Violent protests prevent N.B. doctor, nurses from leaving Haiti


An emergency room nurse and doctor from Woodstock, N.B., and a nurse from Halifax say they are safe but have no idea when they will be able to leave Haiti as violent protests continue in that country.

« We’re all safe and we’re not worried about our safety, as long as we don’t leave the property we’re on now, » said Dr. Heather Dow. 

The latest demonstrations in Haiti were triggered by frustrations over the country’s high unemployment rates and skyrocketing prices.

Dow, along with Cathy Davies and Rachel Blaquiere, travelled to Haiti to provide free medical aid in small villages and towns. But the protests are preventing their departure, which was scheduled for Wednesday. 

« We’re a bit stressed because we have obligations at home that we’re probably not going to be able to meet if we don’t get home soon, » Dow said. 

Protests and demonstrations began Feb. 7, on the anniversary of the overthrow 33 years ago of dictator Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier. 

Dow said that despite President Jovenel Moise’s promises of improvements, things have gotten worse. 

‘Complete shock’

In an interview with Shift New Brunswick, Davies, from Woodstock, said they had no idea this would happen because nothing like it had happened when they were there at the same time last year. 

« This came to us as a complete shock when it all began, » she said.

A nurse and doctor from Woodstock, along with a nurse from Halifax, are stuck in Haiti during the sixth day of violent protests there. Cathy Davies, Rachel Blaquiere and Dr. Heather Dow travelled to Haiti to provide free medical aid in small villages and towns. 9:07

The women, along with the medical team they travel with, were able to reach a small clinic in the mountains that day but encountered roadblocks, and someone threw a gas bomb at them.

« We had to go through a dirt path he knew of to get back to our house, » she said. « And our driver had a gun too. It was something that I don’t want to go through again. » 

Roads blocked

Blaquiere, formerly of Woodstock, N.B., is part of a medical team that can’t leave Haiti because of violent protests over inflation and unemployment. (Submitted)

The three are staying at the home of Dr. Emilio Bazile, who lives in Ottawa but returns to the country three or four times a year to deliver medical care. They have accompanied him on many of those trips.

His home is four hours from Port-au-Prince, where the only international airport is located. Dow said entrances to the capital have been blocked and there are roadblocks throughout the city. 

« There’s a lot of demonstrations with rock throwing and tire burning, cement-barricade building and clashes with the police that have left many injured and several killed, » Dow said. 

She said they’ve heard people at the barricades are asking for money to let people through, and sometimes hold people for ransom to make their point to the government about how unhappy they are. 

Seeking help

Cathy Davies, an emergency room nurse from Woodstock, said she is hoping and praying the trio can safely leave Haiti soon. (Submitted)

The women said Bazile has been trying to use his contacts to arrange a safe way for the women to leave the country. More calls were being made to the Canadian Embassy to see if they could help. 

« Right now with the roads blockaded there’s no way to get to Port-au-Prince, » said Dow. 

Davies said another friend is working with his contacts to arrange a flight from another airport if they can there. 

« Our concern right now is getting home safely, » she said. « We’re hoping and praying this gets resolved and we get home to our respective families soon. »   


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‘I’m in shock’: Toronto police rule out charges after 30 women accuse former RCMP doctor of sexual assault


Toronto police sex crimes investigators say there are « no grounds » to lay criminal charges against a former RCMP doctor. That’s despite 30 women alleging they were sexually assaulted during mandatory medical exams when hired by the police force in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

« The Toronto Police Service does not dispute that these women felt (and continue to feel) violated, » said police spokesperson Meaghan Gray in an email Tuesday. However, she said investigators reviewed medical standards at the time and determined there is a lack of evidence « to prove there was a sexual purpose » to the doctor’s exams.

« I think it’s a lot of bullshit. I’m in shock, » said Vicki Gravelle, a 911 dispatcher for a regional police force in Ontario, no longer with the RCMP.

Gravelle and two others came forward to CBC News last month, detailing sexual assault allegations against former RCMP doctor John A. Macdougall, saying he inappropriately pinched nipples, conducted invasive vaginal exams without gloves, caressed their legs and pushed his pelvis against their naked backsides as they were told to bend forward during « spinal exams. »

Gravelle and two others came forward to CBC News last month, detailing sexual assault allegations against former RCMP doctor John A. Macdougall. (Rachel Houlihan/CBC)

The women complained to the RCMP, Toronto police and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario at the time, but their concerns went nowhere.

In early 2018, Toronto police reopened their investigation after dozens of women came forward, emboldened by the #MeToo movement, alleging they too were assaulted by Macdougall.

‘No grounds’ for charges

Macdougall retired in 2001. He is now in his mid-80s and lives in a retirement home west of Toronto. According to his lawyer, Macdougall has dementia, suffered near-fatal pneumonia recently and is living with around-the clock care. His family has declined to comment.

But in 1991, when the three women first complained to Ontario’s medical regulator, Macdougall explained he elected to do lengthy breast exams on new recruits in an effort to teach self-examination technique. He was silent on the other allegations of unwanted touching and invasive vaginal exams.

