Institute for Pandemics

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Why

Welcome to the University of Toronto’s Institute for Pandemics, the world’s first academic centre dedicated exclusively to preventing, preparing for, fighting and recovering from pandemics.

Forged by our experts’ front-line experience fighting COVID-19, drawn from our deep history in public health and health systems, and ignited by the vision of tech-savvy supporters, the Institute is urgently committed to help Canada and our planet. Starting now.

The cause of pandemics is complex; beyond any single government or world body to address. But the opportunities are equally strong, if we can couple technological advances with an intimate knowledge of health systems, economics, the intersectional social determinants of health — and the credibility to influence change amid a historic crisis of trust in governments and the media. Universities must play a central role if we are to mitigate the human suffering and economic devastation caused by pandemics. 

Find out more:

Who We Are

Our People

Adalsteinn Brown

Director, Institute for Pandemics
Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Professor Brown is Interim Director of the Institute for Pandemics and Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Prof. Brown is well known for his expertise in evidence-informed policy making, health-care quality improvement, and health systems capacity-building and strategy. He also has extensive entrepreneurial and leadership experience in the private and public sectors, including in the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care. Prior to serving as Dean of the DLSPH, he was Director of the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, and while in this role, he led numerous complex initiatives, made possible by his collaborative partnerships with other universities, hospitals, government and international agencies.

Prof. Brown has played a critical role in Ontario’s pandemic response, along with many DLSPH faculty members. He has worked collaboratively with the Ontario Premier and his cabinet on resilience and recovery measures and efforts. Prof. Brown is known in particular for his ability to clear complex hurdles to positive change in health care.

Janet Smylie

Professor
Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Professor Smylie is a physician-researcher with a focus on developing and applying Indigenous and public health knowledge to improve health services and programs for Indigenous populations in Canada. She is an expert in Indigenous knowledge translation; Indigenous health assessment; understanding and addressing anti-Indigenous racism in health services; and the application of Indigenous approaches to health services.  She has co-led multiple overlapping initiatives in response to COVID-19 among First Nations, Inuit, and Metis (FNIM) peoples—focused on addressing gaps in Indigenous COVID-19 case reporting and response nationally, provincially, and in the city of Toronto and also on COVID-19 public messaging for FNIM living in urban and related homelands.

Ross Upshur

Professor
Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Professor Upshur is co-Chair of the WHO COVID-19 Ethics Working Group and a member of the Ontario COVID Bioethics Table. He is the ethics and epidemics lead for the WHO Collaborating Centres for Bioethics. He has conducted epidemiological research on the impact of influenza and other respiratory viruses on health services. His research interests include primary care, preventive medicine with a specific focus on aging and complex patient populations as well as the philosophy of medicine.

James Scott

Professor
Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Professor Scott is Head of DLSPH’s Division of Occupational and Environmental Health. He is an environmental microbiologist with expertise in biological hazards in the workplace and community. Prof. Scott’s research focuses on the biophysical characteristics and dynamics of bioaerosols, bioaerosol sampling technology, and the use of molecular genetic methods to characterize bioaerosols. He has extensive experience working with bacterial, fungal and viral bioaerosols. At the start of Canada’s pandemic, Prof. Scott quickly established a facility to conduct a variety of standard testing procedures to assess mask filtration efficiency and study the performance characteristics of new and emerging mask technologies. This facility actively conducts research on bioaerosol generating phenomena to better understand risk factors for viral transmission and identify opportunities for public health interventions. Professor Scott is also contributing to guidelines on safely reopening of dormant buildings and the prevention of viral transmission in workplaces.

Victoria Arrandale

Assistant Professor
Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Professor Arrandale is an expert in occupational exposure assessment and occupational health. Her research focuses on evaluating workplace exposures and their association with occupational diseases, including cancer and respiratory system illnesses. She is an expert in exposure prevention strategies for reducing COVID-19 transmission in the workplace.

Prof. Xiaolin Wei

Xiaolin Wei

Assoc. Professor, Dalla Lana Chair in Global Health Policy
Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Prof. Wei is an expert in communicable diseases, respiratory infections and their transmission. He is a physician, public health and health systems specialist, and one of the world’s leading authorities on antimicrobial resistance and tuberculosis research. Prof. Wei also leads comparative primary care policy studies in China. He currently leads a multidisciplinary team  to design and implement role-specific guidelines for health care workers in the Philippines and Sri Lanka in response to the COVID 19 pandemic.

Prof. Andrea Cortinois

Andrea Cortinois

Assistant Professor
Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Dr. Cortinois is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social and Behavioural Health Sciences. His research interests include the impact the global economic regime and the planetary ecological crisis have on displacement; rural/urban migration; and migration as an intermediate determinant of health, with particular attention given to mechanisms of inclusion/exclusion, precariousness, and detention/deportation as mediating factors.

