The MUHC Foundation's Health Matters

How robots help perform surgical procedures

June 19, 2022 The McGill University Health Centre Foundation Season 2 Episode 37
The MUHC Foundation's Health Matters
How robots help perform surgical procedures
Show Notes Transcript

This week on Health Matters, Tarah Schwartz and Dr. John Kildea discuss the innovative Opal app and how it helps empower patients on their health care journeys. Prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in men. Dr. David Labbé explains a new study that has promising results for a more personalized way of treating aggressive cases. And, Nurse Manager Sara Angers details how often robotics are used in surgical procedures: more often than you think! Plus, discover a meaningful donation to the Lachine Hospital Foundation from Amazon Canada. 

Cette semaine à Question de santé, Tarah Schwartz et le Dr John Kildea discutent de l’application novatrice Opal et de l’autonomie qu’elle offre aux patients dans leur parcours de santé. Le cancer de la prostate est également la troisième cause de décès du cancer chez les hommes; le Dr David Labbé nous parlera d’une nouvelle étude dont les résultats sont prometteurs pour des traitements personnalisés face aux cas les plus agressifs. L’infirmière gestionnaire Sara Angers abordera aussi la fréquence d’utilisation de la robotique dans les procédures chirurgicales… plus souvent qu’on pourrait croire! Enfin, apprenez-en plus sur un don significatif d’Amazon Canada à la Fondation de l’Hôpital de Lachine.

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Tarah Schwartz:

Hello there. Thank you for joining us. I'm Tarah Schwartz and this is Health Matters on CJAD 800. Today, technology is always changing and evolving in the medical field. Later in the show, we take you into the operating room to find out what happens when a surgical procedure is done using robots. How do robotics help perform these surgeries and help patients? But first, we had some incredible news this week CIBC made a significant and generous donation to the MUHC Foundation to support Opal, a revolutionary app that helps patients feel more in control of their health care journey. This $1 million donation will have a significant impact in helping to enhance and expand the mobile app that was created right here in Montreal at the Research Institute of the MUHC. Dr. John Kildea is a medical physicist at the MUHC and co-founder and lead at the Opal health informatics group at the RI-MUHC. Dr. Kildea joins us now. Thanks for being here.

Dr. John Kildea:

Thank you.

Tarah Schwartz:

So let's get into the nitty gritty Dr. Kildea. Tell us more about the Opal app. Break it down for us.

Dr. John Kildea:

Okay, so the Opal app is what's known as a patient portal. It's an application that allows patients to access some of their medical data in the McGill University Health Centre. It includes data such as lab results, clinical notes and an appointment schedule.

Tarah Schwartz:

And why is that important for patients to have?

Dr. John Kildea:

This is very important for patients to have so that they can plan and they can better understand their medical condition and what it is they're going through. So they can better take care of themselves.

Tarah Schwartz:

So this is something that I feel every patient would want to have access to for everything, because I think we often get lost in the health care system. We want access to all of this information. Tell us a little bit about the history behind this because I think it has such an interesting and touching history.

Dr. John Kildea:

Exactly. This started off with a patient. In fact, the patient's name was Laurie Hendren, and Laurie was a professor of computer science at McGill University. And she was also a breast cancer patient of my colleague, Dr. Tarek Hijal. As a computer scientist, Laurie was used to working with data. And when she came into the health care system, she found it very difficult not to have access to her own medical data. She worked with Dr. Hijal and myself to really try and change this. And this is where the the idea for Opal came about. And we've been working on it now for a number of years to really get the data from inside the health care system into the hands of patients.

Tarah Schwartz:

We're speaking with Dr. John Kildea, we're talking about Opal, an app that provides patients with their health care information. Now, it's easy for me to understand when you say like a patient portal. How will it work- they'll use it on their phone, they'll sign in? Take us through sort of visualizing how this would work for a patient.