Following the women’s complaints the RCMP banned all staff physicians from conducting gynecological exams and laid out proper breast-exam techniques.

This photo of John A. Macdougall was taken when he graduated from the University of Toronto in 1963. (University of Toronto)

Toronto police on Tuesday told CBC News that they « know that many involved in this case are angry and frustrated. » But they say they have closed the file after review of the 30 women’s statements and are « confident » in their decision not to lay charges.

« Our investigative efforts were unbiased and extended beyond these statements to include a review of documentation, consideration for case law and research into what may have been acceptable medical practice at the time, » said Gray in her statement.

« We had to determine whether or not grounds existed to prove there was a sexual purpose for the actions that took place. Without those grounds, we simply could not lay charges. … We know that many involved in this case are angry and frustrated but, pending any new information that is brought forward, we are confident in the decisions we have made. »

‘I am flabbergasted’

Sylvie Corriveau, one of the three women to complain about. Macdougall in the 1990s, says she is « disillusioned » by the Toronto police decision.

« You have 30-odd strangers stating the same thing, and the doctor’s word means more, » said Corriveau, a senior RCMP employee based in Ottawa. « Many of the victims are still serving peace officers, do their sworn statements not mean anything? »

Watch Sylvie Corriveau describe when she knew the doctor was abusing his authority:


She flatly rejects that Macdougall’s actions were in any way legitimate and maintains he was seeking sexual gratification during her exam.

« If the investigators did in fact state that his techniques were acceptable medical tests back then … I am flabbergasted, because they were not, » Corriveau told CBC News.

Gravelle says she can’t understand why Macdougall’s medical training has any bearing on the allegations by the 30 complainants. « I don’t understand what any of that has to do with anything. If he’s archaically been trained … it’s still inappropriate behaviour, conducted to a woman in an office, behind closed doors in secret, and still under the threat: « You do this or I’m going to have your job. »

Complaint filed against Toronto police

Helen Henderson, who received compensation last month from an RCMP class action fund for abuse victims based on her encounter with Macdougall, says she is enraged Toronto police will not lay criminal charges.

« It’s absolutely devastating after all of our efforts, » Henderson said.

She’s filed a formal complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director demanding a review of the Toronto police investigation. 

Henderson says she is enraged Toronto police will not lay criminal charges against Macdougall. (Rachel Houlihan/CBC)

« They didn’t do their job, » Henderson says.

Another woman, Laurel Hodder, describes the Toronto police decision as « devastating. » She is pressing ahead with her own lawsuit against Macdougall and the RCMP. Hodder was sent to see Macdougall despite senior brass being aware of complaints against the doctor.

« It makes you feel like you don’t matter, » said Hodder.

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Kingston couple sift through red tape in search of family doctor – Kingston


Kingston’s Griete Wemekamp, 67, and her husband Bernd Rummel, 72, are on the hunt for a new primary health-care provider.

“It’s really scary and this in a province, in a country — that prides itself on its medicare system. It’s clearly broken.”

On Friday, Jan. 25, the couple received a letter stating their family physician was leaving Meadowbrook Family Medicine in Kingston at the end of April.

“A doctor, obviously a young doctor in particular, has the right to pursue their career, and to do different things — like the rest of us,” said Wemekamp. “However, I think there is a professional responsibility on the part of doctor and clinic in which they work, working together, to ensure that patients are not left holding the bag.”

Kingston needs to pin down concrete numbers on doctor shortage, says medical consultant

Rummel has several chronic medical conditions that require constant monitoring from a physician and they are bracing for a gap in care.

“There was no indication that there would be a transitional arrangement at the Meadowbrook clinic,” Wemekamp said. “Instead, we were told to go and find another doctor as soon as possible, and to also call this Health Care Connect line.”

Health Care Connect is a government agency meant to assist Ontario residents in finding a family doctor.

In order for Wemekamp and her husband to get onto the waitlist, though, the couple would first have to ‘de-register’ with their current doctor. To do that the couple were directed to call Service Ontario and confirmation on being de-registered could take up to 10 days and will arrive by mail.

“Now that I find very strange,” Wemekamp said. “It’s 2019. Ontario doesn’t have a computer system that allows input from one person to be seen by another person for 10 days? I don’t understand that part of it. In any case, we sit here waiting.”

Doctor at Kingston General hospital on what occurred during lockdown

A spokesperson for Meadowbrook Family Medicine told Global News they are in desperate search to find a new physician and said that the current payment model — fee for service — is not helping to attract and retain young doctors.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Doctor voices concern over possible location for Okanagan urgent care facility – Okanagan


An urgent care centre could be coming to the Okanagan, but not everybody is happy about its possible location.

Dr. Toye Oyelese, medical director at Westside Medical Associates, is worried that West Kelowna is being overlooked.

“There are already a lot of resources concentrated in Kelowna. Residents on the west side and area have to go to Kelowna to access these resources, and I think it makes more sense to have an urgent care [facility] on this side,” he said.

An urgent care centre is for patients needing help beyond the typical care provided in a clinic but who aren’t in need of the emergency room, Oyelese said.

