In Canada, academic health science centers have emerged as multiinstitutional
partnerships between research-intensive universities,
Faculties of Medicine, and regional quaternary and tertiary academic
hospitals. One of the largest and most complex of these entities is
the Toronto Academic Health Science Network (TAHSN), which
encompasses the University of Toronto Health Science Faculties and
13 hospitals, along with 18 affiliations with community healthcare
institutions in the Toronto area. Although we bring together distinct
entities, we share the goals of providing world-class patient care,
educating highly-skilled practitioners, and conducting state-of-the-art
research. We have learned a great deal about self-evaluation, iterative
change, and sharing lessons across institutions in the federated model.
An academic health science network focuses collaboratively on improving
health. In this model, the University of Toronto provides very clear value.
The University facilitates integration across and among the institution
and network. Articulating this value has enabled us to build our
partnerships, and it has also helped our faculty understand their role and
the importance of the larger collective. Our faculty members, students,
and trainees fill the academic affiliated hospital, and only the university
is in the position to assist the understanding of what can be accomplished.
In the larger collective, we seek to integrate education and research and
to facilitate integrated care.
It’s important for the academic leadership to understand the value they
bring to the collective, as well as to the partnerships among the various
institutions that create the academic health science network. It’s not just
about the centers anymore, as we’re networking more broadly among the
partners. TAHSN is one of the largest health science networks in North
America. We are the only medical school serving the population of the
greater Toronto area, where there is a population of six million people.
Academic leaders must envision what can be accomplished through
strategic collaboration, integrating themes that no one single institution
in the network can accomplish alone. This does not mean surrendering
your identity or compromising your strategic focus, but rather seeking the
value that can be added through integration and partnership. We fulfill
our social responsibility by preparing leaders in health, and we take that
role very seriously.
Healthcare transformation will emerge out of academic health science
centers and their networks. It’s our responsibility to imagine the future
because it won’t come out of the government. We have to enable private
and public sector partners to enable healthcare transformation. This can
only occur by bringing evidence to bear on how we do our business. That
evidence has to support new models of care that are truly better, faster,
and more cost effective.
Catharine Whiteside, MD, PhD, FRCPC
Former Dean of Medicine
Former Vice Provost,
Relations with Healthcare Institutions
Professor of Medicine
University of Toronto, Canada