Dr. John Kildea:

Opal is an application. An app or smartphone app it's available on the App Store. So on the iPhone, it's available on the Apple Store on Android, it's available on the Google Play Store. Patients can download it and if they are patient at the MUHC in the Cedars Cancer Centre, they can get a code that allows them to log in and then to access their medical data. So when they log in, they can access their schedule of appointments. If they've had lab tests at the hospital, as soon as those results are in the lab and available, they will get a notification on their phone telling them that their lab results are in and they can get go into Opal and look them up. The same thing for their clinical notes that are written by a radiation oncologist in the radiation oncology department. As soon as those notes are written by the doctors, patients can go in and read them and better understand the treatments and the conditions that they're going through.

Tarah Schwartz:

It's so exciting. I think it's so necessary. Obviously, I think everyone would want to have access to this. But we're at the beginning of this project. So who does have access to Opal right now and where are you hoping to take this in the future?

Dr. John Kildea:

I think you're absolutely right. All patients would love to get access to this right away but of course we need to start in one place and move slowly. So we've started in the Cedars Cancer Centre and most patients at the Cedars Cancer Center can ask for Opal and can download it and access to data. And beyond the Cedars Cancer Centre, we've started working with the gastrointestinal clinic at the Montreal General Hospital. Slowly, we're adding patients there who can access their data as well. And we have some patients in the HIV clinic at the Royal Victoria Hospital. And recently we started in the nephrology clinic at the Children's. But we're not finishing there, we are hoping to get across all clinics at the McGill University Health Centre. It will take a lot of time, but slowly but surely we will get there. And we are also working with Ste. Justine hospital so that patients in the oncology clinic there can access their data. Or rather parents of patients at that clinic can access their data. Just like the parents at the nephrology clinic at the Montreal Children's. Beyond that, we hope that we can show the Ministry of Health for example, that this is a worthwhile thing to do and to get this out across the province. We know that will take time, but we want to demonstrate how valuable it is first.

Tarah Schwartz:

Dr. Kildea, you mentioned that you're starting slowly but your goal is to have everybody have access to that. What is the holdup? Like what is it that goes into getting everybody to have access to their data? Is it that data needs to be inputted? What is it that is required to get everybody to have access?

Dr. John Kildea:

In fact, it's, it's really all of the above. So first of all, we need to build a very secure system, because we are taking data out of the health care system and bringing it into the hands of the patient. The most important thing is to make sure that the data are encrypted, that we're following all the security protocols and doing everything correctly in that respect. Then within the hospital, there's actually a multitude of different electronic medical record systems where data are stored in the health care system. It's a matter of connecting to all of those and working with the institution's IT team to make sure that those are all connected. There are there are multiple aspects of it to make it happen. So it is a matter of one by one to get them all connected.

Tarah Schwartz:

Our guest is Dr. John Kildea, and we're talking about an app called Opal that provides patients with their healthcare information. Dr. Kildea, I would love to know if you've spoken to some of the patients or if Dr. Hijal has spoken to some patients who have talked about the impact that this has had?

Dr. John Kildea:

Absolutely. In fact, we have patients working with us actively on the Opal team, because this is a very patient-centered application. We want to make sure that as we continue to build that we build it in a way that makes sense for patients. The feedback that we've gotten from our patient participants and our patients in general has been overwhelmingly positive. For patients, the biggest impact, in fact, is with regards to anxiety. And this is something that all patients experience. When they get a lab test and the waiting for that result, it's that period of not knowing what the lab result is, that is most difficult. When the patient has the lab results- whether it's a good result or a not so good result- at least the patient has it. They can react and they can go to the next steps in the process. But when they are they don't know what it is and they have this uncertainty, it is very difficult. So we've gotten very good feedback with regards to that. We've also heard from patients that it allows them to be better in control of their health care, to better understand their health care, and to be able to advocate for themselves, which is very important in the busy health care system.

Tarah Schwartz:

Absolutely. Now CIBC donated $1 million. So obviously, you're getting support from not just individuals, government, but companies that believe in what you're doing. They've donated that through the MUHC Foundation, how does that philanthropy help your project?

Dr. John Kildea:

Yes, philanthropy is extremely important for a project like Opal. Because when you start off with an idea that is a great idea; but it's still just a seed, it is very difficult to convince the busy health care system that this is something that they should invest in. We really need to start off with philanthropy that is willing to take a little bit of a risk in order for this high reward that comes with it. After we've built it a little bit; shown the value of it and gotten a proof of concept, then we can go for the larger grants and we can go for the larger investments that can really make it work. So absolutely, philanthropy allows us to get off the ground. It allows us to get going it's very important.

