael G. Fehlings), and Ekaterina Turlova (Christine Youjin Bae, Marielle Deurloo, Wenliand Chen, Andrew Barszczyk, F. David Horgen, Andrea Fleig, Zhong- Ping Feng, Hong-Shuo Sun) for “TRPM7 regulates axonal outgrowth and maturation of primary hippocampal neurons” (Supervisor: Hong-Shuo Sun).

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Bernard Langer and Girish Kulkarni

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Shaf Keshavjee and Marcelo Cypel

Faculty research awards went to Girish Kulkarni (Surgeon Scientist, Urology) - Bernard Langer Surgeon Scientist Training Program Award - awarded to an outstanding graduate of the Surgeon Scientist Training Program in the Department, who shows the greatest promise for a career in academic surgery; Marcelo Cypel (Surgeon Scientist, Thoracic Surgery) - George- Armstrong Peters Prize - awarded to a young investigator who has shown outstanding productivity during his initial period as an independent investigator as evidenced by research publications in peer reviewed journals, grants held, and students trained; Stephen Fremes (Surgeon Investigator, Cardiovascular Surgery) - Charles Tator Surgeon Scientist Mentoring Award - recognizing individual supervising participants in the SSTP who emulate Professor Tator’s qualities, namely excellence in research, commitment to SSTP mentoring and dedication to promotion of Surgeon-Scientists; Emil Schemitsch (Surgeon Investigator, Orthopaedics) - Lister Prize - awarded to an investigator who has shown outstanding and continuing productivity of international stature as evidenced by research publications, grants held, students trained and other evidence of stature of the work produced.

The fifth Shafie Fazel Award, established in memory of Dr. Shafie Fazel presented to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding accomplishments during residency both as a surgeon and as an investigator, was presented to Jefferson Wilson (PGY VI, Neurosurgery), a recent SSTP graduate who obtained his PhD with Professor Michael Fehlings. The Zane Cohen Clinical Fellowship, presented to a clinical fellow who has practiced and achieved at the highest level while being a clinical fellow in the Department of Surgery, was awarded to Usmaan Hameed (PGY VII, Surgical Oncology). The Tovee Award is presented to an academic staff member of the Department of Surgery who has made the greatest contribution to the educational activities of the Department, as exemplified by Dr. E. Bruch Tovee during his outstanding career. This year’s recipient of the Tovee Postgraduate Prize is Homer Tien (Surgeon Investigator, General Surgery), and Andrew Pierre (Surgeon Teacher, Thoracic Surgery) received the Tovee Undergraduate Prize. The Surgical Skills Centre Distinguished Educator Award demonstrates the Centre’s commitment to surgical skills education. This award recognizes those individuals who have made exemplary, innovative contributions to teaching and learning in the Surgical Skills Centre over the past year. This was presented to Jeremy Hall (Surgeon Teacher, Orthopaedics). D.R. Wilson Award for teaching is made annually to the surgical resident who is rated by undergraduate students as being an outstanding teacher. The recipient of this award was a resident whose teaching has been highly evaluated by medical students. The resident demonstrated both a positive attitude toward teaching and was considered a good surgical role model for undergraduate medical students, which went to Hanmu Yan (PGY IV, Urology).

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Ori Rotstein and Emil Schemitsch

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Christopher Caldarone, Jefferson Wilson, Marion Fazel, Keemya and Elika Fazel

The 48 judges for the e-poster competition as well as the 16 timers, who volunteered their time for the e-poster judging deserve special thanks, as well as the Research Committee members and Drs. Marc Grynpas, Helen MacRae, Joao Rezende-Neto, James Waddell, who assisted in reviewing and judging the oral presentations. As we revel on how great the Day and Evening awards ceremony went, we need to acknowledge the tremendous effort it took from everyone involved. The Day could not have gone as well as it did without everyone’s participation and collaborative efforts. Thanks again this year to Andrea McCart for assigning the judges to the posters, Gideon Cohen and Gail Darling for proficiently moderating the sessions, and Sylvia Perry for making sure the day’s and evening’s preparations were followed to perfection.

As we enjoyed our meal, we had a beautiful intermission with amazing piano playing by none other than our own Chair, Dr. James Rutka. Allison and Ariel Kwan, who are sisters, joined Dr. Rutka. Ariel played the violin. Ariel and Jim did the first two pieces together. Allison and Ariel did the third piece together. The second piece that was played was composed by Dr. Rutka. Ariel is a second year pharmacy student at UofT studying at the Leslie Dan School of Pharmacy. Allison is an allergy/ immunology fellow at Sick Kids this year.

A very special thanks to Val Cabral for her incredible dedication and hard work in organizing the Surgeon Scientist Training Program, and the Gallie Day events.

Val Cabral (with contributions from Michael G. Fehlings)

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Carol Swallow and Usmaan Hameed

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George Christakis and Homer Tien

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Oleg Safir and Jeremy Hall

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James Rutka and Ariel and Allison Kwan

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Nancy Condo, Val Cabral, Sylvia Perry




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