Lab Canada

Patient-safety advocate appointed to research arm of Ottawa Hospital

Ottawa, ON – July 28, 2004 – OHRI – the research arm of the Ottawa Hospital and a major partner of the faculties of medicine and health sciences at the University of Ottawa – says it has appointed Dr Kaveh Shojania to its academic health sciences centre as a leader in patient safety.

After medical school in Canada, Dr Shojania completed his training in internal medicine at Harvard University and a subsequent fellowship at the University of California in San Francisco, where he later took up a faculty position. In 2003, he co-authored Internal Bleeding, a startling book that documents and analyses the medical errors that are sometimes made in North American practice. Internal Bleeding recently peaked at number 11 on the bestseller list and has consistently maintained a position in the top 10 selling books on health in the US since its release in February 2004.

Despite receiving offers from some of the most prominent institutions in the United States and Canada, Dr Shojania chose Ottawa. He says his decision was influenced by the opportunity to work with world-renowned scientists and researchers currently conducting leading research there.

Having lived in Canada most of his life and having practiced medicine in the United States for almost ten years, Dr Shojania said he was also glad to return the Canadian health-care system. “I don’t think people realize how good we have it here,” he says. “I would pick the Canadian system any day – even with the waiting times.”

Dr Shojania will be a scientist in the clinical epidemiology program at the OHRI, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa and deliver patient care as an internal medicine specialist at the Ottawa Hospital. He will work with OHRI program director Dr Jeremy Grimshaw and colleague, Dr Alan Forster, to establish a strong patient safety research program that will offer healthcare practitioners an easy and quick resource to the latest and most important evidence on a number of safety issues.

In his own research, Dr Shojania will focus on diagnostic errors. Though the subject of much informal discussion among physicians and frequently the subject of malpractice suits, diagnostic errors have received little formal study in terms of their frequency and causes. Building on a paper he published last summer in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr Shojania plans to characterize the type and frequency of major diagnostic errors, and also hopes to collaborate with scientists at OHRI to identify psychological factors and cognitive pitfalls commonly associated with major misdiagnoses.

“You start recognizing certain patterns of thought as consistently implicated in major diagnostic errors,” he says. A common example he provided is the tendency to remain committed to an initial, seemingly obvious diagnosis and failing to take into account other symptoms that could appear slight but taken as a whole, point to an entirely different direction. ” What I’d like to do is identify some of these cognitive traps and develop tools for making doctors more aware of them and the impact they have on their thinking,” he says.