Surrey is unveiled as fourth Urgent Primary Care Centre in British Columbia

“You can do things like casting, IV’s on people who might be dehydrated, things like suturing,” he said. “The whole idea behind it is you don’t have people who aren’t that seriously sick plugging up the emergency room.”

WATCH: No changes on horizon after two Okanagan care home deaths linked to resident aggression

MLA Ben Stewart agreed that improved medical services need to be available to people in the West Kelowna area.

“With the over 50,000 residents just in West Bank First Nation and the City of West Kelowna, there are health services that are needed here,” Stewart said.

New Urgent Primary Care Centre to open in Vancouver on Monday

“KGH is great, but seniors that live in our community end up with issues during the night are having to take a taxi or ambulance back in to KGH, and I don’t think that a large portion of the population should have to subject themselves to that.”

Interior Health is hoping to operate an existing clinic as an urgent care centre. Clinics were invited to express interest by submitting details of their facilities, including the number of exam rooms and parking spaces.

One step closer to building JoeAnna’s House in Kelowna as ground breaks

Oyelese believes his West Kelowna walk-in clinic is one of the best-suited facilities in the region. Unlike most other places, it has a designated hallway entrance where an ambulance can come from the back.

“We have about 7,000 square feet of office space, 16 examining rooms, four offices and two huge treatment rooms,” he said. “We are ideally situated just off Highway 97, and we have unlimited parking.

“We thought, wow, it’s really a no brainer,” he said.

West Kelowna mayor, council meeting with B.C. ministers at UBCM

But even though West Kelowna has been lobbying for better health facilities for years, the clinic was turned down, Oyelese said.

“We hadn’t heard anything back, so we sent an email a couple of days ago,” he said. “And we were told that we had somehow been overlooked when all the other clinics were informed that they hadn’t been chosen, that we’d somehow been overlooked and they’d forgotten to call us.”

Oyelese is concerned that if the urgent care centre is close to Kelowna’s hospital, it’s possible that more people would go to the emergency room anyway because it’s so close.

“I’m not really sure it’s a good idea to concentrate so many resources in the same area,” he said. “I think it makes more sense to spread things out.”

New clinic in Kelowna for mental health patients

Locating the new urgent care centre in Kelowna also adds to recruitment challenges West Kelowna is already facing, Oyelese said.

“Physicians tend to want to work where they have the resources that they can use to do their work properly,” he said. “So what ends up happening is West Kelowna ends up being the ugly step-sister doing recruitment, and it’s been fairly difficult to convince physicians to come to the west side.”

Interior Health and the Ministry of Health did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Canadians who fell ill in Cuba have brain-injury symptoms, doctor says


OTTAWA—Canadian diplomats suffering health woes after time in Cuba have symptoms consistent with a brain injury, according to an Ottawa doctor who has assessed them, turning aside speculation that the problems are psychosomatic.

“Do I believe that these people have presentations consistent with someone who has had a concussion or brain injury? Yes,” said Dr. Shawn Marshall, medical director for acquired brain injury rehabilitation at the Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre.

Canadians and American diplomats and dependants began reporting mysterious health problems in late 2016 and into 2017, setting off an international investigation.

Marshall started seeing the Canadians in mid-2017 at the request of Global Affairs. Marshall, a specialist in brain injuries, said he assessed the patients using a protocol similar to one used to screen people who have suffered a concussion.

“Most of them present with difficulties with physical symptoms,” Marshall told the Star in an interview.

Marshall said that at the outset, there was little known about the potential cause of the symptoms. While the symptoms were similar to those of a concussion, none of these patients had suffered a blunt force blow that might explain it.

But Marshall said there can be a number of causes for such injuries in addition to an external force.

“But those forces or injury to the brain can be from physical forces that aren’t necessarily traumatic strikes or blows. For example, we know that a blast … can cause brain injury,” Marshall said.

“There are different forms of energy that can cause it. Infection can definitely cause it … I don’t have any evidence of that at all or any suggestion of that. But I’m just saying that there are multiple different causes.”

Even now after his assessments, Marshall said the cause remains a puzzle. “The only connection I have is that these patients were associated with a government posting in Havana.”

Global Affairs officials also say that a multi-agency investigation has not yet been able to pinpoint a cause. An examination of potential environmental factors at Havana properties occupied by the Canadians ruled out air or water as the cause.

Some of the diplomats and family members associated the onset of the symptoms with strange noises heard at the time, like grinding noises or the sound of warping metal. However experts aren’t convinced there is a link.

In the absence of clear causes, there’s been speculation the ailment might be mass hysteria or conversion disorder, where a person suffers symptoms that can’t be explained by a physical cause, sometimes triggered by stress. It was a theory most recently advanced in a Vanity Fair feature, titled, “The Real Story Behind the Havana Embassy Mystery.”

But Marshall disagrees. He has also treated patients with such disorders and that’s not what he saw in the Canadians.

“I’m less inclined to believe that. Having seen these patients, that was not my overall impression,” he said.

“I have actually seen a number of patients with conversion disorder, factitious disorder over the years. These patients I’m seeing don’t seem to be like that,” he said.