Tarah Schwartz:

Just one final question for you Dr. Kildea, before I let you go. You're doing something that is so unique and so patient focused and I feel revolutionizing the way people are dealing with their health care information. I would just love to hear a little bit about how you're feeling about what you and your coworkers have created here. Do you feel proud of it? Are you excited about what it's going to be bringing to the health care system? Just take us a little bit on that journey with you.

Dr. John Kildea:

We are extremely proud of how we've gotten this together. We've used a process that we call a stakeholder codesign. And this is something that we recognized at the outset that we couldn't just build something that was good for patients, but not good for the clinical team. Or good for the clinical team and not good for patients. So we worked together and we built this process that we really believe is the future of the health care system where the different stakeholders get together and codesign how things need to be done. So we're very proud that we did this. With Opal we're very excited for the future. We've got a number of different projects underway that will take us to the next level. I can just mention that with some of our partners in a project that we put together known as the Quebec SmartCare Consortium. We are going to be working on bringing wearable devices into Opal and also making use of artificial intelligence. So there's a great opportunity for the future and we're very excited to get going.

Tarah Schwartz:

It is very exciting. And I think what you're doing is wonderful. Dr. Kildea, I thank you for your time today and we look forward to hearing more about Opal as it gets developed. Thank you again so much.

Dr. John Kildea:

Thank you.

Tarah Schwartz:

Next up on Health Matters, how often are robotics used in surgery more often than you think? I'm Tarah Schwartz. Welcome back to Health Matters on CJAD 800. One of the really fascinating parts of my job is that I get to work at the MUHC and meet the people who are responsible for keeping our community safe and healthy. My next guest is not only a nurse manager at MUHC but she's also a bit of a tour guide, giving donors and staff tours of some of the most interesting areas of the hospital- the operating rooms where intricate surgeries are performed. Sara Angers is the interim Nurse Manager of Perioperative Endo Urology Surgery operating room, and she joins us now. Hello, Sara.

Sara Angers:

Good afternoon. How are you?

Tarah Schwartz:

I am well. So I have been on two tours with you now. And you love giving them; you said it's like welcoming people into your home. Tell us a little bit about that.

Sara Angers:

Well, like you said, the operating room is not something people get to see often. And for myself, I've been in the operating room for over 20 years. And since we've moved to the Glen. It's a beautiful new state of the art area that not everyone gets to see. So I love to show it off.

Tarah Schwartz:

What is some of the exciting things that you love to look at every single day? Or every time you see like wow! What still excites you?

Sara Angers:

I have to tell you, everything still excites me. All the emergencies, but not even just innovation, the new technologies how things used to be, something like taking days for patients to recover. Now the procedures have become so minimally invasive that they even go home on the same day now.

Tarah Schwartz:

Incredible. One of the most exciting things I've seen, has been watching a doctor, in the operating room, operating a robot. The robot so to speak, was doing the surgery. It was absolutely fascinating. Every time I tell somebody about it, their eyes widen. How did you feel the first time you saw that?

Sara Angers:

I was a little thrown off. I thought it was different to see. Everyone thinks when you think of a robot you think of like a metal man standing there with restrictive movements. But it's not even that at all. It's actually two parts to the robot, we have the actual robot with the robotic arms. And then we have the console which the surgeon sits at to control the robot.

Tarah Schwartz:

We're speaking with Sarah Angers, interim Nurse Manager at the MUHC and she's telling us about using robotics in surgery. Sarah, can you explain a little bit more how the robot is doing the surgery? I know we're on radio so it's kind of hard; you can't show us visually but try to describe what the doctor is doing and what the robotic arms are doing.

Sara Angers:

So the robotic arms hold the instrumentation that we put into the patient. We put them through little ports. Small incisions, about two centimeters, are made in a patient and then we have access ports. Then with these instrumentations, the surgeon sits at the console and he's the one that manipulates the movement of these instruments with his three fingers.