Vivek Goel

Professor
Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation

Professor Goel is a distinguished scholar with an extensive background in teaching, research and university administration. He was a founding scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (IC/ES) and founding President and CEO of Public Health Ontario, where he was highly successful in building an academic public health services agency that provided scientific and technical advice to front-line practitioners. He has served as both the University of Toronto’s Vice-President and Provost and its Vice-President, Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives. As an academic public health physician, his interests include clinical effectiveness, medical decision-making, technology assessment, and health services research. He is a member of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force and is the Scientific Advisor for the CanCOVID Research Network.

Roberta K. Timothy

Assistant Professor
Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Professor Timothy’s research addresses key areas of concern in anti-colonial, anti-oppression and community-based health promotion, policy, and practice. She take a transnational (global) intersectional human rights approach to social determinants of health affecting African/Black and Indigenous communities. She is currently investigating the national and transnational (global) health impacts of COVID-19 on African/Black individuals and their communities, and their resistance-centred strategies and interventions.

Ashleigh Tuite

Assistant Professor
Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Professor Tuite is an infectious disease epidemiologist who is using modelling to understand the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada and the world, including how to use public health measures to prevent illness and death. Her research focuses on the use of mathematical modeling and other quantitative methods to improve decision-making for emerging, re-emerging, and endemic communicable diseases. She is particularly interested in the use of mathematical models to synthesize and communicate complex information and uncertainty.

David Fisman

Professor
Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Professor Fisman is a physician and epidemiologist who studies the epidemiology of infectious diseases, particularly pneumonia. His interests include laboratory datasets as epidemiological resources, mathematical modeling and simulation, infectious disease and environment/climate change, and decision/cost effectiveness analysis. Professor Fisman’s work on COVID-19 has been focussed on understanding sources of variability in severity and outcomes, and in mathematical modeling to identify control strategies and optimal uses of drugs and vaccines. He has created seminal models of COVID-19 spread in Ontario that have informed policy decisions.

Jennifer Gibson

Director, Joint Centre for Bioethics
Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation

Professor Gibson is the Director of the Joint Centre for Bioethics (JCB) and the Sun Life Financial Chair in Bioethics at DLSPH. Professor Gibsonleads the WHO Collaborating Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto, founded the Ethics and AI for Good Health program at the JCB, and has served as expert advisor to governments and policymakers on issues related to medical assistance in dying, critical care triage, pandemic planning, resource allocation, and health data governance. She chairs the COVID-19 Bioethics Table in the Ontario health system response structure.

Audrey Laporte

Director
Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation

Professor Laporte is Director of the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (IHPME). She is an economist and Director of the Canadian Centre for Health Economics. Her research focusses in general on the development of economic theory and the application of econometric methods to address questions of policy interest to health and health care. She has an interest in the modelling the link between shocks at the macro level as well as at the individual level on individual level health outcomes and the impact on health and economic systems.

Carol Strike

Director, Division of Social and Behavioural Health
Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Professor Strike is head of DLSPH’s Social and Behavioural Health Sciences Division. She studies harm reduction, addictions, mental health, and HIV prevention and care, with the aim of improving the health of marginalized populations. With community partners, Prof. Strike is leading studies to learn the factors that influence COVID prevention and risk within safer supply programs that offer prescription drugs as a substitute for illegal drugs. As well, she is evaluating the perceived benefits and challenges of a telephone/online model of supervised consumption services.

Geoff Anderson

Professor
Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation

Professor Anderson studies health system performance and innovations that can serve vulnerable populations of individuals with complex health and social care needs.

Laura Rosella

Associate Professor
Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Professor Rosella is an epidemiologist and Big Data expert. She co-created the influential #howsmyflattening dashboard tracking Ontario’s COVID response and analyses tracking the impact of the pandemic across the social determinants of health. Her research interests include epidemiological methods, applied biostatistics, social determinants of health, premature mortality and developing population-based prediction models to support public health planning.

Arjumand Siddiqi

Associate Professor
Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Prof. Siddiqi is Head of DLSPH’s Division of Epidemiology and a Canada Research Chair in Population Health Equity. Her research focuses on understanding how social policies, and other indicators of societal conditions, influence population health and health inequalities.

Walter Wodchis

Professor
Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation

Professor Wodchis is an expert in the Canadian health system. His research interests include health economics, health financing, performance measurement/program evaluation, health services delivery, chronic and long-term care. Prof. Wodchis is participating in research projects related to COVID-19 screening modalities and to population health effects (including socioeconomic distributional impacts) of COVID-19 and public health responses.