For starters, Marshall said that some of the Canadians experienced symptoms before they became aware of a broader problem, discounting the possibility that they were influenced by reports of illness among their colleagues.

“Before they even knew something was going on, they were describing some pretty remarkable symptoms that would be hard to explain as it being due to other causes, like social influence or fear, anxiety,” Marshall said.

The union representing foreign service workers has also pushed back against suggestions that the mass hysteria is the cause.

The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland a year ago to flag “serious concern” about the government’s handling of the case.

In that letter, obtained by the Star, the association accused Global Affairs of downplaying the impact of the incidents on Canadian personnel, “even going so far as to question whether or not the issues our members were psychosomatic in nature.

“PAFSO consider that the collective hysteria hypothesis is not rigorous and impossible,” stated the letter, dated Jan. 22, 2018.

It said that “repeated suggestions that health issues are imagined or the ‘symptoms of extreme stress’” were only adding to the duress felt by diplomats and family members already struggling with health ailments.

In a statement to the Star earlier this month, Global Affairs said the cause of the health woes was still not known.

“We are investigating any and all possible causes, and we will continue to take the measures necessary to protect our diplomats and their families,” the department said.

“Canada has an evidence-based approach to addressing this situation, and our response is guided by the advice of medical experts and treating physicians. At the current time, the cause of these health problems remains unknown.”

The U.S. State Department is sticking by its claim that its personnel were deliberately targeted. To date, 26 Americans have been identified with “otherwise-unexplained medically confirmed symptoms and clinical findings” and the department isn’t ruling out that there may be more cases yet.

“Given the seeming exclusive focus on U.S. government personnel and their families in Havana, as well as the scope and duration of incidents, the department has categorized the events in Havana as attacks,” the department said in an email to the Star. “The investigation is ongoing to determine the source and cause of the health attacks.”

Marshall said that the Canadians affected by the health problems are improving, thanks to therapy and in some cases medication but cautioned that recovery from brain injuries can take time.

“Life is complicated and other factors affect your function. So if you ask too much of your brain, you may not recover as expected or if you’re asking it to function at high level, you can have other complications, like your mood can change if you can’t do what you need to do and symptoms can persist,” he said.

Meanwhile, Global Affairs refuses to comment on the fate of Canada’s embassy in Havana after a high-level visit by officials last month.

In December, the department revealed that medical testing had confirmed yet another diplomat who had served in Cuba was suffering health problems. That brought to 13 the number of confirmed cases, including dependants.

The discovery of another case prompted the federal government to send a high-level team to Havana to evaluate diplomatic operations in the country to ensure the protection of embassy staff.

But since that visit the department has been tight-lipped on the outcome of that visit or what, if any, changes were made to Canada’s diplomatic footprint in Cuba, despite repeated questions from the Star.

Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier


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Women’s Wellness clinic serves those with no family doctor, nurse practitioner – Peterborough


A new women’s clinic has opened up in Lakefield for women who don’t currently have a family doctor, and it’s focused on screening women for potentially serious health issues.

Happening at the Morton Community Healthcare Centre, the clinics are called Women’s Wellness.

“It was great. I got looked after the way I should have been looked after, which is really hard to find in this area,” said patient Emina McNeil, after her second visit to the Women’s Wellness clinic. According to McNeil, she has been looking for a new family doctor since hers left the area in November.

Paramedics host drop-in clinics in Toronto Community Housing buildings

“I had signed up with a new family doctor and I was sick over the holidays,” McNeil recounted, “and she was so booked that I could not get in to see her, so I ended up coming here and they took me right away.”

The wellness clinic serves patients in Peterborough County, as well as people who are are visiting the area who don’t have a family doctor or nurse practitioner. The focus is to help women catch cervical cancer early.

WATCH: Doctors promote walk-in clinics as future of health care

“The actual need for family doctors and nurse practitioners is a lot more than what the statistics show. We’re anticipating that there’s going to be quite a few doctors around the same age retiring over the next few years,” said nurse practitioner Lorie Dunford.

On Tuesdays, the clinic offers services including pap smears, screening for colorectal and cervical cancer and arranging mammogram appointments. On Thursdays, it offers a blood pressure clinic.

25 women may have received faulty cancer treatment at Hamilton hospital

“Our clinic is such that I give care and I give preventative full care until a doctor becomes available,” said Dunford.

The clinic is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and appointments can be booked by calling the PFHT clinic directly, or at the Peterborough location at the virtual health care clinic.


© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Senator calls for national bad doctor registry in wake of Star investigation


For decades, Marilou McPhedran worked to strengthen patient-protection laws in Ontario. The human rights lawyer chaired three task forces to combat sexual abuse of patients by doctors, producing hundreds of pages of reports for government with bold recommendations.

But all McPhedran sees is unfinished business.

“There can be, there should be, there needs to be a national database,” of disciplined physicians, starting with those guilty of sexually abusing patients, says Senator Marilou McPhedran.
“There can be, there should be, there needs to be a national database,” of disciplined physicians, starting with those guilty of sexually abusing patients, says Senator Marilou McPhedran.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star file photo)

She’s now seizing her position as independent senator to make one more aggressive bid to spark a federal review of the issues and solutions that she says medical regulators and health ministries across the country have ignored at the public’s peril.

