SREMI Clinician Scientist Profile

Catherine VarnerSREMI scientist and emergency physician, Dr. Catherine Varner has continued a successful trajectory as an early career researcher. In 2018, Dr. Varner’s research in early pregnancy care in the emergency department (ED) expanded due to a unique collaboration with Dr. Kristin Blakely-Kozman, a public sociologist committed to advancing gender equality through scholarly teaching, advocacy, and philanthropy. This partnership facilitated several novel studies in the area of early pregnancy complications and loss. 

In the summer of 2018, with the additional guidance of qualitative researchers Dr. Katie Dainty and Ms. Bianca Seaton, University of Toronto medical student Vanessa Rojas-Luengas completed interviews of women who experienced early pregnancy complications or loss. These interviews will inform improvements in processes of care as well as provide input for novel advances for this patient population.  Dr. Varner also supervised University of Toronto medical student Robin Glicksman who completed surveys of ED directors and chief obstetrician/gynaecologists across Ontario to better characterize the care of patients with early pregnancy loss.

For her work in this area, Dr. Varner has been invited to co-chair the Health Quality Ontario’s Early Pregnancy Complications and Loss Quality Standard Advisory Committee. Convening patients with lived experience, radiologists, gynaecologists, emergency physicians and policy makers, this group will establish standards for high quality care of patients experiencing early pregnancy loss across the province.

Dr. Varner has continued successful patient recruitment for her ongoing studies. Her multi-site randomized controlled trial for minor traumatic brain injury challenges the current ‘sit in a dark room’ Catherine Varnertreatment dogma and funded by the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. 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, and is enrolling patients at Mount Sinai, Juravinski, and Hamilton General Hospitals and McMaster Urgent Care Centre. 
Catherine VarnerThe SREMI investigators’ collaborative 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” launched in the spring of 2018 to compare the efficacy of codeine, oxycodone and hydromorphone for acute pain in older patients discharged from the ED. The trial procedures and participation have been successful to date, and the team is actively seeking ways to ensure eligible patients are being enrolled in this important trial. 

Dr. Varner has also continued her collaboration with Dr. Kerstin de Wit, an emergency physician and scientist at McMaster University.  Dr. Varner is a co-investigator for The Falls Study which seeks to develop a decision rule for emergency physicians to inform which patients older than 65 years patients should have a CT scan of the head following a fall. This study recently received funding ($857,756) from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and will launch in 2019.  

For her academic work this year, Dr. Varner received the 2018 University of Toronto Department of Family and Community Medicine New Investigator Award for Research Excellence.