Introducing the New Chief of Cardiology

May 29, 2012

In March, Dr. Rob Beanlands was appointed Chief of Cardiology at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. He brings extensive career experience in cardiovascular imaging and a passion for patient-centred care and education to his new position.

Dr. Beanlands takes over from Dr. Terrence Ruddy, Chief since 2006, who stepped down to focus on research and clinical duties. As division chief, Dr. Beanlands plans to emphasize what he calls “the three ps” in all aspects of cardiology at the Heart Institute. “The first p is ‘patients’: I want to re-emphasize and encourage a patient-first culture. Any time we make a decision, we should always think first about what’s best for our patients,” he explained.

This approach encompasses everything the division does, he elaborated—not just everyday patient care, but educating trainee cardiologists and others to be the next generation of cardiovascular care providers and conducting research that leads to new ways of understanding heart disease and treating patients.

“We already have a strong culture of delivering quality care at the Heart Institute, and I want to see that continue and grow.” – Dr. Rob Beanlands, Chief of Cardiology, UOHI

The second p is “people.” “I mean this broadly,” said Dr. Beanlands. “In terms of the people in the Division of Cardiology, by advancing their academic and scholarly work and advancing their roles as members of the division and as leaders in the cardiovascular community. And I also mean the people we work with across the region to deliver the best care possible,” he added.

That last emphasis leads to the third p: “partnerships.” “Our partners include our nurses, the other divisions in the Heart Institute, The Ottawa Hospital, The University of Ottawa and our partners in our region, as well as other cardiovascular institutions across the country and internationally. We want to nurture and build our partnerships and collaborations. Coordinated effort and shared investments can help get us where we want to go,” he said.

To do so, Dr. Beanlands can draw on his leadership roles with other organizations and networks that include past President of the Canadian Nuclear Cardiology Society, Annual Meeting Chair for the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, incoming Deputy Chair of the Heart and Stroke Foundation Scientific Review Committee, and founding member of the national research collaborations Canadian Atherosclerosis Imaging Network and IMAGE-HF.

“In terms of early priorities, we will identify critical gaps to enhance our delivery of care,” he explained. One goal will be to expand capabilities in treating heart failure, a condition expected to only increase in incidence as the Canadian population ages (see “Using the Right Tools to Manage Heart Failure”).

Doing so will potentially include recruiting additional physicians and encouraging heart failure research, an area that has been underdeveloped, in his opinion. Other areas for possible recruitment include imaging, echocardiography, electrophysiology interventional cardiology, vascular biology, and health economics.

In general, Dr. Beanlands believes the division needs to sharpen its focus on the translational potential of the research under way. “In the research realm, the move is toward patient-oriented research. That’s happening everywhere,” he said. “New ideas are great, but let’s get them applied. Where does what we’re doing actually fit into understanding disease in humans, and how do we use that to enable new treatments that can improve care and outcomes? How can we do that more efficiently?”

Dr. Beanlands also wants to leverage the division’s outstanding residency and medical-student training into improving continuing medical education for its own physicians and physicians in the community. “The idea is to expand the education portfolio to be across the board, to take the excellence we have in the residency training program and the undergraduate training and expand that to be a continuum of education and lifelong learning,” he explained.

“We have good outreach, but we’re talking about reaching out even further; for example, we want to get family doctors educated to a certain level to manage heart failure and atrial fibrillation in the community. That’s the way care is moving, and the province is investing in improving care at the patient’s doorstep,” he added.

An education director will join a clinical director, research director, and associates and collaborators at The Ottawa Hospital as part of a new leadership team that will help manage priorities for the division. In an effort to enhance the patient experience, one priority will be a greater focus on quality improvement.

“I want each section of cardiology, whether it be electrophysiology, interventional cardiology, imaging, clinical care or heart failure, to identify some quality parameters to target for improvement, determine the outcomes linked to those parameters, and develop measures for those to see how we can improve. We already have a strong culture of delivering quality care at the Heart Institute, and I want to see that continue and grow,” Dr. Beanlands explained.

Even before Dr. Beanlands joined the Heart Institute in 1992, he had a close personal connection to the place. His father, Dr. Donald Beanlands, was the founding Chief of Cardiology at the Heart Institute and continued in that role for 19 years. “I’m very proud of that legacy, and I still consult with him on difficult cases and difficult decisions,” said Dr. Beanlands. “He was a good leader as well as a great clinician. My focus for the division has been different, but I think the values are the same,” he added.

As to what success for the division will look like for the younger Dr. Beanlands, he imagined: “If in five years’ time, if everybody, everywhere you go in the division, says, ‘Patients are first here,’ that would be a success. If members of the division are doing significant scholarly work and translating that knowledge in our region and across the country and internationally—if our staff are leaders in the community, in the country, and internationally—that would be a success.”

“If, through our partnerships, we’re strengthened to where it’s clear that we are the place in the world for the things that we’re good at, whether it be for patient care or education or research, that would be a success. That’s my big audacious goal, and that’s where we want to be heading,” he concluded.