“There can be, there should be, there needs to be a national database,” she said, that identifies physicians found guilty of serious misconduct, starting with those who sexually exploit and abuse their patients.

McPhedran lauded the Toronto Star’s ongoing “Medical Disorder” investigation as an impetus for her new campaign. The Star tracked more than 150 doctors who have held medical licences on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border and faced regulatory discipline for misconduct or incompetence. The data showed that in 90 per cent of cases, Canada’s medical watchdogs failed to share these doctors’ disciplinary histories with the public, even when they involved charges of rape, murder and child pornography.

Creating a “permanent record” that captures sexual offenders across the country is just a start, McPhedran said. In light of the Star investigation, McPhedran said she’s reviewing the evidence to support broadening the database initiative to include doctors who are disciplined for all forms of misconduct and incompetence.

Read More:

Bad doctors who cross the border can hide their dirty secrets. We dug them up

Canada’s medical watchdogs know more about bad doctors than they are telling you

Regulators expect doctors to tell the truth about their past. Here’s what happens when they don’t

The federal health minister’s office confirmed Ginette Petitpas Taylor has met on several occasions with McPhedran to discuss this issue, most recently in December 2018. McPhedran is submitting a report to Taylor that explains why a national registry is critical to public safety in the hope the proposal will be added to the agenda of a forthcoming federal-provincial health ministers meeting.

“Canadians put their trust in their health professionals and we need to do everything we can to prevent misconduct and abuse,” Minister Petitpas Taylor said in a statement to the Star. “I have raised this matter with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, and will never hesitate to raise it with my counterparts in Provinces and Territories.”

A Canadian study published in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety a month after the Star investigation found that one in eight physicians disciplined by regulators across the country went on to re-offend. These 101 repeat offenders each had up to six disciplinary events between 2000 and 2015. Four of these doctors faced discipline in more than one jurisdiction. The majority were men. The proportion of obstetrician-gynecologists was higher among repeat offenders compared to physicians disciplined only once.

The physician researchers concluded the “distribution of transgression argues for a national disciplinary database which could improve communication between jurisdictional medical boards.”

Many of Canada’s medical regulators have told the Star that what information they share with the public about physician discipline is less important than the fact that they are sharing these details with each other.

“That is a disturbingly self-interested definition of serving the public,” McPhedran said. “All I can deduce from that practice is that they are serving the privilege of their organization. Regulators can’t serve the public interest and demonstrate that they’re keeping the promise that these organizations have made under the law across this country if they are not accountable and transparent. It doesn’t add up.”

Diana Zlomislic is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Email: Twitter: @dzlo


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He started as a tiny preemie at Sick Kids. He beat the odds and now he’s back at the hospital — as a doctor in training


Adam Shehata has been inside the Hospital for Sick Children hundreds of times in his 36 years.

First, as an infant, struggling to survive in the hospital’s NICU after being born 16 weeks too early and on the threshold of life.

Adam Shehata, 36, is a third-year medical student who came late to the field but says it’s a long-held dream to be a pediatric surgeon.
Adam Shehata, 36, is a third-year medical student who came late to the field but says it’s a long-held dream to be a pediatric surgeon.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

Then, as a child, during weekly visits for his many follow-up appointments.

And later, as an adult, Shehata found himself back at Sick Kids for an unexpected visit, during which he and his wife learned their longed-for first pregnancy would have a devastating end.

But this week, Shehata entered the hospital, not as a patient or a parent, but as a doctor-in-training, a step toward fulfilling his long-held dream of becoming a pediatric surgeon at the renowned hospital.

“I’m fortunate for so many reasons, and much of it has to do with the care I received at Sick Kids,” Shehata says. “And now it’s a really nice feeling to know I can start to give back.”

Shehata, a third-year medical student at the University of Toronto, started his six-week pediatrics rotation at Sick Kids on Monday, Nov. 26.

That morning, during his subway commute to the hospital, Shehata found himself reflecting on what it meant to go back to the place that once saved his life. This time, and against the odds, he would be the one helping children.

Shehata hadn’t planned on making his thoughts public. But once he saw the big, illuminated Sick Kids sign towering above the main entrance, Shehata snapped a photo of the building’s facade and posted it on Twitter, along with several tweets briefly outlining his health journey.

His Twitter thread, which includes the following statement — “We can never truly know the impact we will have on other people’s lives” — has since been ‘liked’ more than 2,000 times and has generated dozens of comments. This is a lot of online attention for Shehata, who has roughly 350 Twitter followers.

“I think it’s the kind of story that people are longing for,” he says. “People are always rooting for the underdog. And though I don’t see myself in that position now, I certainly was an underdog when I was a baby, born at 24 weeks, with such long odds for survival.”

At 36, Shehata is a bit late to medical school; many of his classmates are in their early 20s.

But Shehata, who applied five times to med school before being accepted by the University of Toronto in the spring of 2015, knows he brings a host of skills.

