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Professor Timothy Chan (MIE), director of the Centre for Healthcare Engineering. (Credit: Brian Tran)

High atop the Myhal Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship, a group of 100 engineering graduate students, faculty members, research scientists, and alumni gathered on October 1 to mark a decade of progress toward the goal of smarter health-care delivery.

The expansive terrace on the Dr. Woo Hon Fai Innovation Floor provided attendees with a breathtaking night view of the city’s Discovery District—a cluster of hospitals, research centres, and U of T—that makes Toronto one of the best places in the world to study health-care engineering.

Established in 2008 to bridge academic research with practice, U of T Engineering’s Centre for Healthcare Engineering (CHE) has pioneered data-driven research to improve efficiency and enhance patient care.

At the celebration, current students working with CHE showcased their latest research, while alumni discussed the state of their fields with faculty members. Many old friends reconnected over memories rekindled by the event.

Professor Timothy Chan (MIE), director of the CHE, said the event felt more like a family reunion than a typical wine-and-cheese affair.

“You really felt a strong sense of camaraderie,” he said. “It was great to see old students reconnecting, and new connections forming between current students, alumni, and faculty. While health care engineering as a field has grown quickly, especially over the past 10 years since CHE began, it’s still a tight-knit community.”

After an introduction by Chan, Professor Michael Carter (MIE), CHE’s first director and a newly appointed Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, addressed the gathered crowd—a third of whom were his former students or associates.

“Tim’s introduction sounded like a retirement speech,” he said. “I have no intention of retiring yet! There is still a lot of work to do, and I believe I can still make a contribution.”

“It’s an honour to be surrounded by friends and close colleagues,” Carter added. “I loved talking to everyone, to hear what projects they’re working on, what challenges they hope to tackle. That CHE can serve as a platform to get their ideas out in the world is immensely important.”

The keynote address was given by Dr. David Jaffray, Executive VP of Technology and Innovation at University Health Network, and was focused on the role engineers play in steering society towards progress.

“When Captain Kirk needs help, he says, ‘Get me engineering!’” said Jaffray. He went on to explain that a hospital, like a spaceship, is a system, not a large inert object. Systems can be studied and improved, and that is exactly what associates of CHE are doing.

Despite big data and efficiency being a strong focus of CHE, a concern for people’s well-being remains at the heart of health care engineering.

“None of us would be working in health care engineering if we didn’t care about making things better for patients, doctors, and the whole health-care system,” said Chan. “Engineers bring a unique set of skills and perspectives to tackling health-care issues. These past 10 years are just the beginning. CHE is going to keep pushing forward with research that will save lives, reduce costs, and improve efficiency.”

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