April 8, 2019
University of Calgary Medical Group helps create the future of health
It started out small — and grew into an important part of the University of Calgary while improving the health of the community.
Formed in 1987, University of Calgary Medical Group (UCMG) academic physicians provide patient care, education and lead research projects in a range of medical specialties. The brainchild of a small group of Calgary doctors, UCMG membership has steadily grown to more than 670 physicians.
Catalyst for improving care
Dr. Joseph Dort, MD, is an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat cancer specialist) and professor of surgery and oncology in the Department of Community Health Sciences. He’s been a UCMG member since being recruited to Calgary in the winter of 1993. Over the years, Dort says the UCMG has been a catalyst for improving care.
UCMG partially supported his Master of Science in Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2006. Prior to that, he graduated from an advanced training program in health-care delivery improvement at the Intermountain Healthcare Institute for Healthcare Delivery Research in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“I developed a deeper understanding of health-care quality improvement and it became a passion,” says Dort. “It’s become a significant part of my life’s work.” He says the lessons learned through these educational pursuits helped him lead a team responsible for transforming how head and neck cancer was treated in Calgary. They designed and implemented a new global standard, known as an Enhanced Recovery After Surgery protocol, for the care of head and neck cancer patients from pre-admission to discharge.
The results have been impressive. Dort says there has been a dramatic reduction in complications after surgery and the length of patient stay has dropped — from an average of 22 days in 2009 to 10 days in 2019.
“People don’t want to be in hospital after surgery. They want to be at home, getting better,” says Dort, adding there is a positive financial outcome for the health system as well.
Adrian Shellard, for the University of Calgary
Attracting top academic physicians
Dr. Todd Anderson, MD, has also been a UCMG member for 25 years and a member of its executive team for the past 10. He is head of the Department of Cardiac Sciences and director of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta.
“Through the years the UCMG has been an excellent retention and recruitment tool for us," he says. "Academic physicians are drawn to the unique professional development opportunities and the added value they receive through membership.”
Members receive administrative support such as finance, billing and transcription services. A partnership with Alberta Health Services also supports technology improvements and clinical space requirements.
Commitment to university’s academic mission
Through the years Dort has also trained residents and medical students in surgical instruction, as well as graduate, postdoctoral and master's students. “Mentoring people is the best part of the job. Watching them start successful careers in medicine is most rewarding,” he says.
Dort is currently on a research and scholarship leave made possible by UCMG, allowing him to step away from teaching, research and day-to-day patient care to focus on research writing, networking and professional development opportunities in search of new discoveries.
Dort also says a strength of the UCMG membership is the environment of support that is intrinsic within the group. “It’s about time and space for people who are inclined,” he says. “It’s truly belonging to something bigger than yourself.”
Joseph Dort is a professor of Surgery and Oncology in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the Cumming School of Medicine. He is a member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health, a member of the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute and executive director of the Ohlson Research Initiative, a clinical research program focused on head and neck cancer. He is also senior medical director of the Alberta Health Services’ Alberta Cancer Strategic Clinical Network.
Todd Anderson is head of the Department of Cardiac Sciences and director of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta. He is a professor in the department of Cardiac Sciences and Merck Chair in Cardiovascular Research.