Shehata is a professional pilot with a university degree in aviation business management. He also has a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.

While in his 20s, Shehata focused on his passion for aviation, earning his Class I Flight Instructor rating, which allowed him to teach commercial pilots how to fly, and then acquiring his airline transport pilot licence, which is needed to captain large commercial airliners.

Adam Shehata, 2 months old, in an incubator at Sick Kids. The Polaroid photo was taken Aug. 7, 1982.
Adam Shehata, 2 months old, in an incubator at Sick Kids. The Polaroid photo was taken Aug. 7, 1982.  (Supplied)

But in 2010, at age 28, Shehata decided to become a doctor after a lifechanging experience that took place with his wife, Christina.

The pair, who had married the previous year, had been referred to Sick Kids after learning their unborn baby — their first pregnancy — had a severe heart defect. Shattered by the news, the couple were comforted by a pediatric cardiologist, who spent two hours helping them understand what it meant for a baby to have such a condition.

“We ended up losing that pregnancy,” Shehata says. “But that conversation with that physician inspired me to consider a career in medicine. He didn’t make the situation medically better for us, but the time he took and the way he explained things to us and his kindness … I knew I could be that person someday.”

Within months of their loss, Shehata was acquiring the high school and university credits needed to get into medical school. But despite top grades and his extensive aviation experience, Shehata didn’t make the cut at various schools.

Adam Shehata as a happy, healthy 4-year-old on his first soccer team.
Adam Shehata as a happy, healthy 4-year-old on his first soccer team.

Shehata then turned his attention to the law, another profession he believed had the power to change people’s lives.

He excelled in his studies at Osgoode Hall and was called to the bar in 2016. But still, he could not let go of his dream of being a doctor.

Shehata applied one last time to medical school. The same month that he was offered a job in aviation law at a downtown Toronto firm, he was admitted to the U of T’s faculty of medicine.

Three years later, and starting his pediatrics rotation at Sick Kids, Shehata knows he’s on the right path.

Shehata’s mother, Mona ElSayeh, is proud of her son and remains in awe of his success given the grim outlook at birth.

ElSayeh, who is executive director of a small Toronto charity called Access Community Capital Fund, recalls her and her husband’s fear in the moments after Shehata’s birth on June 7, 1982. Her son, born at 24 weeks and weighing just 660 grams (one pound, seven ounces) was unbelievably tiny and frail, his skin nearly translucent.

Doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital rushed the baby to Sick Kids, where doctors in the neonatal intensive care unit did everything they could to save his life.

Shehata, who initially relied on a ventilator to help him breathe, spent more than 120 days in hospital, and faced multiple health crises, including one remedied by a lifesaving blood transfusion.

Each day of his stay, ElSayeh or her husband made the hour-long trek from their home in Pickering to visit their son.

ElSayeh, who was heartbroken every time she had to say goodbye to Shehata, sleeping in his incubator, believes the constant care from the NICU staff has helped her son thrive — not just as a baby but throughout his life.

“Even though I was there every day, I couldn’t be with him 24/7. But I knew the nurses would take him out and cuddle him and treat him like any baby wants to be treated. I think that went a really long way in his development.”

After four months, Shehata went home on Thanksgiving weekend with his parents and older brother, Kareem.

Through much of Shehata’s childhood, ElSayeh continued to take her son to Sick Kids for weekly appointments with specialists to monitor his hearing, eyesight and growth and development. Doctors warned ElSayeh that Shehata would likely have physical disabilities and serious developmental delays due to his prematurity.

Adam Shehata, 1, in his Pickering backyard.
Adam Shehata, 1, in his Pickering backyard.

But though he needed extra help for some tasks, especially with his fine motor development, and did have to repeat third grade, Shehata surpassed everyone’s expectations.

ElSayeh says she knows he will make a good doctor, just as he is already a good son, husband and father. Shehata and Christina have a 7-year-old daughter, Amelia, who ElSayeh calls “the apple of my eye.”

After his first week of training at Sick Kids, Shehata is even more sure of his dream of being a pediatric surgeon at the hospital that once saved his life.

He knows it is a longshot. Once he completes medical school, Shehata faces at least seven more years of training and stiff competition for the handful of pediatric surgery spots in Canada.

But he also knows that he has beaten the odds once before at Sick Kids. And that he’ll be helped by his personal experience — as a patient and then as a parent at the hospital — coupled with his technical skills honed while a pilot and a lawyer.

It’s time, he says, for him to start paying forward all the kindness and care he has received in his life. And he wants to start at Sick Kids.

Megan Ogilvie is a Toronto-based data reporter. Follow her on Twitter: @megan_ogilvie

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Is it strep throat? Pharmacies say they could give you the answer and maybe save a trip to the doctor


‘Tis the season for colds, flu and sore throats. And anguishing over whether you — or your child — need to go to the doctor. Maybe it’s better to stay in bed — but what if it’s strep throat and antibiotics are required?

In three Canadian provinces (B.C., Alberta and Nova Scotia), you can walk into some pharmacies and get a rapid « point-of-care » strep throat test.

