Message from the Director

Dr Dean BefusThe Alberta Asthma Centre is involved with several exciting programs. Our commitment to development, testing and implementation of outstanding asthma and allergy education programs for healthcare professionals, patients and their families has continued to produce important results. Interactions and growing collaborations with individuals, organizations and networks locally, provincially and nationally have been a major focus. 

I would like to thank the members of the Centre for their vision, initiative and dedication. Our activities have been increasingly integrated into the activities of the Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Department of Medicine as well as the Respiratory Division within the Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta and I fully expect this integration to continue to grow in the coming years. 

Provincially, the Asthma Centre is one of four founding organizations that work together with stakeholders throughout the Province to develop a vision for a provincial respiratory health strategy. The other organizations include the COPD and Asthma Network of Alberta (CANA), the Alberta Strategy to Help Manage Asthma and COPD (ASTHMAC), and The Lung Association of Alberta and the Northwest Territories.  This initiative is now identified as Alberta Breathes and I have co-chaired both the Interim Steering Committee and its Executive, first with Dr. Robert Cowie and subsequently with Dr. Stephen Field, University of Calgary. Shawna McGhan, the Asthma Centre's Director of Health Innovations, has been an active member of the Secretariat of Alberta Breathes and, most recently, Drs. Vliagoftis and Bhutani are members of the Steering Committee. The Centre has also been a full participant in a broadly-based provincial coalition working on the development, testing and implementation of an Asthma Action Plan in the province. 

Nationally, we have been a strong player with the national Networks of Centres of Excellence Program for allergic diseases, AllerGen NCE Inc. Shawna McGhan has been heavily involved with research programs relating to knowledge translation activities for healthcare professionals and various patient groups. Drs. Irvin Mayers and Harissios Vliagoftis have been active in the AllerGen Clinical Investigation Collaborative (CIC) and have been instrumental in establishing critical infrastructure for clinical trials and other investigations locally and in concert with this national network. The CIC has recently expanded its interest and research from asthma to include allergic rhinitis, with Dr. Vliagoftis as the University of Alberta lead of this national collaborative. Members of the Centre have also played important roles in the AllerGen NCE and CIHR co-sponsored CHILD study (The Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development Study), a study that will contribute significantly to our knowledge base and the international literature on genetic and environmental factors associated with the development of allergic diseases, particularly asthma. We are excited that Edmonton is one of the four recruitment sites in the country for the CHILD study and are pleased to interact closely with site leader, Dr. Piush Mandhane and his excellent staff. 

Our academic work has continued to be broadly-based with a major emphasis on the development, evaluation and implementation of self-management programs for asthma, anaphylaxis and allergies. We have given numerous presentations in efforts to disseminate knowledge about asthma and the results of our work.  Scholarly publications are important activities and especially in the area of anaphylaxis and asthma guidelines for provincial schools, they have been important components in policy development. Alberta Breathes is certainly a major initiative to enhance knowledge translation, impact on policy and patient care and we are a strong advocate of its leadership and position as the unifying voice in Alberta.   

The Asthma Centre clinic, lead by Drs Bhutami and Vliagoftis are functioning well and efforts are being constantly made to enhance the contributions in the community. The leadership of Dr. Irvin Mayers has fostered contributions to the development of chronic disease management programs in Northern Alberta and Alberta Health Services (AHS) overall. A partnership with AHS has continued to grow in positive ways, particularly with our participation in the Respiratory Clinical Network and Asthma Working Group.

We are at an exciting time as we build upon our previous investments of precious time and energy. There is an increasing emphasis in the healthcare system on sustainable, evidence-based initiatives in self-management for chronic diseases such as asthma and allergies. The healthcare system is undergoing important restructuring and our alignment with several components of the complex organizational structure is critical. Additionally, the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta is in a restructuring and strategic planning phase that, together with new initiatives in the research infrastructure and support in Alberta (Alberta Innovates: Health Solutions), promises to provide new opportunities in the coming years.  There will be challenges and we have to be flexible, innovative and visionary as we strive to achieve our goals and be a strong contributor in improving the burden of asthma for individuals and the community.  

Dean Befus, PhD
Director, Alberta Asthma Centre
August, 2012