Tarah Schwartz:

Wow! What kind of training do doctors have to go through in order to be comfortable doing that?

Sara Angers:

There are three specialties that use it. We have urology, gynecology and ENT which means ears, nose and throat. The residents do a five-year program where they all get exposure to the robot itself here at the MUHC. But often, they will go do it and intensive year as a fellowship, solely doing surgeries with the robotics.

Tarah Schwartz:

Have you spoken to some of the doctors about how they enjoy doing surgery that way? Versus holding the instruments and doing the surgery themselves? Like what have you heard from them?

Sara Angers:

So I've actually asked the question often. I asked them, what is it that they prefer over it. They have said there are several things. One is that they're able to reach anatomy that normally they would not be able to visualize. Because there's certain organs that are deep in the pelvis. So if you do it an open procedure, or even through minimally invasive, you still can't see all that well. The scopes are made special so that their angles are able to see lower in areas that the blind eye couldn't see.

Tarah Schwartz:

Fascinating, utterly fascinating. How frequent are robotics used in the operating room, Sara?

Sara Angers:

We use a robotic five to six times a week. Some days, we use it twice a day. On average, it's used twice a day for three to four days a week. So we have a rigorous schedule because we have a high demand for it.

Tarah Schwartz:

Is that considered a lot four to five times? I guess it's used every day.

Sara Angers:

It's used every day, except for one day. So it's really used four days a week, it is a lot.

Tarah Schwartz:

What are some of the things you mentioned? You touched on it briefly in your previous answer, but I would love to know, like, what are a few more things that robotics can help with during a medical procedure?

Sara Angers:

So I actually asked this question not long ago to understand better. Because they have better view and the arms of the instrumentation have a 360-degree rotation, and so they're able to angle to dissect out the tissue better. Whereas our old minimally invasive only has a two way. Say, like, up or down or side to side. Whereas now it's like your wrist; it has a full movement. Because it does this, they're able to view blood vessels better. So you have less chance of bleeding during surgery. And you're able to visualize all the anatomy properly. Therefore, you have less risk of cutting nerves that you need for your bodily functions.

Tarah Schwartz:

So you mentioned that it helps the patients with being in and out of the hospital faster. Is that one of the main benefits of having surgery done this way? Or is that just one of many things?

Sara Angers:

It's just one of many, it is just one of many.

Tarah Schwartz:

What are some of the others?

Sara Angers:

Because you're less at risk of bleeding, there's less risk of complications. Therefore, you recover faster. The surgeons also say sometimes when we do minimally invasive; the surgeons hold the instruments themselves. So the angle and the bottom mechanics of the surgeon, it's always difficult on them. Whereas when they use the robot, this robot is holding the body mechanics for the surgeon, and therefore it's less taxing on them to perform. So they're more physically apt for the cases.

Tarah Schwartz:

Oh, that is a really good point. I hadn't thought of that before. I remember when I was seeing the doctor, he was in a comfortable chair, leaning against a machine that he was looking into. So he was able to sort of manipulate the robotic arms. That's interesting. Yeah, it's quite fascinating to see, especially someone that is not working in the field. What is the reaction? I know you do take select people on some tours be able to see this happening. Donors that want to donate money to fund this kind of equipment. What tends to be the reaction when people see it?

Sara Angers:

I think their biggest reaction is that it's not exactly what they thought it would look like. Because it's a large machine, it actually looks like a giant spider with all these arms. It's got four arms, but sometimes it looks like more arms. So like I said previously, they often think it's like a robot like you would see in the movies. You know, an old man, kind of like that guy from the movie. I can't remember now...

Tarah Schwartz:

I know what you mean. I can visualize it.

Sara Angers:

Yes, everyone thinks it's like something like that. But it's not like that at all. It's just a machine with robotic arms and the robotic arms are the ones that control it. And it also surprises them that the surgeon is sitting on the opposite side of the room of the patient. They don't realize...

Tarah Schwartz:

Yes, that surprised me.

Sara Angers:

I guess they envision the surgeon still operating next to the robot, but they don't understand that they actually sit separately and they're the ones controlling the robot.

Tarah Schwartz:

Yeah, I think I had imagined it like the surgeon would be holding the robot in a way. I think that's what I was anticipating but they're not they're not. Like you said they're on the opposite side of the room which is which is quite fascinating. You've said that you've been in surgery for 20-plus years. What is it like to sort of see how much things are evolving and how much innovation is being done now in healthcare?

Sara Angers:

it's actually quite exciting. Because even for open heart surgery; an example, there's certain procedures where to replace a valve, you literally have to open the sternum, open the chest, the patient goes to the Intensive Care Unit. And then it's a good seven to 10 days recovering. Whereas now, we're starting procedures where it's minimally invasive. You don't even cut the patient, you just do a small puncture, you go in, replace the aortic valve and they go home the next day. It's incredible the evolution.

Tarah Schwartz:

It really is, and it's always fun to talk about it. Sarah Angers Interim Nurse Manager at the MUHC. Thank you for helping us to see more clearly something that tends to be hard to visualize, but you do a great job and we appreciate it. It's very exciting stuff.

Sara Angers:

It was my pleasure. Thank you for letting me share.

Tarah Schwartz:

Thank you. Next up on Health Matters. A new study could change the way doctors are caring for patients with aggressive prostate cancer. I'm Tarah Schwartz and this is Health Matters. Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men. In fact, it is the third leading cause of cancer related deaths among men. Researchers are working to identify why some cases of prostate cancer are more aggressive than others. Dr. David Labbe is an Assistant Professor in the Urology division of the Department of Surgery, and a junior scientist at the Research Institute of the MUHC. He and a team of researchers are behind a new study with some promising findings. Thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Labbe.

Dr. David Labbe:

It's my pleasure, Tarah.

Tarah Schwartz:

So let's begin with warning signs, what are some warning signs that men should be aware of?

Dr. David Labbe:

In fact, I think the key thing is to not get to those warning signs, right? We have screening practices in Quebec. Typically, between 55 and 70 years of age, the male will undergo screening for prostate specific antigen testing. So this is a blood test, combined with a digital rectal exam. This allows to discover if there's prostate cancer. If there's prostate cancer to detect it really early. There's basically two form of the disease. There's the form that is slow growing, that is called indolent prostate cancer that will not threaten the life of the patient during its life expectancy. Usually, the solution is close monitoring of the prostate specific antigen testing, or PSA. Or several biopsies throughout the years to make sure that the disease does not progress. But there's a second form, which is the aggressive form. This is the life threatening form of prostate cancer. It requires combination of different therapies meant to cripple the disease progression. Some patients will respond well to those therapies. Others will resist and develop resistant disease. And this is why we were studying prostate cancer, because we don't have corrective treatments for that form of the disease that ultimately leads to death.

Tarah Schwartz:

Dr. Labbe, I want to ask you about early warning signs. I equate it with women going for breast cancer screenings every couple of years. Do men who are over 55 tend to go for these early screenings?

Dr. David Labbe:

I would say that those that are followed by the doctor are probably more likely to undergo those screenings. Men typically tend not to consult as frequently as women for various reasons. This is why it's critical that starting, at least in the 50s, that men do those screenings and consult with a doctor.

Tarah Schwartz:

I hope that that message gets out there to men who are listening, that you should be looking at early screening for prostate cancer. 24,600 men were diagnosed in 2022. 4600 Canadian men pass away from the disease every year. So if you're taking away something from this interview, it's that if you're a man in your 50s, you should be getting checked for this. So Dr. Labbe, let's talk about the study. Tell us what you were looking for and what you discovered.

Dr. David Labbe:

If you look at the treatment for aggressive form of the disease, it involves treatments that are targeting androgens such as testosterone. Prostate cancers do rely on testosterone, a male sex hormone to grow and thrive. We have a variety of treatment approaches that target the production of testosterone or the activation of a receptor called the androgen receptor that supports the growth of prostate cancer. But those treatments don't work for all patients. We leveraged a single cell technology. This is cutting edge technologies to map the expression of about 20,000 genes from 1000s of individual cells using genetically engineered mouse models of prostate cancer. We found that when a specific protein called MYC, which has an oncogenic transcription factor that is central to the etiology of prostate cancer. When MYC is overexpressed, the expression of genes driven by the androgen receptor is shut down in our prostate cells. So this is basically what the treatments were all using currently in the clinics, such as androgen deprivation therapy or therapy or getting the androgen receptor is doing. We do that because the androgen receptor is in control of the disease progression and prostate growth. But what happens when MYC is overexpressed is that the androgen receptor is no longer in control. So then we asked, are the treatments still effective if it's no longer the androgen receptor that drives the disease progression, but it's MYC The short answer- by looking at molecular and clinical data from more than 1400 patients, our team found that when MYC has taken over the androgen receptor program, these patients are more likely to progress to metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer, are not responsive to even the second line of treatment therapies that also target the androgen receptor as a central target. So, this is basically what our study found.

Tarah Schwartz:

Okay. Now one of the findings in the study that sort of jumped out at me when I read the high level version, is that part of your research into prostate cancer finds that patients benefit from precision oncology and personalized medicine. How significant is this approach is medicine and clinical research advances?

Dr. David Labbe:

Focus on this approach is key to treatment of all cancer types, not only for prostate cancer. If you think of prostate cancer, in reality, it's not a single disease, but it's multiple disease. For example, patients with prostate cancer can be further categorized based on the clinical, pathological or molecular characteristics. Our study provides a molecular basis to classify prostate cancer patients. They'll bring the optimal treatment to the good patient like this. But what happened in with our study is what we found is that when MYC is in control, then we should target MYC and not the androgen receptor. So this is the direction that we should go to improve the success of our treatment and extend the active life of prostate cancer patients.

Tarah Schwartz:

We are speaking with Dr. David Labbe, we're talking about prostate cancer and a promising new study. How do you hope this study Dr. Labbe, will help inform clinical care for prostate cancer patients in general?

Dr. David Labbe:

There's a couple of things that remains to be done before we get to that stage. First, we need to be able to determine for each patient, what is the tumor molecular subtype of each prostate cancer patient. In our study, that means sequencing a patient's tumor, so doing a genomics and as it's analyzed, so we can say, is that tumor that is now driven by MYC, instead of being driven by the androgen receptor? Second, we need to assign the best treatment approach to the patient. In the case in our study, so we'll be targeting MYC instead of targeting the androgen receptor, but it could be the done through drugs. At the moment, there are some very promising drugs that hopefully will reach clinical trials soon, or it could be through dietary intervention. So in a previous study that we performed, we found that saturated fat intake is associated with greater MYC activity. So by having a dietary intervention meant to decrease the amount of saturated fat intake, we could decrease MYC activity and reduce prostate cancer progression. So clinicians and researchers, the RI-MUHC are working very hard and bringing precision oncology at this level of sophistication. This requires a lot of structural changes, coordination and money to bring this vision to reality, but we can do it.

Tarah Schwartz:

Is there anything that men should be doing, Dr. Labbe, to help themselves to take better care of their health? And is there anything that they can be doing? Any advice you might have?

Dr. David Labbe:

I think that there are a few things that men are able to control right. One of them is their lifestyle. It's known that a lot of cancer, not only prostate cancer, will be associated with high BMI- a high body mass index. Patients that are overweight or obese are more likely to progress to an aggressive form of the disease. One of the things could be to decrease their weight to a range that is healthy but exercising, and changing their diet. We also shown that, as I just mentioned, that saturated fat intake it's not good for prostate cancer development. Dietary intervention means to decrease saturated fat intake could improve the odds of going through prostate cancer but also decreases the odds cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc.; other big burdens on the health of men in that age range.

Tarah Schwartz:

All right, thank you so much for that's a good note to end on how men can help themselves Dr. David Labbe, I want to thank you for your time today.

Dr. David Labbe:

Thank you very much for having me.

Tarah Schwartz:

Coming up on the show Amazon Canada and the Lachine Hospital together. They are helping health care in Lachine. I'm Tarah Schwartz. You're listening to Health Matters. It is very special when a company wants to support the community where their business is located. Amazon Canada has done just that for Lachine. They have facilities in the community and decided to give back to the Lachine Hospital Foundation with a $30,000 donation. Some of the Amazon Canada team were present at the hospital to hand out gift bags to patients. One of those workers joins me now Diahann Narcisse is the Learning Area Coordinator for the Yul2 center. Thank you so much for joining us, Diahann.

