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Dr. Paul Atkinson

In case of emergency, rely on world-class research

The ER.  It’s a place no one wants to visit, but at some point in our lives, practically each of us will. Luckily, there are highly trained specialists tasked with finding ways to keep our emergency departments running as efficiently and effectively as possible, all while maintaining a focus on people.

Dr. Paul Atkinson is one of those people. He is the Research Director at the Saint John Regional Hospital’s Department of Emergency Medicine. 

During his tenure at the hospital, the department has made some significant advances in its work – including the publication of more than 20 peer-reviewed articles and recognition through a handful of national and international research awards.

But while the research is important, Dr. Atkinson says it’s even more important to ensure the research links back to improvements in clinical care – inside the ER itself.

“We’ve been able to show that research is relevant to the care our doctors and nurses provide. It really can improve the way they treat patients,” he said. “It doesn’t happen instantly, but we’re also not talking 20 years down the road. Real change can happen in just two or three years.”

One of Dr. Atkinson’s recent projects – which he co-authored with Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick student, James Milne – won a national award, putting the research team on the radar of the best emergency medicine researchers on the planet.

“I’ve been invited to Harvard in September to present our study and to consider expanding the study, and we’ve also had some interest from the Royal London Hospital.”

Meanwhile, a difficult reality Dr. Atkinson and his research team faces is the constant search for funding to support their work.

“Some of our major funding sources have dried up in recent years, so our work is threatened by budget cuts,” he said.

One way they’ve managed to continue their work has been through funding from the Saint John Regional Hospital Foundation. The Foundation recently donated funds to cover half the salary of Research Coordinator, Jackie Fraser, for two years.

“Without that contribution, we wouldn’t have been able to get off the ground,” Dr. Atkinson said. “The Foundation was pivotal to getting this program going, and it will be pivotal to keeping it going in the future.”

The Foundation has also funded the acquisition of new simulation equipment for the emergency department, which one team member used to win another national research award.

Dr. Atkinson says that when someone donates to research through the Foundation, that funding supports  projects that improve the skillset of physicians working in the hospital’s ER, treating that very donor’s neighbours, friends, even family.

 

“Everyone uses the ER at some point in their life, and we’re here to make sure people get the best, most efficient and high quality care possible, every single visit. The Foundation was pivotal to getting this program going, and it will be pivotal to keeping it going in the future.” – Dr. Paul Atkinson, Research Director at the Saint John Regional Hospital’s Department of Emergency Medicine.