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Alberta appoints coordinator of healthcare research

EDMONTON - Dr. Lorne Tyrell (pictured), former dean of the University of Alberta medical school, has been appointed to a role in which he will promote and co-ordinate research at the province’s universities with the new health superboard.

Dr. Tyrell will look for ways to connect academic research and clinical care in the effort to improve patient care, said Ken Hughes, chairman of the Alberta Health Services Board.

The proposal for a “champion of health research” first surfaced in July at a private meeting between Health Minister Ron Liepert and a high-powered group of Edmonton’s political and business leaders at the Royal Glenora Club.

The group was looking for a way to ensure the survival of the network of health specialties and clinics, from the Mazankowski Heart Institute to the Stollery Children’s Hospital, built up under the auspices of the now defunct Capital Health Authority and its former CEO Sheila Weatherill.

This combination of research and clinical practice in Edmonton, now referred to as an academic health centre, plays a key role in the regional economy and Edmonton’s identity, the group told the health minister.

The mayor of Edmonton’s office described Tyrell’s appointment as “outstanding” and called it the right step to help maintain the city’s reputation as a leader in health research.

U of A provost Carl Amrhein said Tyrell’s appointment “will help a great deal” to reassure the academic community that the province is committed to maintaining these successful joint ventures.

“We applaud the rapid response by Ken Hughes and the board,” Amrhein said. “To mention that Tyrell is on the case will calm a lot of fears; he’s perfect for the job.”

Tyrell will produce a report by Jan 29, 2009, with recommendations for how to strengthen the connections between university research and the health-care system – a job previously done by health authorities.
“I expect Dr. Tyrell will produce a road map to make sure the two academic health centres (at U of A and University of Calgary) will continue to thrive in the new environment,” said Amrhein.

Tyrell holds the Canadian Institutes of Health Research/GlaxcoSmithKline chair in virology at U of A. Tyrell’s appointment is “a “first step towards better focusing the research effort within AHS,” said Hughes.