St. Paul’s Hospital impacted by brain drain

St. Paul’s Hospital is known around the province and Canada for its medical and surgical programs, including heart and lung services and kidney care.

But it’s also a world-class teaching and research hospital. One major constraint is its current facilities. The century-old building is crumbling, and unable to provide research labs that compete with the best in the world.

In the final story about a new St. Paul’s, Global News looks at why a new hospital is desperately needed to keep and retain our world-class researchers.

Dr. Evan Wood is a world leader on addictions in Canada. He is a co-director of the Urban Health Research Initiative, a diplomat of the American Board of Addiction Medicine, the program director for Addiction at Providence Healthcare, a principal investigator and director of the Canada Addiction Medicine Research Fellowship, and a founding principal investigator of Insite.

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And those are just a few of his titles. Needless to say, he could have worked anywhere in the world and chose St. Paul’s, despite the challenges.

“There’s something special about the culture in St. Paul’s. I don’t know if it’s partly because the infrastructure is so poor around us that it unites us together to put our best foot forward,” he says.

“[But] with the existing footprint here at St. Paul’s, there’s no question we’ve been really constrained with the space to recruit key people.”

Dr. Liam Brunham works at St. Paul’s Centre for Heart and Lung Innovation and was offered several positions at other facilities but chose St. Paul’s.

“I always really admired the spirit of the people who work in this hospital despite the crumbling infrastructure,” Dr. Brunham says.

“The way people do such a great job of caring for patients and the really impressive research achievements that have been made here. I think that reassured me that the infrastructure wasn’t going to be overly detrimental to doing what I wanted to do.”

Dr. Robert Sindelar has taken leave of his job at UBC to help develop the new St. Paul’s. He says the current labs–some of them more than a century old—have been jerry-rigged together to help attract the best of the best, but there’s a limit.

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“I think it would be almost impossible for us to try to recruit a young star in an emerging area that we don’t already have strength in, because they wouldn’t see this as the environment they would necessarily want to go into,” Sinclair said.

Dr. Don Sin was recently ranked as the second-leading Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) expert in the world, according to He says another constraint of the current St. Paul’s is getting patients to volunteer their time for valuable studies.

“One of the realities is that St. Paul’s Hospital was never built for ambulatory care, it was really built for in-patient care,” he says.

“So imagine, for patients who want to participate in research, even accessing this facility, is incredibly difficult, let alone the staff who work here. The lab is elsewhere and it’s difficult, even in a relatively small area, for us to communicate with where the research is done and where the patients are.”

The new St. Paul’s will be built on a 7.5-hectare site, which is three times the size as the current St. Paul’s. It will focus on functionality, and includes plans for a new research tower.

“I think the sky’s the limit,” Dr. Sin says.

“If we’re number three in the world for COPD research, I see we can be number one in the world in 10 years time when we have the infrastructure to support the ideas, and the innovations that take place at St. Paul’s hospital.”


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