Dr. Jack Haggarty has more opportunities than ever to conduct clinical research.
Haggarty, a psychiatrist with St Joseph’s Care Group and faculty member at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, said increased funding as well as the city’s growing health-care industry has given clinicians and physicians a chance to tap into an area they were traditionally left out.
“Funding has increased so seed funding opportunities to initiate small projects with the idea of building larger projects are happening across the system,” Haggarty said.
“Funding just for medical research alone is over $500,000 a year at certain intervals at time and it has been gratifying to see that funding come in to drive opportunities for clinicians.”
Haggarty was one of eight speakers presenting research results at the St. Joseph Care Group’s annual Showcase of Health Research conference, which was held at the Best Western Nor’Wester Hotel on Friday.
In addition to the eight speakers, there were also 30 poster presentations highlighting studies conducted across the health-care field to the 150 registered attendees.
Dr. Michel Bedard, scientific director of St. Joseph’s Care Group said the showcase itself is a testament to the growth of the health-care research industry in the community.
“I think health care and health care research is very vibrant in Thunder Bay,” Bedard said.
“When we started the first conference nine years ago we thought it would be a biannual event because we didn’t think there would be enough demand but what we have seen is more and more research being done.”
Studies were conducted by industry professionals as well as students examining a host of different subjects, primarily focusing on applied research to improve patient care.
Results from various studies have been shared with the Mayo Clinic, used to design programs in Winnipeg and have been published in different scientific journals.
“These small pockets can be really influential to building a local voice in research,” Haggarty said. “I think it allows a consolidation of common thinking people asking good questions and coming up with findings that are relevant.”
While a whole spectrum of topics from prevention to end of life care, there were some that had circumstances unique to the area.
One of the those more prominent topics involved providing care to an aging population.
“We have a different health-care system and setup in terms of nursing homes and we have more of an aging population than other areas of the province,” Bedard said.
Haggarty’s projecet, A Decade of Applied Clinical Research in Shared Mental Health Care, focused on 13 years of monitoring patient response through the shared mental health program at the Fort William Clinic.
The purpose was to determine characteristics and strategies that can improve treating people in primary care and his findings show an improvement in depression and anxiety along with an unexpected result.
“One of the unique findings is that people with a lot of physical complaints actually get better even though that’s not the area of focus for mental health counselling usually,” Haggarty said.
While it is not the intent behind his study, he identified some regional specific issues that impact mental health rates.
“We know that some of the rates of disorders in our area of mental health are higher, particularly in the area of addictions,” Haggarty said. “It’s not the area in which it’s our clinical focus but it comes up because of the nature of the population.”
He added work related issues, climate and longer winter nights are also Northwestern Ontario challenges.
Part of the goal of the project is to work to reduce the stigmatization of mental health services and Haggarty said the likelihood for somebody to access services has increased as much as four to nine times.
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