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Neurosurgeon and team bring virtual care strategy to Saskatchewan

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

By Lindsay Herman for SHRF


Elements of this article were repurposed from a piece by the University of Saskatchewan. Read the full piece here.


Healthcare accessibility and equity for those in rural and remote locations has long been a priority of internationally renowned neurosurgeon and researcher Dr. Ivar Mendez. Using robotic remote presence technology, he has spent over a decade exploring options for effective remote solutions that provide acute medical care to more vulnerable populations across the province.


Dr. Mendez has spent over a decade establishing remote care robotics solutions in Saskatchewan. Photo: Debra Marshall for SHRF, 2022


COVID-19 necessitated the use of virtual care by those from all walks of life, and served as a spring-board for a collaboration between the Saskatchewan Health Authority, University of Saskatchewan and Ministry of Health, towards the creation of a virtual care strategy for Saskatchewan. Lead by Dr. Ivar Mendez, a team of 19 researchers, knowledge users, policy makers and individuals with lived experience came together to do just that. The Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation is proud to announce Dr. Ivar Mendez as the recipient of an Excellence Award for his exceptional SHRF Solutions Grant application that received $150,000 to support this comprehensive research initiative.

Photo: Debra Marshall for SHRF, 2022


Dr. Mendez is the outgoing Provincial Head of the Department of Surgery with the University of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Health Authority, and the Director of the Remote Presence Robotics Lab. He is an internationally-recognized leader in the field of neurosurgery, and has taken an active role in supporting the development of neurosurgical units in several developing countries. In January, 2023 Dr. Mendez was appointed as an Officer to the Order of Canada for his pioneering work in medical robotics and telemedicine. For a more comprehensive summary of Dr. Mendez's personal and professional accomplishments, click here.


SHRF's Excellence Awards recognize the top-ranked applications from researchers and teams in the previous year's peer-reviewed funding competitions. Applications are scored through a rigorous peer-review process by committees of active researchers and health professionals. SHRF is proud to award Dr. Ivar Mendez with an Excellence Award for the top-scored application from the pool of Impact Grants within the Solutions Program. SHRF's Solutions Program addresses particular 'focus areas' relevant to Saskatchewan by funding the work of transdisciplinary/interdisciplinary teams and knowledge users as they coordinate diverse skills and perspectives. The Impact Grant seeks to fund projects that bring research into real-world settings and support practical applications. Dr. Mendez, his Co-Principal Investigators Drs. Stacey Lovo, Caroline Tate, Paul Babyn and Vern Bell, and their team's project, titled: Delivery of Virtual Care in Saskatchewan: A Strategic Framework and Roadmap for Implementation aims to develop a strategic framework for virtual care in Saskatchewan by:

  • Developing an actionable framework for equitable access

  • Identifying technological platforms that fulfill interoperability, integration and telecommunications requirements to scale up virtual care

  • Identifying barriers and solutions for the implementation of virtual care

  • Articulating a governance model, and

  • Developing metrics and an evaluation framework to assess virtual care effectiveness

A unique and meaningful aspect of this project is the large interdisciplinary team of Co-Principal Investigators and Co-Investigators who bring unique perspectives from their work with Indigenous communities, pediatrics, infectious disease, dementia care, mental health and addictions, computer science, policy, law and more.


"SHRF is proud to be supporting this important work in Saskatchewan. Effective and accessible virtual care is a non-negotiable in today's healthcare climate. We are excited to witness how the outcomes of this research influences positive change in Saskatchewan healthcare policy and service delivery." - Patrick Odnokon, CEO SHRF



Photo: Debra Marshall for SHRF, 2022


 

To learn more about the recipients of SHRF's 2022-23 Santé Awards, click here.


 

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