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Photo of Dean Cordingley, Dr. Michael Ellis and Karen ReimerLetter from the WRHA
Raising the bar
Pan Am team committed to providing
better care
Pan Am Concussion Program team members, from left: Dean Cordingley, Dr. Michael Ellis and Karen Reimer.
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Réal Cloutier
Interim President and CEO
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Jan/Feb 2018

No matter where you look within our health-care system, you will find passionate people committed to raising the bar when it comes to caring for their patients and clients.

Dr. Michael Ellis and his team at the Pan Am Clinic Concussion Program are but one example.

Launched in 2013, the program operates the only provincially-funded, multidisciplinary, sports-related, pediatric concussion clinic in Canada. That means kids with concussions and traumatic brain injuries in Manitoba have access to a level of care that is not readily available elsewhere in the country.

The decision to establish the clinic was a timely one. As our story on the program in this issue of Wave points out, the number of patients referred to the clinic has jumped, from about 200 patients a year in the early days to more than 900 in 2017.

The care provided by Ellis and his team has drawn praise from patients and their parents. One parent credits Ellis with going "above and beyond" in providing care for his son. "Thank God for Dr. Ellis," he says. Another parent echoes that sentiment, adding: "I feel he's a doctor who really cares about his patients. You have a name. You're not just a file number."

But the commitment to better care does not end at the clinic's doors. It also extends to publishing more than 30 research papers that have helped expand the medical world's knowledge of concussion diagnosis and treatment.

In 2016, for example, Ellis and some members of his team published a research paper that outlined the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to treating patients with concussion, as is done in Manitoba.

As the paper explains, many of the people providing concussion care across Canada are not properly qualified or resourced to do the job. The multidisciplinary approach used in Manitoba provides for a comprehensive approach to concussion evaluation and management by a team that is led by a neurosurgeon and includes other licensed and trained health-care providers, including a neuropsychologist, exercise physiologist and physiotherapists.

Other research papers published by Ellis and members of his team have shed new light on important factors that affect how soon patients with concussion return to sports and the role that a multi-disciplinary approach plays in the healing process.

In addition, Ellis and his team have worked with various community groups, including the Winnipeg School Division and Sport Manitoba, to establish concussion protocols. He has also participated in the effort to develop legislation, currently before the provincial legislature, that would mandate all schools and sports organizations to develop concussion safety and education standards.

The concussion program is also committed to ensuring that all young Manitobans, no matter where they live, have better access to the expertise and care provided by the Winnipeg-based program.

Last year, Ellis was part of a group of health-care providers and interested parties who visited Thompson to talk to health officials in northern Manitoba about the concussion program and how it might be able to support them in caring for their patients.

Following that visit, his program worked with MBTelehealth to launch a pilot project that enables its staff to consult with northern health-care providers through video-conferencing. Ellis says he believes it is the first time in Canada that such a program has been able to provide concussion care to pediatric patients in underserved northern communities.

All of these efforts are a reflection of the passion Ellis and the members of his team have for their work. While their primary focus is on caring for patients who attend their clinic, they are also committed to advocating for changes that would improve the delivery of care and reduce sports-related concussions and head injuries. In doing so, they are working to raise the bar when it comes to concussion care and prevention - not just here, but right across the country.