McMaster University has been recognized as Canada’s most research-intensive university for the past two consecutive years.

That recognition, in part, can be attributed to the quality, quantity and impact of the research that’s coming from its Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

“We continue to produce important and impactful research in many different areas and much of this has influenced medical care throughout the world,” said Paul O’Byrne, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences. “We also have many of the world's most highly cited scientists working here at McMaster University.”

McMaster’s medical school is making strides in research spanning the spectrum from curiosity-driven basic science in the laboratory to clinical research at the bedside and in the community, to studies analyzing the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of particular therapies and health-care delivery to the development of health policy and practice guidelines.

In 2017-2018, Faculty of Health Sciences investigators oversaw $131 million in research funding, $279 million when their research at the academic hospital partners is included.

“I think that in health sciences, we have a huge impact worldwide,” said Sonia Anand, professor of medicine and a McMaster MD ’92 alumna. “When we look at the Canadian rankings, we do very well in health sciences research, but we also do well globally. The level of impact McMaster researchers have in terms of publishing in high-impact journals and conducting groundbreaking research that is known around the world, are the main reasons why people know McMaster.”

Sonia Anand

 

Researchers attribute McMaster’s success in research to its strong culture of collaboration not only across departments and Faculties across the university, but also in the multitude of partnerships with external institutions and groups.

“McMaster has a very collaborative culture,” said Anand. “If you are a researcher and have a new idea, it is very easy to reach out and work with different people with different expertise here at McMaster- which is not the case at some other institutions.”

This collaborative culture may be traced back to the early years of the medical school. The founding fathers developed research groups in clusters based on clinically relevant themes, assigning broad program names.

“The founders of the medical school really tore up the script in terms of how medical schools teach and do research,” said Steve Collins, Distinguished University Professor of medicine and director of the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute.

“In traditional schools in those days, research was siloed, which was not the case here because these research programs were built for flexibility, to interact with each other and with people from many different disciplines. It was a completely different departure from the norm and one that I think has generated many rewards for the school.”

Stephen Collins and Premysl Bercik

 

The Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, now called the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact, was formed in 1968 and is widely considered to be another pivotal moment in the research story of both the medical school and the university. The new department enabled clinicians and clinical researchers access to guidance from ‘gurus’ on the design of studies and statistical analysis.

Another significant milestone occurred in the 1990s when Gordon Guyatt, while serving as director of the internal medicine residency program, coined the concept of evidence-based medicine (EBM). Guyatt went on to lead the formation of an international group that further developed these concepts with landmark publications in the Journal of the American Medical Association. His series of more than 35 articles - the Users’ Guides to the Medical Literature - has provided the basis of EBM curricula in medical schools and residency programs nationally and internationally, making Canada a recognized leader in EBM.

Fast forward to 2019 and the culture of research excellence and innovation, collaboration and interdisciplinary work established by the medical school is evident in the numerous renowned research institutes and centres.

“The Faculty of Health Sciences and our medical school represents 60 per cent of the research engine that is McMaster, so that's really exciting,” said Jonathan Bramson, vice-dean, research of the Faculty of Health Sciences. “The work we do has international impact and is helping people around the world, making it a tremendously exciting time for us. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in helping that grow?”

While great discoveries remain the cornerstone of the research enterprise, there has been a movement towards commercialization to help the transition from bench to bedside. The result is a ripple effect on both the local and national economy.

“Our research outcomes are leading to new products that create value chains of goods and services which help the economy by bringing new investment to Canada and investment to Hamilton,” Bramson said. “We are creating hundreds of jobs not just within the university but also within the community that are diversifying the economy.”

Surveying the history of research and outcomes, Collins said there is a strong argument that the founding fathers’ unorthodox approach to establishing research at the medical school was intentional.  

“I suspect it was all part of their plan,” he said. “I think that they wanted the best, highest quality of clinical research to be done here at McMaster. They certainly knew how to go about organizing and instructing it so that that would happen. My suspicion is that was always part of the long-term goal.”

Quotable:

  • “The ideas for research projects derive from my practice. I look for where the holes are to see where we need to improve our knowledge base, to help improve the outcomes for these patients.”

