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Women and Girls: Thunder Bay doctor wins national award

Dr. Teresa Bruni is this year's Distinguished Community Paediatrician.
Dr. Teresa Bruni new (2)
Dr. Teresa Bruni has won the Distinguished Community Paediatrician Award from the Cdn. Paediatric Society (submitted photo)

THUNDER BAY — A Thunder Bay doctor says she is "overwhelmed" to have won a prestigious national award.

Dr. Teresa Bruni will receive the Canadian Paediatric Society's Distinguished Community Paediatrician award next week at a conference in Montreal.

The qualifications required for nomination are extensive.

Candidates must be shown to provide exemplary paediatric care, be involved in paediatrics outside their office, devote time through involvement in outside groups or with government agencies to promote the health and welfare of children and adolescents, have a teaching or research role, and be recognized by their colleagues as a role model.

"I'm very humbled but truly honoured to receive this award for the work that I do here in the Northwest," Bruni told TBnewswatch.

She has been a practising consultant paediatrician in Thunder Bay for 28 years.

Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, she returned to Northern Ontario to practise after completing her residency at the Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto.

Dr. Bruni has been an active fulltime member of the Department of Paediatrics at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre since 1994.

She is currently the Medical Director of the Women and Children's Program at the hospital, and an assistant professor in the Clinical Sciences Division of NOSM University. 

A nomination statement by a colleague to the CPS Awards Committee lauded her dedication to caring for children in hospital and as outpatients, her long work days, her teaching skills and her service on multiple provincial committees.

Dr. Justin Jagger, chair of Child and Adolescent Medicine at NOSM and former Chief of Paediatrics at TBRHSC, pointed to written feedback about Bruni that exemplifies how she is viewed by medical students who learn from observing her: "Dr. Bruni really seems to love working with children and their families, and this is inspirational to all those working with her. She seems to have a therapeutic effect on patients just by being in the room."

Bruni was reluctant to take credit, choosing instead to praise the contributions of colleagues.

Award 'puts Thunder Bay and the group here' on the map

"I'm surrounded by numerous great paediatricians who I think are all as-deserving of this award, not just here in the Northwest but across Canada. I'm not one that likes the spotlight but I do think this puts Thunder Bay and the group here that I work with on the map," she said.

She admits, however, to being proud of playing a role in the improvement of paediatric care in the North.

"The thing that's always motivated me is to make sure the needs and concerns of our paediatric patients and families that live in the North are acknowledged and represented at the bigger provincial platform."

Bruni said she's always sought opportunities to ensure the North is heard on the numerous committees she's been privileged to serve with.

One of her notable successes in this regard was the implementation of paediatric telehealth services from 1996 to 2010.

Bruni served as the Regional Medical Director for the Northern Ontario Remote Telecommunications Health Network from 1999 to 2005, then as the Regional Medical Director for the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) from 2005 to 2010.

"We were one of the early adopters of telemedicine, far before it became the standard of care. It's so common now, but back in the mid 90s I was really happy to work with OTN and with the Hospital For Sick Children even earlier in rolling out a telemedicine platform to keep care closer to home, to minimize travel and support patients and families here in the Northwest."

Dr. Bruni said there's still more to be done to improve paediatric care in Northwestern Ontario.

"We're not receiving the same level of care and services that are available in other parts of the province," she said, adding that in the years ahead she hopes to continue to advocate for the needs of local patients and their families.

"I feel really lucky to love what I patients bring me the most joy and satisfaction. They continue to inspire me, to educate me, to humble me. That's what's keeps me going." 

It's that work ethic that Dr. Jagger seized on for the nomination submission, in which he described Dr. Bruni as an ideal example of those Canadian paediatricians who work tirelessly behind the scenes promoting the health of children and families.

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