Dr. Michelle Greiver to lead the University of Toronto Practice-Based Research Network (UTOPIAN)

Sep 20, 2018

Dr. Michelle Greiver is the new Gordon F. Cheesbrough Research Chair in Family and Community Medicine at North York General Hospital (NYGH) and Director of the University of Toronto Practice-Based Research Network (UTOPIAN) at Photograph of Dr. Michelle Grieverthe Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM). 

The Gordon F. Cheesbrough Research Chair was established at NYGH to support a researcher with a demonstrated track record of research excellence oriented towards primary care practice-based research networks (PBRNs). This Chair is also the Director of UTOPIAN, DFCM’s practice-based research network that stems from the collective efforts of DFCM’s leadership and includes the 14 affiliated academic family medicine teaching units and many community practice sites.  

Dr. Greiver comes to the role after more than 15 years of experience with PBRNs. She was a founding member and then lead of the North Toronto Research Network (NorTReN). NorTReN was initiated under the leadership of past DFCM Chair Dr. Walter Rosser and was a precursor for UTOPIAN.  Dr. Greiver then worked with Drs. Lynn Wilson, Eva Grunfeld and David White on the initial development and successful launch of UTOPIAN.  She became Deputy Director of UTOPIAN in July 2016 and then Acting Director upon the departure of Dr. Frank Sullivan, inaugural Cheesbrough Chair and immediate past UTOPIAN Director, in April 2017. 

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to take on this position and to work more closely with DFCM Chair, Dr. Michael Kidd and Vice-Chair, Research and Advocacy, Dr. Eva Grunfeld, as well as with the whole UTOPIAN team,” says Dr. Greiver. “I look forward to working with the talented researchers, clinicians and teachers at DFCM and to supporting the exciting projects that so many are working on.” 

UTOPIAN is one of the largest primary care PBRNs in the world.  The network brings together over 1400 DFCM researchers and primary care clinicians from all DFCM’s academic sites, providing opportunities to answer important health care questions and translate findings into practice. UTOPIAN is involved in local, provincial, national and international clinical research, including an international randomized controlled trial of Advance Care Planning in primary care for patients with serious illness.   

UTOPIAN also manages electronic medical record (EMR) data to support research and quality improvement activities that can only be addressed using vital primary care data.  Its Data Safe Haven securely holds de-identified EMR data for over 550,000 patients and is one of the largest primary care EMR research databases in Canada. With appropriate permissions and safeguards, UTOPIAN also collaborates with other organizations, including working with Diabetes Action Canada, where Dr. Greiver’s efforts recently resulted in the successful launch of the National Diabetes Repository. At present, data from PBRNs in several provinces for over 60,000 patients living with diabetes are included.    

“I am very keen to work with all of DFCM’s Vice-Chairs and Program Directors,” says Dr. Greiver. “As a great example, a recent UTOPIAN-Quality & Innovation Program collaborative project was awarded $1 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. For me, projects that involve the talents, energy and insights of faculty from diverse programs contribute to DFCM’s collective ability to support high-quality research.  Increasing participation in research will ultimately provide the evidence to better serve patients and the primary care community.”  

Dr. Greiver is also very interested in increasing the use and usefulness of UTOPIAN’s infrastructure and services and its rich and rapidly growing Data Safe Haven for research within DFCM and beyond.  She looks forward to working with colleagues in DFCM’s Research and Advocacy Program and encouraging new researchers to integrate UTOPIAN as part of their research. 

“UTOPIAN is part of an international movement to make research an integral part of primary care,” says Greiver. “Our practices are our living laboratories.  In collaboration with patients, colleagues in clinical practice and researchers, UTOPIAN supports practice-based research that has an impact for patients in Ontario and beyond.  Participation in UTOPIAN is part of the culture of curiosity that exists within DFCM and its teaching practices.  I am excited and absolutely thrilled to be part of this.” 


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