The pharmacist takes a throat swab, and within a few minutes, tells you whether it tested positive or negative for group A streptococcus — the bacteria that cause strep throat.

Now pharmacy owners want that test to be available across the country.

It’s a quick and easy way, they say, to confirm whether a sore throat is caused by strep bacteria or by a virus.

That’s important because only about a third of sore throats in children between five and 15 years old are caused by strep. The rest of the time it’s usually a virus, in which case antibiotics won’t do any good and shouldn’t be prescribed. 

So if the test comes back positive for strep, the pharmacist will advise you to go to the doctor and get the appropriate prescription. In Alberta, you could get the antibiotic right away, as pharmacists have prescribing authority in that province.

If the test comes back negative, « you may just need fluid and rest, which a pharmacist could advise you on, » said Sandra Hanna, vice-president of pharmacy affairs for the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada and a pharmacist in the Toronto area.

« In the majority of cases, an antibiotic … would not be required, because it’s a viral sore throat, » she said.

Since about two-thirds of sore throats are viral and antibiotics shouldn’t be prescribed, ruling out strep infections in a pharmacy setting can help save patients unnecessary trips to the doctor’s office, says Sandra Hanna, vice-president of pharmacy affairs for the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada and a practising pharmacist. (Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada)

The test, which costs patients about $15, allows people « to determine whether they need to go to the doctor or not, » Hanna said.

That, in turn, could help prevent the unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions which contribute to antibiotic resistance, she said.

For all those reasons, the association, which represents pharmacies (including chains such as Shoppers Drug Mart and mass merchandisers with pharmacy services such as Costco and Walmart), says strep point-of-care testing should be available across the country, and is currently lobbying to start it in Ontario.

Sounds great, right?

Not so fast, say infectious disease specialists.

When it comes to kids, point-of-care tests (also called rapid antigen tests) shouldn’t be used on their own to rule out strep throat, said Dr. Jeffrey Pernica, head of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

« These tests that they’re talking about don’t work well enough to be reliable in children. And children are the ones who are the most at risk from complications of strep throat, like rheumatic fever. And they’re the ones who get strep throat the most, » he said.

(For adults, strep throat is less common.)

When doctors suspect a patient has strep throat, they usually do a throat swab and send it off to a lab for a « throat culture test, » where the sample is left for a day or two to see if it grows into strep bacteria.

Dr. Jeffrey Pernica, head of the division of pediatric infectious disease at McMaster University, says he understands the appeal of rapid strep tests, but they shouldn’t be used in isolation when it comes to ruling out strep throat in children. (McMaster University)

That’s the « gold standard diagnostic test » for strep throat, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s also the accepted medical guideline for treating strep throat in children, said Dr. Jonathan Gubbay, a Toronto pediatrician specializing in infectious disease, as well as a medical microbiologist for Public Health Ontario.

Gubbay actually uses a point-of-care test in his clinic when he suspects a child has strep throat because he can get the result back in five or 10 minutes. If it’s positive, he can start antibiotic treatment right away.

But if it’s negative, he sends a sample to the lab for the culture test to make sure the point-of-care test wasn’t a false reading.

It’s important to make sure a strep diagnosis isn’t missed in children, Gubbay said, because although rare, it can progress into an invasive form of the disease or heighten the risk of rheumatic fever, which can damage the heart and joints.

« The sensitivity [of rapid tests] isn’t as good as we’d like, » he said.

So how reliable are they? It depends on who you ask.

The Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association says the point-of-care tests are accurate more than 90 per cent of the time. But both Gubbay and Pernica say that’s unlikely.

Dr. Jonathan Gubbay, deputy chief of medical microbiology at Public Health Ontario and a pediatric infectious disease physician, says a comprehensive physical exam of a child with a sore throat can sometimes rule out strep throat without requiring a swab at all. (Public Health Ontario)

Although studies that show such high accuracy do exist (including those cited by test manufacturers themselves), the doctors say a broader look at the research puts the number closer to 70 per cent.

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta, also questions whether point-of-care tests are as accurate as they claim to be.

« There are lots of tests that are licensed and the packages always tell you that they’re fantastic. In the real world, they vary a lot, » she said.

Both Saxinger and Gubbay also point out that diagnosing strep goes beyond the throat swab — regardless of how the results are processed, because physicians and nurse practitioners do complete physical exams. In many cases, they’re able to rule out strep throat without even doing a swab — a level of diagnosis they’re not sure all pharmacists are equipped to provide.

But Hanna said in the provinces where point-of-care tests are in place, pharmacists do have comprehensive conversations with patients — and also guard against missed strep diagnoses.

« Tests that show a negative result in patients where the pharmacist strongly suspected them of having strep throat, based on their symptoms, were referred to a physician for further evaluation, » she said.

The manufacturers of point-of-care tests, including those for strep throat, ‘always tell you that they’re fantastic. In the real world, they vary a lot [in accuracy],’ says Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta. (University of Alberta)

The in-pharmacy tests could also save the health-care system money, the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association says, citing a study published in the Canadian Pharmacists Journal in August. It concluded the pharmacy-based treatment saved an average of $12.47 to $24.36 per patient.

