SREMI Clinician Scientist Profile

Dr. Catherine Varner

SREMI scientist and emergency physician, Dr. Catherine Varner has continued her successful early research career trajectory. In 2017, Dr. Varner received 3 research grants as principal investigator, including being the winner of the Inaugural Grizzly Den Competition at the Canadian Association of Emergency Physician’s Annual Meeting in Whistler, BC. This grant is the result of a collaboration of SREMI scientists and will support a study entitled, “A blinded, randomized controlled trial of opioid analgesics for the management of acute fracture pain in older adults discharged from the emergency department.” Launching in early 2018, this study will compare the efficacy of codeine, oxycodone and hydromorphone for acute fracture pain in older patients discharged from the emergency department and seeks to inform emergency care providers of opioid efficacy, side effects and patient-important, functional outcomes in this growing patient population. Continuing her work in minor traumatic brain injury (MTBI), in June 2017, Dr. Varner launched a randomized control trial that challenges the current ‘sit in a dark room’ treatment dogma following MTBI. This study evaluates the impact of prescribing mild, daily exercise (e.g., 30 minutes of daily walking) compared to avoidance of exercise until symptom free. This study received pilot funding from a 2017 Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians Investigator Award and has recently received Workplace Safety and Insurance Board funding to continue the 330 participant multi-site randomized trial.
Due to her growing reputation in the field of MTBI research, Dr. Varner was an invited member of the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation Guidelines for Concussion /MTBI & Persistent Symptoms -3rd edition and has been invited for multiple media appearances on the topic. The MTBI guidelines will be published in early 2018.

Dr. Varner also continues to pursue research in early pregnancy care in the emergency department. Dr. Varner supervised Krista Hawrylyshyn, a 3rd year University of Toronto medical student funded by the Comprehensive Research Experience for Medical Students (CREMS) Program, during her project entitled “Ectopic pregnancy outcomes in patients discharged from the emergency department.” The objective of this study was to determine the clinical outcomes of pregnant women discharged from the ED where ectopic pregnancy had not yet been excluded. Currently, 2 manuscripts from this study are under review. For her work in this area, Dr. Varner was an invited member of the 2017 Ontario Early Pregnancy Loss Project Expert Advisory Panel, convened by the Provincial Council for Maternal and Child Health.

Finally, Dr. Varner developed a new collaboration with Dr. Kerstin de Wit, and emergency physician and scientist at McMaster University following their research protocol presentations at the 2017 Network of Canadian Emergency Researchers meeting. Dr. Varner is the Mount Sinai Hospital site lead for 2 multi-centre studies. The first study entitled, “Making clinical decisions in the era of clinical decision rules” was completed in 2017, with data forthcoming. “The Falls Study” launched in October 2017, seeks to develop a decision rule for emergency physicians to inform which patients older than 65 years should have a CT scan of the head following a fall.

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