Greg Marchildon

Director, North American Observatory on Health Systems and Policies
Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation

Professor Marchildon is an expert on comparative health policies and health systems. He is Director of the North American Observatory on Health Systems and Policies (NAO), which seeks to create a foundation for more systematic health system and policy comparisons among subnational jurisdictions in federations such as Canada, the United States and Mexico. Currently, the NAO is conducting a series of comparative studies on COVID-19 responses in North America as well as provincial and territorial policy responses within Canada. The NAO is also conducting a study comparing COVID-19 responses in selected countries in Latin America and the Caribbean region.

Sara Allin

Assistant Professor
Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation

Professor Allin is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Health, Policy and Evaluation at the University of Toronto, and Director of Operations of the North American Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. Prof. Allin conducts research that aims to improve health system performance, and comparative studies across provinces/territories and internationally in health care and public health.  She founded the North American COVID-19 Monitor to systematically document the public health, health system and economic policies introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, its provinces and territories, and the United States and Mexico.

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To discuss supporting the Institute for Pandemics, please contact:

Annette Paul
Director of Advancement
Dalla Lana School of Public Health
Annette.Paul@utoronto.ca

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About

The Institute

COVID-19, SARS and other urgent health threats began in animals. It’s time to drop misleading distinctions between human and animal health.  Our underpinning “one health” approach considers human, animal and environmental health together.

The Institute draws from across Canada’s leading university to incorporate complex skill sets, such as mathematical modelling, health economic analysis, health geography and GIS, environmental epidemiology, a complex understanding of the social determinants of health, and approaches to disease detection using novel data sources and techniques. Because these skill sets require input from so many disciplines, they are seldom taught in single centres, and consequently are in short supply in the workforce. Therefore, we remain ill-equipped to respond rapidly when a pandemic arises and to recover in its aftermath. And even the best public health measures fall short without expertise in assessing and communicating a decision’s risks to health, health systems, the economy, the environment and social interactions.

The new institute will transform this situation by focusing on three streams:

Pandemic Readiness

Pandemic modelling focuses on answering the “where, when and how” of an infectious disease. Where is it spreading? When will it end? And how can we fight it? Through these analyses, scientists generate projections in real time during public health crises such as the one we’re experiencing with COVID-19 and predict outbreaks in advance—before they become pandemics—which can serve as a global early warning system.

The Centre for Pandemic Readiness will further this critical work in three ways: combine traditional and innovative data collection tools to model and estimate the development and spread of pandemics and other global health emergencies; use foresight and scenario modelling techniques to identify early signs of emerging threats like pandemics; and develop deep expertise and experience in communicating data on pandemics to decision- makers to guide action. This ensures that health agencies can make informed decisions and “buys time” until treatments or vaccines become available.

Using public data, the centre will perform modelling and forecasting that advises on the implications of a disease outbreak, its surveillance, transmission, case management, risk factors, protocols and response. It will also look at the impact on health system capacity and resources, as well as novel disease emergence. The research team will ensure that their work is both transparent and reproducible by adhering to current best practices in infectious disease epidemiology, including generating open source code, using analytical “freeware” (such as the R statistical environment) where possible, and employing or generating publicly available datasets that other researchers can access.

Dr. David Fisman will lead the Centre for Pandemic Readiness. Dr. Fisman is a national authority on the study of emerging infectious diseases—particularly infectious disease modelling—and has been a widely consulted expert during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other DLSPH faculty members will contribute their expertise, including Dr. Ashleigh Tuite, Dr. Beate Sander and Dr. Laura Rosella. They already participate in the Province of Ontario’s modelling table and their work has been used to predict and explain COVID-19 spread and impact in Canada, as well as in Iran and China.

The University of Toronto’s Joint Centre for Bioethics will also play a role, providing its extensive ethical decision-making capabilities, which have helped to guide responses during the COVID-19 pandemic and H1N1 and SARS crises.

Pandemic Resilience

Following the tragedy of SARS, multiple reports recommended strengthening the Canadian public health system and building stronger collaboration and planning across the public health and health care systems. However, progress on these goals has been uneven across the country and around the world.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, it has become clear that the decisions taken by some governments and health authorities have helped to curb what could have been a catastrophic spread of the virus. For example, when we look at South Korea, it appears that the high rates of testing carried out there contributed to fewer infections than might otherwise have happened as the results allowed public health officials to determine whom to isolate.

The Centre for Pandemic Resilience will bring together leading health policy, public administration and clinical leaders to develop best practices in how public health systems use information to prepare for and respond effectively to pandemics. This will include examining governance, decision-making and communication that have resulted in speedy and effective responses in democratic societies. The centre will advise health authorities and governments on how to remain prepared for outbreaks and equip health systems on the ground, drawing on lessons learned from SARS, H1N1, Ebola and COVID-19 and the history of infectious diseases and viruses.

