Windsor Star

Health care sector growth offers opportunit­y for youth

Innovation driving region

- CAROLYN THOMPSON

A chemical-free cleaner. A virtual doctor. Mobile health records.

These are just some of the ideas enticing young workers to Windsor’s health care sector.

“There is so much potential. There is a lot of innovation happening in this region,” Zain Ismail, innovation manager at the Leamington District Memorial Hospital, said recently.

In a city facing high youth unemployme­nt and the loss of its young workers to places with more potential, health care is bucking the trend.

The sector has grown by 27.4 per cent since 2008 to nearly 1,600 employers, according to a report from Workforce Windsor Essex.

Health care workers have the lowest unemployme­nt rates in the region.

These days, many of the new jobs in health care are in engineerin­g, business and informatio­n technology.

“Millennial­s think to be in health care you have to be a nurse or a doctor or a physician’s assistant, and that’s not the case,” Ismail said.

“There are huge gaps to be filled.”

The 24-year-old said he never thought he’d fit in. He’s not trained in medicine.

Ismail studied hospitalit­y, dreaming of owning a hotel.

That was, until a series of chance meetings and a switch to the Odette School of Business put him in a class with Anne Snowdon, chairwoman of the Internatio­nal Centre for Health Innovation at the Ivey Business School in London.

The centre is working with the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integratio­n Network to spark creativity and innovation in a field that is becoming increasing­ly important as Canada’s — and Windsor’s — population ages.

“Some of the most innovative thinking is coming out of our classrooms,” Snowdon said.

That thinking includes big data, wearable devices, using mobile platforms and finding ways to make health care access easier and better.

Snowdon said while Canada is ranked high internatio­nally at producing new knowledge, technologi­es and devices to help people be healthier, we’re at the bottom of the list for getting those new technologi­es into our medical system.

“They tend to go to other health systems first. Many will go to Europe and many will go to the U.S. That’s not helping us in Canada. It’s not helping our job growth,” she said. “It’s not helping our health systems to be better and innovative. So really, that’s the issue we need to get to.”

The new mega-hospital will be key in expanding Windsor’s growing health sector, said David Musyj, CEO of the Windsor Regional Hospital.

He said the new building will have state-of-the-art research space that the current facilities just can’t accommodat­e.

“Then you really open up a whole opportunit­y for investment and jobs and growth. That’s what our vision is,” he said.

The hospital is already on its way to that goal. The Windsor Cancer Research Group has been growing its relationsh­ips with the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan.

“What is really unique and special about Windsor is how close we are to the States,” said Caroline Hamm, an oncologist who is developing clinical trials that may see more hiring of data specialist­s and researcher­s.

As the Windsor region becomes known for its innovation in health care, more private companies are choosing the area.

Marla Spidalieri, with Eau3 Distributi­ng and Tersano, said part of that success comes from the willingnes­s of the Windsor Regional Hospital to test out new projects.

Tersano produces the Lotus Pro cleaner, which uses an electric process to convert tap water into a chemical-free cleaning product. Steve Hengsperge­r, from Windsor, came up with the idea and tested it at the hospital. It’s now sold internatio­nally.

Ralph Ganter, senior director of health systems design and implementa­tion at the Erie St. Clair LHIN, said Windsor’s aging demographi­cs give us the ideal location to test out new health approaches. Many of the new jobs in health care will be in restorativ­e and long-term care.

“We’re right in the middle of what the future’s going to look like,” Ganter said.

Musyj said in addition to the growth in research, the hospital hires about 200 workers each year, including nurses, technician­s and doctors, to replace those who have left through retirement or for other jobs.

There are already partnershi­ps between St. Clair College, the University of Windsor and the hospital, with student apprentice­ships, faculty research and training programs.

Musyj said with the new mega-hospital he hopes to add an apprentice­ship program that would give students internatio­nal experience: a few months at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and a few months in Windsor.

He said no other Canadian city has the advantage of being just a short drive from a major internatio­nal hospital.

Dayna Roberts, 31, worked in manufactur­ing before finding her place in health care. She studied industrial engineerin­g at St. Clair College and the University of Windsor.

She was working in Toronto when she heard about the Windsor Regional Hospital’s plans to expand.

“I wanted to come back to the Windsor area,” she said. Roberts was hired to help improve processes to prepare for the new location.

Transform Shared Services, which supplies hospitals with equipment and devices, has had 27 openings in the last six months for highly skilled jobs. Several openings for IT experts have gone unfilled.

Zain said he remembers speaking with one student who wants to be a process improvemen­t engineer.

“She thought her only options were Ford or Chrysler and I said absolutely not,” he said. “Your biggest option is health care.”

 ?? DAX MELMER/The Windsor Star ?? Zain Ismail, innovation manager at Leamington District Memorial Hospital, works with Mary Beth McKay of the Erie-St.Clair Clinic. “There is a lot of innovation happening in this region,” Ismail said.
DAX MELMER/The Windsor Star Zain Ismail, innovation manager at Leamington District Memorial Hospital, works with Mary Beth McKay of the Erie-St.Clair Clinic. “There is a lot of innovation happening in this region,” Ismail said.
 ?? DAX MELMER/The Windsor Star ?? Zain Ismail, innovation manager at the Leamington District Memorial Hospital, says, “Millennial­s think to be in health care you have to be a nurseor a doctor or a physician’s assistant, and that’s not the case.”
DAX MELMER/The Windsor Star Zain Ismail, innovation manager at the Leamington District Memorial Hospital, says, “Millennial­s think to be in health care you have to be a nurseor a doctor or a physician’s assistant, and that’s not the case.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada