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Logo of canrespjCanadian Respiratory Journal
Can Respir J. 2010 Jan-Feb; 17(1): 9–10.
PMCID: PMC2866214

Prioritizing research at the Canadian Thoracic Society and beyond

Denis E O’Donnell, MD FRCPI FRCPC, President

I am fortunate to inherit the Canadian Thoracic Society (CTS) Presidency at a time when the CTS is stronger than it has ever been. Thanks to my predecessors, the CTS – at 52 years – is mature and growing. It has a strategic plan, a more robust administrative infrastructure to support that plan and is developing a new governance structure fully aligned with strategic priorities. At this juncture, it is clear to me that the CTS is ready to meet one of its newest challenges – strengthening its own research program while guiding the development of a national respiratory research agenda.

In a recent poll conducted by the CTS, the directors of academic respiratory divisions across the country overwhelmingly indicated their concern regarding the current erosion of clinical research in Canada and the progressive decline in funding, infrastructure and training opportunities. Urgent steps need to be taken to address these very real concerns and to preserve our well-deserved reputation for excellence in clinical research in respiratory diseases.

A great deal of work has already been completed on the research file, primarily through the following two meetings:

Research meeting – June 2009

A small group of CTS leaders and members with research expertise met in Winnipeg (Manitoba) to review the state of respiratory research in Canada. As a result of this preliminary discussion, Drs Shawn Aaron and Andrew Halayko agreed to co-chair the CTS Research Steering Committee. This interim Steering Committee’s initial responsibilities were to identify key interim priority research areas for the CTS research program and plan a national research meeting in the fall, when a broader range of key stakeholders would be invited.

National meeting – November 2009

In collaboration with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health, the University of Manitoba (Winnipeg, Manitoba) and the Canadian Lung Association (CLA), the CTS hosted a two-day meeting to launch the process of developing a national respiratory research agenda. The two-day meeting consisted of a scientific symposium, ‘The State of the Art: Pulmonary Medicine Research in Canada’, hosted by the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine, and a full-day facilitated meeting that focused specifically on the national respiratory agenda.

We were fortunate to have distinguished speakers deliver presentations on a number of key themes to help enrich our discussions regarding the development of a national respiratory agenda:

The state of respiratory research and respiratory disease in Canada

  • Jessica Evans, of the Public Health Agency of Canada, brought us up to speed on the burden of respiratory diseases in Canada.

Federal research funding and opportunities

  • Dr Peter Liu, of the CIHR Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health, provided us with an update on the institute’s priorities, the programs it funds and the opportunities it offers.
  • Anne Van Dam, of the CTS and the CLA, presented an overview of CTS/CLA research programs.

The British experience

  • Dr Stephen Holgate, Medical Research Council, United Kingdom, provided an overview of the British experience in creating a resilient national research agenda.


  • Dr Arnold Naimark from the University of Manitoba, provided expert guidance on the development of successful partnerships.
  • Professor Éric Rousseau provided an example of a successful provincial respiratory network.

During the next year, we will build on the work that was completed at the June and November meetings. The results of these two meetings will be distilled and an action plan developed. The Research Steering Committee is in the process of establishing its terms of reference to guide its future activities, which will no doubt centre on two main goals:

  • To develop, disseminate and evaluate a national respiratory agenda, in collaboration with key stakeholders; and
  • To develop a strategic and integrated CTS research program aligned with the priorities of the national respiratory research agenda.

The CTS Executive, the Board of Directors and I fully support the efforts of the Research Steering Committee. Research will be featured on the agenda of every meeting of the CTS Board and Executive, and will have the prominence it deserves as a key committee within the new CTS governance structure. We will also ensure that our own internal infrastructure, at both the CTS and CLA, provides the necessary resources to sustain a strong research program and support development of the national agenda.

Research is a cornerstone of all activities in respiratory health. It serves as the foundation for guidelines development, which, in turn, constitutes the foundation for evidence-based care, whose outcomes feed back into the cycle and serve as the basis for new research. By building a strong respiratory research program within the CTS and aligning it with a robust national respiratory agenda, the CTS will be better able to perform its mission and improve respiratory health in Canada.

I offer my sincere thanks to Research Steering Committee co-chairs, Andrew Halayko and Shawn Aaron, as well as to all committee members for their commitment to this most important endeavour. Many thanks as well to Dr Peter Liu and the CIHR Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health, and to the University of Manitoba for their support and collaboration. We look forward to continuing to work with them and other stakeholders from across the country on developing and implementing a national respiratory research agenda. I also extend my appreciation to Janet Sutherland, CTS Director, Anne Van Dam, Research Director, and Michelle McEvoy, Research Manager, for their ongoing support.

Together, we are making a difference in respiratory health!

Respectfully submitted,

Denis E O’Donnell MD FRCPI FRCPC
President, Canadian Thoracic Society

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