COVID-19 Funding Priorities
The University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine is a leader in the response to COVID-19 — applying our unique expertise and experience to help Canada and the world resolve a truly unprecedented global crisis.
Tens of thousands of Temerty Faculty of Medicine alumni, faculty members, students and trainees are standing on the front lines against COVID-19. This is happening in their own practices, at U of T’s affiliated hospitals and at health care sites around the globe. Through their commitment to patient care — often performed at great personal risk — they are reducing the virus’ spread and saving lives.
Our world-class research community has also rapidly deployed against COVID-19. Expert scientists across the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and our partner hospitals are working to expand our knowledge of the virus and to develop technologies to reduce its impact, including a potential vaccine.
While the Temerty Faculty of Medicine’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is extraordinary in its scale and scope, the crisis continues to rapidly evolve — requiring innovative solutions for new challenges, as they arise.
Researchers across U of T have mobilized in the fight against SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 to better understand the virus and improve testing methods, while also developing and assessing effective treatments.
The University of Toronto, with its affiliated hospitals, has created the Toronto COVID-19 Action Fund to support COVID-19 research that renders near-term results and has strong potential to positively impact individuals, communities and public health systems.
With additional funding, we are able to support worthy and critical projects led by Temerty Faculty of Medicine researchers — on campus and at hospitals across the city — beyond the Toronto COVID-19 Action Fund envelope.
Access to appropriate lab space is critical to research efforts. Given the highly infectious nature of SARS-CoV-2, researchers can only work with the virus in the safety of a designated Containment Level 3 (CL3) facility. U of T has one of only two such labs in the city (the other is at Toronto Public Health).
Given the critical importance of this research to our country and beyond, U of T has made its CL3 facility an essential resource.
Every minute counts in a crisis. This facility will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To do so, however, requires increased staffing, additional personal protective equipment, critical supplies and reagents, as well as minor other renovations to expand the facility to support more researchers.
We are also establishing a city-wide COVID-19 Biobank for appropriate and secure storage of all pre-clinical and clinical samples. This will provide an added level of safety for all researchers and staff members, while also centralizing space and resources for their most effective and efficient use. Materials held by the Biobank will also be shared to enable research at other institutions (including UBC, McGill, U Laval, Western, McMaster through the Materials Transfer Agreement), amplifying its impact.
Many researchers funded by the Toronto COVID-19 Action Fund from across the University and hospitals will be using this space.
Support the COVID-19 Research Facility and Biobank
More than 3,600 residents and fellows are currently pursuing training at the University of Toronto and rotating across our 12 affiliated hospitals. As front-line health care workers, they often interact with patients, putting many of these trainees at elevated risk of infection with COVID-19.
In addition to possibly testing positive or self-isolating as they await test results, residents and fellows could also be asymptomatic carriers of the virus, causing many great anxiety. By continuing to live at home or travelling to and from work in a shared vehicle, they could potentially spread COVID-19 to those with whom they reside or travel.
Finally, we are aware of instances when — following long, physically exhausting and often emotionally-draining shifts on the front lines — trainees face long commutes back to their homes. Travelling long distances without first resting poses a significant safety risk to them and to others.
In response, the Temerty Faculty of Medicine has committed to providing all U of T trainees — who are front-line healthcare workers — with short-term accommodation and car rentals. In partnership with hotels across the GTA and Enterprise, we have secured significant discounts for our trainees.
At a time when residents and trainees are serving the public, often at tremendous personal risk to their own safety, we must do all we can to serve them. That’s why we are calling upon our community to support the funding of short-term accommodation and transportation for U of T residents and fellows that will help keep them, and those with whom they live and travel, safe and well.
Support short-term housing and transportation for trainees
Many MD students have been affected by COVID-19 and who need immediate short-term financial relief because of unexpected expenses. Each request for emergency aid is considered on its own merits and based on need and unexpected critical costs incurred as a direct result of COVID-19. Expenses that may be considered include living costs, travel home, moving costs, loss of part-time jobs and other extraordinary and reasonable needs.
Support emergency financial aid for MD students
On the front lines of the pandemic surge, our clinical faculty and trainees are facing essential “pivots” — as practice guidelines evolve, as specialists are redeployed across the system and as individual providers make critical decisions in patient care. To make these decisions and transitions effectively, clinicians need access to the right information at the right time.
Our Continuing Professional Development (CPD) office is working in partnership with each of the Faculty’s clinical departments to be a hub for essential clinical resources related to COVID-19. Examples include:
- Specialty-specific resources and valuable links for busy physicians, including quick ICU training, airway management for suspected COVID-19 cases and guidelines for care of paediatric patients.
- A new webinar series with sessions planned for critical care, virtual care, wellness, paediatrics and Indigenous and refugee health.
- Other digital resources around broader issues, such as resource allocation, personal protective equipment, COVID-19 communication with patients and teaching remotely.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused great upheaval across all sectors and industries — including for essential health care research.
The temporary closure of many labs not associated with COVID-19 research, as well as the indefinite suspension of funding by the Canadian Institute for Health Research and other non-profit granting groups (e.g. Heart and Stroke Foundation, Diabetes Canada, etc.), has left many health care researchers unable to perform their vital work and increasingly uncertain about its long-term feasibility.
While this impacts the entire research community, early-career researchers are especially vulnerable. Few of these researchers hold academic positions, relying primarily on grants from CIHR and non-profit agencies. And, even with a return to the status quo, it will be more difficult for early-career scientists to revive their research operations than for those with more seniority who can rely on their established reputations and bodies of work to quickly re-acquire funding, space and staff.
As a result, many early-career academic scientists have begun questioning the sustainability of their careers. Without intervention, we stand to lose an entire generation of health care researchers — a cataclysmic shift that will forever change the nature of innovation and discovery in Canada.
Immediate action is needed. By supporting early career researchers through professorships (3-5 year terms), we can ensure the continued strength of Canada’s research community for generations to come.
Support Early Career Research