Transforming stroke care at St. Michael’s

Dr. Atif Zafar, medical director of the Stroke Program at St. Michael’s Hospital, shares his vision for stroke research and treatment breakthroughs at the Schroeder BRAIN&HEART Centre.

How will you advance stroke care at the Schroeder BRAIN&HEART Centre?

The brain-heart collaboration is a natural fit, so we’re launching an initiative where the stroke program will work with the cardiac group. The most common complications for patients getting cardiac procedures is stroke. We’re going to create a cerebrovascular perioperative program and be involved in those patients’ journeys before, during and after their procedures to minimize stroke risk. If we can bring the brain and heart experts together with the goal to improve outcomes for patients, it’s a winner.

What else will you do to improve care?

We have two priority areas. First, we’ll make patient transitions from one phase of care to the next as efficient as possible. We’ll have dedicated spaces to care for stroke patients in the Emergency Department and the ICU to improve the patient’s experience.

And second, we’ll approach stroke care in a precision-based way, so every patient is cared for based on their individual needs. We’ll collect blood samples from patients and create the Stroke and Cerebrovascular Biobank, which will help us analyze the hematological, chemical and genetic factors in those patients and design individualized treatment plans. That’s something we’re well positioned to do, with our new Schroeder BRAIN&HEART Centre, one of the world’s best AI programs and a robust endovascular program. We’ll apply innovation to world-class patient care.

How does health equity fit into the plan?

The more disadvantaged the patients, the less access they have to care — or information. I emphasize equity because it aligns with St. Michael’s goals and the patients we serve. Providing high-quality care to every one of our patients is the number one priority. So we’re launching a stroke equity clinic for patients with lots of social and other issues impacting the care experience. We’ll take extra steps to reach them, educate them and provide the right care that works for them. We’ll offer information in different languages and deliver medicines to them if they don’t have an address. We’re treating people based on their life circumstances, because it’s the right thing to do.