August 10, 2022
Pamela & Paul Austin Centre, led by Dr. Morris Freedman
TORONTO, ON – August 10, 2022
– Baycrest is embarking on a fundamental redesign of its care delivery systems through the creation of the Pamela & Paul Austin Centre for Neurology and Behavioural Support to help the estimated 430,000 Ontarians who will be living with dementia and other degenerative brain conditions by 2038, and their caregivers. The Centre will include a transformational Artificial Intelligence (AI)-supported platform to offer precision medicine and personalized care.
The Austin Centre, housed on Baycrest’s flagship campus in Toronto, opened in April 2022 and is supported by an experienced interprofessional team, integrating sub-specialties in neurology, thus allowing Baycrest to coordinate assessment, diagnosis and care for patients experiencing cognitive decline, dementia and behavioural challenges, movement disorders, and multiple sclerosis. A new focus for the Centre will be general neurology in the geriatric population, spanning a broad spectrum of neurological disorders associated with aging. The inaugural Medical Director of the Centre will be Dr. Morris Freedman, who is also Head, Division of Neurology, Medical Director, Cognition and Behaviour, and Rotman Research Institute Scientist at Baycrest.
“This new, innovative model of care will demonstrate what is possible in supporting individuals with dementia across the continuum of care, and as their disease progresses,” said Scott Ovenden, President and Chief Executive Officer, Baycrest Hospital. “Creating a home base for diagnosis, treatment and services for patients and their caregivers will make a meaningful change in the quality of care and value for the healthcare system.”
The Pamela & Paul Austin AI Platform will be developed through a collaborative effort between Baycrest’s Sam and Ida Ross Memory Clinic, which is an integral part of the Centre, the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest, and the Toronto Dementia Research Alliance (TDRA). This unique, synergistic system extends beyond clinical delivery and embraces research and education to advance the Centre’s mission. Using a novel AI approach first conceived at the Sam and Ida Ross Memory Clinic and the Rotman Research Institute, the system will help clinicians quickly prioritize patients based on their needs; tailor services as patients wait; establish a therapeutic relationship; and provide timely access to memory health resources based on patient needs and interests. This work will be led by Dr. Morris Freedman; Dr. Bradley Buchsbaum, Senior Scientist, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest; and Dr. Daniel Felsky, Scientist at the Krembil Centre for Neuroinformatics, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
The AI system will use data from the Sam and Ida Ross Memory Clinic captured at the point of clinical care. By integrating clinical care with research, the Pamela & Paul Austin AI Platform will bring scientists closer to answers sooner about how to prevent, slow and treat cognitive decline.
“This project advances our vision of using predictive neuroscience for precision aging, recognizing that one size does not fit all when it comes to brain health. The Pamela & Paul Austin AI Platform will help clinicians understand each individual’s path for optimal aging, and develop predictive models to ensure personalized strategies can be implemented for the prevention, early detection, treatment, and care of age-related neurodegeneration,” said Dr. Allison Sekuler, Sandra A. Rotman Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience, Rotman Research Institute, and President & Chief Scientist, Baycrest Academy for Research and Education at Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care.
“This is a great example of how we can advance standardization of care for people living with cognitive impairment and dementia. Developing standardized tools for assessing, diagnosing and treating neurodegenerative diseases and supporting these tools with AI will not only improve quality of care and reduce wait times but also provide an opportunity to embed research into care so that we can help improve the care of today’s patients and the patients of tomorrow”, said Dr. Tarek Rajji, Executive Director of TDRA.
In addition to Baycrest, members of the TDRA include the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Unity Health Toronto and University Health Network.
Within the Pamela & Paul Austin Centre for Neurology and Behavioural Support, Baycrest will build on the success of the highly innovative Virtual Behavioural Medicine (VBM) program. Launched at Baycrest in 2020 and led by Dr. Morris Freedman, VBM offers virtual assessment and management for individuals with dementia in acute-care hospitals, long-term care homes or in the community who are exhibiting severe responsive behaviours such as aggression, agitation and hallucinations. While VBM offers a digital-first approach, it is complementary to in-person resources such as Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO). VBM, essentially a virtual hospital neurobehavioural unit, is a unique, scalable model of innovative virtual care, and will act as a core clinical offering within the new Centre.
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