However, the study did not account for the fact that patients pay about $15 out-of-pocket for the strep test — and it was funded by Loblaw Companies Limited, which runs pharmacies and owns the Shoppers Drug Mart chain.

That raises questions for Pernica about how impartial the findings are.

« There’s a clear incentive for the drug stores to get people [in], » he said. « Because if they have strep throat, they’ve done them a service. If they don’t have strep throat, they’re still there. And I think that people will be walking out of those drug stores with cough and cold remedies. »

Regardless, Pernica said he understand the appeal of the pharmacy-based tests for patients.

« Pharmacists will make a good point in saying that sometimes it’s hard to get in to see your doctor or nurse and it’s sometimes easier for people to access pharmacies. I completely agree with that, » he said.

But he’s not convinced there’s enough independent research to back up the claims that false negatives aren’t happening — or even that there’s a cost-saving to the health-care system.

« I’m not sure of the data yet, » said Pernica. « Will people actually get treated more appropriately faster? Will the overall costs be lower? I think these are answers we don’t have yet. »

This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


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Kingston doctor surprised when World Medical Association’s new president used his words in inaugural speech


Dr. Chris Simpson was sitting in a conference room in Reykjavik, Iceland listening to the inaugural speech of the World Medical Association’s new president, when the words started sounding a little too familiar.

Simpson is a past president of the Canadian Medical Association and said he knows the importance of a president’s first address, after giving deep, personal reflection to the inaugural speech he wrote as CMA president in 2014. Last Friday, it was Dr. Leonid Eidelman’s turn to deliver his talk before members of the international association, created in 1947 to uphold the medical ethics of physicians around the world.

Ultimately, Dr. Eidelman’s speech led to the CMA’s resignation from the World Medical Association. Last weekend, the Canadian delegation discovered Eidelman’s speech plagiarized Simpson’s CMA speech and an official call for Eidelman’s resignation was voted down.

“Part of this is in hindsight, but throughout a lot of the speech he was delivering there were some themes that he was talking about that I remember thinking, well that sounds kind of familiar,” said Simpson, a cardiologist and vice dean of the Queen’s University School of Medicine.

“He talked about the ‘social contract’ which is a very Canadian term and I used that frequently in my speech as well, but I didn’t think anything of it other than it was just generally familiar,” he said, in a telephone interview from Iceland.

“But when he began a series of sentences, I knew two sentences in. I said, ‘That’s my speech.’ I said it out loud to people sitting beside me. And then I started citing it along with him as he was reading it. I was talking out loud, the same words.”

A spokesperson for the World Medical Association said Eidelman later apologized before the assembly. In an email, the spokesperson said Eidelman told the association that his speech was translated from Hebrew with “help from English speechwriters. I was totally unaware if any English phrases were taken from other sources. And I am really sorry.”

CMA President Dr. Gigi Osler said the group resigned over the issue of integrity — particularly when the conference theme focused on medical ethics.

“We strongly believe that as physicians at the CMA and as leaders, we have to uphold a high level of integrity and honesty,” Osler said.

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On Friday, while the other international delegates left for a bus tour of Reykjavik, the Canadians went back to their hotel and started researching. They got a copy of Simpson’s 2014 speech and compared it to the text of the speech that Eidelman had just delivered.

“It was word for word,” Simpson said, “with a semi colon in the same place and commas in the same place.”

According to the CMA, both speeches used the same text. It was found near the end of the speech, as Simpson built to his conclusion.

“Every day, we are given the great privilege of being invited into our patients’ lives. We are with patients when they are born and when they die; we provide advice and comfort; we prevent illness and treat and manage disease. Our patients trust us, and we have always taken our advocacy role very seriously. It is part of the essence of our professionalism…” the text of Simpson’s speech said.

Osler said once the group found that passage, they decided to look for other instances of plagiarism.

“Just by doing a simple Google search we were able to identify other sources which were also taken,” from blogs and websites, she said.

“That’s when it sunk in,” Osler said. “It wasn’t one line. It wasn’t two lines. It was obvious.”

The decision to demand Eidelman’s resignation was made with Osler, the CMA president, along with the association’s CEO, its board chair and other delegates, he said.

On Saturday, back in the conference room, Simpson said he rose on a point of personal privilege, provided the documentation showing plagiarism and asked for Eidelman’s resignation.

“The council went into a private session. They emerged, saying that they agreed those words had been taken. They also agreed that there were other parts of the speech that had been from other sources that were unattributed. The vote was moved and seconded that Dr. Eidelman resign. The vote was not successful,” Simpson said.

The Canadians officially resigned and did not hear Eidelman’s apology, Simpson said.

For now, Osler said the CMA will seek connections with new organizations that will allow it to continue its work on international projects.

“This is a new beginning for us,” she said.

Simpson said he believes the CMA made the right decision.

“How could I go back to my students who I would hold to a higher standard for doing the same thing and let the president of the WMA off the hook? That would be very hypocritical of me.”

Moira Welsh is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow her on Twitter: @moirawelsh


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