Dimitris Keramidas is leading the phased renewal of the Faculty’s IT services, previously provided through Discovery Commons.
An electronic and computer engineer with a business background, Keramidas took the role of Director, Information Technology in 2021, following senior positions with York University and in the private sector.
“I joined Temerty Medicine because it is consistently ranked among the top medical schools in the world, and I wanted to support the great research and people who work here,” he says.
In 2022, after a year on the job, Keramidas initiated a full assessment of IT infrastructure and assets, followed by a comprehensive survey of technology service needs across the Faculty.
The results revealed opportunities for improvements and upgrades, and provided direction on key areas to expand the services offered to the Temerty Medicine community.
In May of this year, Keramidas launched the second phase of the project: a new name for the unit — MedIT — and a new structure, bigger budget and multi-year commitment to enhanced infrastructure and services.
Keramidas describes it as a cultural shift that touches every aspect of IT and related services across Temerty Medicine’s departments, research centres and units — from staff computers, classroom technology and research computing needs to cybersecurity as well as much tighter integration with University of Toronto systems and processes.
It’s a work in progress, and Keramidas notes that the complexity of the Faculty means a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. “We want to ensure we have the ability to meet the needs of all clients.”
Bolstering data architecture and security is a key focus for MedIT, which supports data storage and transfers between U of T and its research partners. “Hospitals in the GTA are having one or more major cyberattacks every year,” says Keramidas. “These are serious and critical security issues for which health-care providers and other institutions must be prepared.”
Global numbers on data security and cybercrime back up these concerns. A recent report by IT security firm Check Point Software, for example, found that global cyber attacks increased 38 per cent from 2021 to 2022. The most common sectors for these attacks were research and education, government, and health care.
The renewal of cyber security and IT at Temerty Medicine is forging a closer connection with U of T’s central Information Technology Services team. Keramidas notes that the University’s Chief Information Officer Bo Wandschneider and Chief Information Security Officer Isaac Straley were quick to lend support and staff, to augment the Temerty Medicine team during the assessment and launch phases.
Going forward, new investments in infrastructure and network security will protect databases and other systems from ransomware attacks, but also help meet research and education computing needs.
Support for remote or hybrid work and learning environments is another area targeted for upgrades. New, annual funding of $750,000 for audio-visual technology and infrastructure upgrades will further connect classrooms at the Mississauga Academy of Medicine and St. George campuses, and at the Scarborough Academy of Medicine and Integrated Health, set to open in 2026.
As well, a shift from fee-for-service to a base-budget model will help improve MedIT’s ability to focus on services provided. Enterprise software licensing will eliminate duplication and reduce costs across the Faculty.
In 2022, Discovery Commons received a $2.5 million operating base budget and required an additional $2 million as part of the departmental cost recovery process. MedIT will receive additional base funding in 2023-24, and a further increase the year after to enable recruitment of new talent in key positions and investment in much-needed infrastructure upgrades.
Over this fall and the spring of 2024, MedIT will move to the third and final phase of the project. This will centre on expansion of IT integration and delivery at the departmental level, and recruitment of staff to provide in-house expertise for an expanded range of services, including business intelligence, data analytics and visualization, with a key focus on understanding client needs and contributing to their success.
“Hiring staff with these crucial skills will allow MedIT to deliver a more comprehensive service catalogue,” Keramidas says. “We’re building up a core capacity of highly skilled IT talent to fit within the new landscape of services that we need to deliver.”