Diahann Narcisse:

It's a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Tarah Schwartz:

So $30,000 donation that Amazon Canada made to the Lachine Hospital Foundation. Tell us what was the thinking behind that?

Diahann Narcisse:

Well, at Amazon, we do value our social commitment to the communities we serve. And since we do have two centers that are located in Lachine, it was important for us to be a positive leader, the community in which we operate, and where our Amazon associates work.

Tarah Schwartz:

And how was it for you being on hand, seeing patients getting the gift bags, being part of that physical aspect of the donation? What was that like?

Diahann Narcisse:

It was fantastic for me to make a difference in their day, because I myself have my father that is in a long term care facility. And I felt very empowered to bring smiles to those that are in the facility in Lachine. It felt like to me, that my father as well would have been happy to have a young person volunteer and want to bring smiles to everybody.

Tarah Schwartz:

Now Amazon handed out gift bags to patients can we get? Can we get a peek inside of those bags? What kinds of gifts did you hand out?

Diahann Narcisse:

Sure, sure. They were odorless body care products from a local business named the Unscented Company.

Tarah Schwartz:

Was there thought behind the idea that you would go with a local company; a local Quebec company?

Diahann Narcisse:

We saw an opportunity to provide some comfort to patients in the hospital long term care unit. We wanted to deliver thousands of smiles every day. So I was really proud to deliver some smiles to people from our community who really needed it.

Tarah Schwartz:

What about some of the colleagues that you were with? What did you hear from them, as you guys were wrapping up your day at Lachine hospital?

Diahann Narcisse:

They were very happy. We got to see the patients smiling and we noticed that the little gesture from Amazon really lightened up their day, and you really brought a spark of joy to us. We were really thrilled to take part in this. Everybody was thrilled.

Tarah Schwartz:

Lachine hospital is in the same area, the same community where Amazon Canada has one of its facilities. So how did that idea come about this idea that we are both living and working in the same community, we want to help the patients who are in this area? Tell us a little more about that.

Diahann Narcisse:

Yeah, so Amazon is really passionate about providing its employees with opportunities to give back and support their own local communities where they live in work. And the goal of Amazon is to have a positive and lasting impact on those communities. So since Lachine Hospital Foundation wanted to give its patients the best living experience possible. It aligned with Amazon's view so we saw it as a natural fit.

Tarah Schwartz:

What was your favorite part about meeting the patients and the people who work at Lachine Hospital?

Diahann Narcisse:

My favorite part was being involved. I've always wanted to volunteer and help others. Because like I said, my father himself is in the hospital. So when you stay there for a long period of time, sometimes you would love to have somebody come and say hi, and spend some time with you. And I think that was the most favorite part when I volunteered. That was my favorite part.

Tarah Schwartz:

I know that a lot of people who come in and meet the patients and do voluntary gestures like this one, they say in a way that they got more out of it than the patients did. Would you say that you and your colleagues felt that way that you sort of walked away feeling like you got a lot out of the day that you were there giving back to these patients?

Diahann Narcisse:

It does. For me, the previous day, I had an experience of being in my room and laying on my bed for a long period of time and it helps me be more grateful. It helped me be more appreciative and it made me want to show that gives that form of love to patients and show them that we care and we're thinking of them.

Tarah Schwartz:

It's a wonderful note to end on. Gratitude is always wonderful. Diahann Narcisse the Learning Area Coordinator for the YUL2 center from Amazon Canada. Thank you so much for the donation to the Lachine Hospital Foundation to the patients. Thank you for your time today.

Diahann Narcisse:

My pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity.

Tarah Schwartz:

I'm Tarah Schwartz. Thank you so much for tuning in. What would you like to hear about on the show? Write to me at health matters at MUHC Foundation dot com. You can also follow us on social media or sign up for our newsletter all at MUHC Foundation dot com. I hope you'll join me again next Sunday. Thanks so much for listening to Health Matters and stay healthy.