SREMI Clinician Scientist Profile

Catherine VarnerSREMI scientist and emergency physician, Dr. Catherine Varner has continued a successful early career trajectory. In 2019, Dr. Varner’s research in early pregnancy care in the emergency department (ED) has received national attention and has led to new collaborations and funding opportunities. 

In collaboration with Dr. Joel Ray, a scientist in the Keenan Research Centre of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital, Dr. Varner completed a population-based cohort study inclusive of all recognized pregnancies in Ontario between 2002 and 2017. Drs. Varner and Ray found peri-pregnancy ED utilization occurred among nearly 40% of recognized pregnancies, and was significantly more likely to occur in first trimester and in the first week postpartum. This study is the first in a series investigating pregnancy care taking place in Ontario’s EDs. 

Dr. Varner also continued her collaboration with Dr. Katie Dainty, a qualitative and mixed methods scientist and Research Chair in Patient-Centred Outcomes at North York General Hospital. They were successful in receiving competitive funding from the North York General Hospital Foundation to complete interviews of women whom experienced early pregnancy complications or loss. Results of this work are being used to develop staff education to support the care of this vulnerable patient population.  

In 2019, Dr. Varner also expanded her research in early pregnancy care to include North America’s largest primary care research network, The University of Toronto Practice-Based Network (UTOPIAN). Comprised of 1,700 family physicians in practices in the greater Toronto area and other regions of Ontario, UTOPIAN is an ideal environment to conduct future studies in early pregnancy care. Her first study validates the identification of pregnancy in the UTOPIAN   database, which will enable early pregnant patient enrollment in future, prospective research studies.  

Dr. Varner has continued successful patient recruitment for her ongoing studies. Funded by the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, her multi-site randomized controlled trial challenges the current ‘sit in a dark room’ treatment dogma for minor traumatic brain injury. This study has completed patient enrollment at Mount Sinai, Juravinski, and Hamilton General Hospitals and McMaster Urgent Care Centre. Results of this trial are imminently forthcoming and are eagerly anticipated by concussion care providers. 

Catherine VarnerDr. 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 launched across multiple sites in Canada and the United States in 2019.  

In recognition of her current and forthcoming academic contributions, Dr. Varner has received a 5 year University of Toronto Department of Family and Community Medicine Clinician Investigator Award. Dr. Varner has also accepted a position in the 2019-2020 Certificate in Health Impact Program at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.  

Dr. Varner would like to thank Dr. Kristin Blakely for her generous support pertaining to the early pregnancy care research program at SREMI.