DLSPH faculty members involved in this stream include Dr. Jennifer Gibson, Dr. Ross Upshur, Dr. Robert Schwartz, Dr. Xiaolin Wei, and Dr. Adalsteinn Brown. Experts will also include Dr. Greg Marchildon and Dr. Sara Allin, who lead the North American Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. These faculty members all have extensive experience advising decision-makers—and in some cases acting as decision-makers —at the provincial, federal and international levels.

Pandemic Recovery

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our communities have asked many serious questions around immediate needs and life afterward. Where can we secure the supplies our health-care workers need? What will happen to businesses both small and large? How will we care for the most vulnerable members of society?

The Centre for Pandemic Recovery will lead a program of study that quantifies the short- and long-term health and economic consequences of pandemics and other public health emergencies. It will pay attention to equity of outcomes, the social determinants of health, issues that exacerbate stigmatization and other social divides, and economic recovery.

The new centre will prepare road maps to recovery that can start during a pandemic rather than waiting until it is over. These will include the ROI of public health infrastructure, looking at factors such as surveillance capacity, supply chain resilience, and other types of preparation. Ultimately, the centre will inform policies to alleviate the economic and social impacts of a pandemic that are so devastating to communities worldwide.

DLSPH faculty members in this stream include Dr. Audrey Laporte, Dr. Mark Stabile, Dr. Geoff Anderson and Dr. John Frank. Contributors  have deep expertise in modelling broad societal costs and outcomes and who can integrate macro-economic and health system data.

Support

The Institute for Pandemics was established with the visionary support of Canada’s Vohra Miller Foundation, dedicated to improving the health of people and the planet. We are deeply grateful to Sabina Vohra-Miller and Craig Miller for their generous $1 million gift to support research, education and knowledge translation activities related to pandemic risk, readiness, resilience, and recovery. Thank you to all the donors and supporters who have paved the way for a transformative initiative that will have critical public impact for years to come

Critical Funding Priorities:

  • Research
  • Training

A mix of expendable and endowed funds will support research, training, innovation and knowledge sharing.

Because public health crises are unpredictable, we need dedicated researchers who can focus exclusively on the work of the Institute without concerns about potential conflicts with academic or clinical schedules. The Institute will recruit trained scientists—such as those with expertise in modelling and forecasting—to help us to curb the transmission and spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

We will appoint research chairs with dedicated expertise to lead each of the institute’s three centres. Funds will support these chairs, as well as early-career professorships.

Recognizing that there is a lack of expertise in the disciplinary training needed in the fight against emerging infectious diseases, the new institute will aim to build a team that includes postdoctoral fellows, who will conduct advanced research and analysis based upon their burgeoning expertise and in conjunction with established scholars.

The institute will also attract and engage top graduate students. PhD students will carry out their thesis work under the direction of the institute’s principal investigators, while Master of Public Health (MPH) students will support the research agenda as part of their practicum. Funds will support fellowships, scholarships and stipends to ensure the institute can involve the most talented candidates and prepare them for a future in fields that will help us address pandemics.

Engagement and Innovation Fund

The world’s best researchers often face unexpected expenses. We are seeking to establish an engagement and innovation fund that will provide practical support for cutting-edge research at the institute’s three centres. This could include resources for materials, publishing, upgrades in technology and opportunities for ongoing collaboration with other institutions and organizations.

This fund will also allow each of the institute’s centres to engage with decision-makers and the public around issues relating to their area of focus. The centres will use tools such as the highly successful webinars the DLSPH developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, our journalism program, annual report cards, white papers and convening sessions. Scholars will also conduct briefings at the municipal, provincial, federal and global levels to promote innovation and bring attention to how policy-makers can support an effective public health system.

In addition, the fund will also support engagement roundtables with private and public sector partners to disseminate knowledge to stakeholders beyond the scientific community and strengthen the collaborations so necessary to tackling pandemics and our recovery from them.

A director will lead the Institute for Pandemics, overseeing all research, training and engagement and providing advice, inspiration and mentorship for the institute’s activities.

Pandemics require rapid responses. To ensure the institute’s work can proceed nimbly, we plan to establish a director’s fund, which will provide resources for strategic initiatives that transcend one area of focus and needs that may arise suddenly. The fund will support scholarship and other opportunities that require an integrated approach, creating a continuity of research, innovation and knowledge translation that spans pandemic readiness, resilience and recovery. Other cross-institute activities the fund may support include symposia, panels and Chatham House Rules sessions for key stakeholders and decision-makers.