Section of Neurology

Neurologist Dr. Davide Martino visits with a patient at Foothills Medical Centre

Dr. Lara Cooke

Section Head: Dr. Lara Cooke

THE SECTION OF NEUROLOGY is one of the largest neurology groups in Canada.  We have 65 neurologists serving four adult hospitals, community neurology clinics, and providing outreach to rural areas and inner-city primary care clinics where needed.  In the last fiscal year, we developed a strategic plan for the coming years, focused on excellent, equitable clinical care, innovation, education, and a healthy organizational culture.  This past year has brought us ample opportunity to continue to work on our strategic goals, across the board.

Clinical Care

During the 2019-2020 academic year, we were very fortunate to recruit several new division members:

  • Dr. Carlos Camara-Lemarroy (Multiple Sclerosis)
  • Dr. Andrea Salmon (Epilepsy)
  • Dr. Camila Henriques de Aquino (Movement Disorders)
  • Dr. Theo Mobach (Neuromuscular)
  • Dr. Jonathan Fridhandler (Multiple Sclerosis and General Neurology)
  • Dr. Wei-Qiao Liu (Multiple Sclerosis and General Neurology)

As a group we provided roughly 50,000 ambulatory visits and care for almost 10,000 hospital patients.  Quality Improvement projects, led by Erin Barrett, Dr. Megan Yaraskavitch and our outstanding inpatient management teams led to improvements in discharge planning, enhanced processes for neurological follow-up after patients are discharged from emergency rooms in Calgary, and strategies to enhance team communication in hospital and ambulatory settings.

Innovation

Innovation occurs in the form of research, but also in novel models of care delivery. 

Research and academic output has remained very strong in the Division of Neurology, with over $18 million in research revenues, $2 million in CIHR revenues, and another $10 million in clinical research revenues.  Our research teams made 595 contributions to peer reviewed publications in their field.

In terms of care delivery, the global pandemic has driven innovation across the entire health care system.  In the Division of Neurology, we were pleased to be able to continue to deliver care at 95% of normal capacity to outpatients throughout the early months of the pandemic using virtual platforms.  We were able to rebook thousands of patients using virtual platforms and collaboration with vital community neurology partners so that they still received care despite required service slowdowns in many parts of the hospital systems in Calgary in Spring of 2020.  The pandemic has  required neurology physicians, trainees, managers, and operational leaders to be creative, flexible, responsive, and action oriented on a daily basis for many months.  Never has there been a time where there was greater need to pull together as a team to look after not only our patients and their families, but one another as well.  Members of this Division have risen to the occasion in the truest sense—they have shone in their ability to respond to abrupt changes in direction and to step in to cover for one another in response to stringent isolation requirements leading to absences and the need to change how we operate as a group.

Despite the many challenges arising from the pandemic, through innovations in care delivery models and central triaging, and collaborations with community partners, we have been able to make major positive changes to waitlists for subspecialty care in headache and movement disorders, meaning there will be improved access for patients living with these conditions.

Education

Education remains a priority for the Division of Neurology. In the 2019-2020 academic year, we were fortunate to have 18 outstanding neurology residents learning their discipline within our Division. In addition, neurology contributed to the training of another 59 residents from other areas of medicine and 62 clerks, and several nurse practitioner trainees, comprising hundreds of hours of specialty education for medical trainees.  We were proud to see all four of our outstanding fifth year residents successfully pass their fellowship examinations and move on to prestigious fellowship programs in stroke, epilepsy, movement disorders, cognition and neuro-ophthalmology.

Residents have been key players in our ability to maintain services during the pandemic.  Like the neurologists, they have had to be patient, pivot frequently, and step up to cover for illnesses more than ever before.  Beyond their usual duties, our senior residents in the last year also took leadership roles in driving COVID-related clinical trials and supervising and training hundreds of COVID contact tracers under the leadership of Public Health Officers.  We could not be more proud of the selfless contributions of all of our residents during this challenging year.

In summary, great things have been accomplished by this group in the past year.  The pandemic, while undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges of our collective careers, has represented an opportunity as well—an opportunity to see the strength of character and dedication of the group to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our patients, and our team members during the most difficult of circumstances.