    Deborah Cook, professor of medicine and health research methods, evidence, and impact

  • “After two hours I headed back home, thinking that John [Evans] was the smartest person I’d ever met, deeply impressed by what was going on in Hamilton, and wondering if Buffalo (where I was committed) could ever match it.”
    The late David Sackett on his first meeting with John Evans at McMaster

  • “It was decided from the outset that research would concentrate on areas on the verge of important, exciting scientific advances that could offer the best prospect of attracting able researchers and yield maximum results from limited resources.”
    The late William Spaulding from his 1991 book Revitalizing Medical Education: McMaster Medical School The Early Years 1965 - 1974

 

Pathology Laboratory, March 1975

 

Institutes and centres of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine

Renowned for collaboration, the research centres and institutes of the medical school reflects a wide range of high-impact research.

CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research
Research programs at CanChild concentrate on children and youth with disabilities and their families within the context of the communities in which they live.

Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis
The Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis is committed to producing high-quality, original, socially relevant research in health economics and health policy analysis.

Chanchlani Research Centre
The Chanchlani Research Centre is dedicated to understanding the genetic and environmental causes of common diseases among diverse cultural groups, women and the socially disadvantaged.

David Braley Centre for Antibiotic Discovery
The David Braley Centre for Antibiotic Discovery, operating from the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, is home to McMaster's leading researchers in the field of antimicrobial resistance

Escarpment Cancer Research Institute
The Escarpment Cancer Research Institute brings together well-established and successful cancer research groups, as well as newly-established ones.

Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute

The Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute is an integrated team of basic and clinical scientists dedicated to understanding the causes of chronic digestive diseases.

Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health

The Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health is a world class respiratory program providing comprehensive patient care, research and education.

McMaster Centre for Metabolism, Obesity and Diabetes Research
The Centre for Metabolism, Obesity and Diabetes Research (MODR) is focused on translating world leading basic science into clinical practice to improve the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of metabolic diseases in children and adults across the lifespan.

McMaster Centre for Transfusion Research
The McMaster Transfusion Research Program is dedicated to the advancement of innovative evidence-based diagnostic, clinical, and therapeutic practices in transfusion medicine.

McMaster Immunology Research Centre
The mission of the McMaster Immunology Research Centre is to investigate, create and implement approaches utilizing the delivery of genes as therapeutic agents in the treatment of human and animal disease.

McMaster Institute for Surgical Invention, Innovation and Education
McMaster Institute for Surgical Invention, Innovation and Education provides state-of-the-art facilities, education and training in minimally invasive procedures for surgeons and nurses.

McMaster Institute of Urology at St. Joseph's Healthcare
The McMaster Institute of Urology at St. Joseph's Healthcare provides excellence in patient care, research and education.

McMaster Midwifery Research Centre
The McMaster Midwifery Research Centre is dedicated to excellence in midwifery research that informs policy, practice and education and improves outcomes for pregnant and birthing families and their infants.

McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute
The McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute (SCC-RI) investigates the parallels between the behavior of human stem cells and the initiation of human cancer.

Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research
The Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research conducts research to help ensure safe and effective medicinal use of cannabis.

Michael G. DeGroote Cochrane Canada Centre at McMaster
The Michael G. DeGroote Cochrane Canada Centre at McMaster supports Cochrane initiatives across the country by conducting education activities, functioning as the communications and knowledge brokering lead for Cochrane Canada, and advocating for the use of evidence in decision-making within Canada.

Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research
The Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research focuses on interdisciplinary collaboration, research excellence, and commitment to training the next generations of researchers and clinicians.

Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Pain Research and Care
The Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Pain Research and Care explores the causes of a number of different types of pain and fosters innovative care for patients.

Michael G. DeGroote National Pain Centre
The Michael G. DeGroote National Pain Centre draws on McMaster's expertise in evidence-based medicine to develop and update clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of chronic pain.

Offord Centre for Child Studies
The Offord Centre for Child Studies aims to better understand children’s mental health problems with the overall goal of improving the lives of children and youth.

Population Health Research Institute (PHRI)
The Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) provides a forum for the conduct of large international clinical trials, population health studies, and studies in outcomes research.

Thrombosis & Atherosclerosis Research Institute
The Thrombosis & Atherosclerosis Research Institute (TaARI) conducts research into the pathogenesis, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of thrombosis and vascular disease.