Dr. Hilary Whyte – HMC/SickKids Partnership Project Medical Director

Dr. Hilary Whyte has been a neonatologist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto for the last 30 years. After graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, Hilary began training in pediatric medicine, where she quickly realized her passion for pediatrics. In 2008, Hilary had the opportunity to work in Australia, where she developed her interest in the field of transport medicine. For the last two years, Hilary has fulfilled the role of Medical Director of the Neonatology and Acute Care Transport Services Program, at SickKids, Toronto, as well as Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Hilary replaced Dr. Denis Geary as Medical Director of the HMC/SickKids Partnership in March 2014.  

Given that you just started, what would you say attracted you to the role of Medical Director for the HMC-SickKids Partnership?

I have been a Medical Director for the Neonatology Program at SickKids for the last two years, and what I’ve really come to realize is that as well as clinical work which I really love and adore, I really enjoy the opportunity to provide leadership to a highly-functional team. I really enjoy administration, and I discovered a new skill set, which I guess I’ve been building over three decades. But the opportunity at SickKids International seemed to me to build on that as Medical Director for our one program, and by working with SickKids International, I get to be a Medical Director for a whole host of programs. Therefore I think it’s a great application of the various attributes or aspects of my own career, which come together under one portfolio. That was really what attracted me to the role. 

What would you like to have taken away from this role on a personal level, in a year’s time?

I’m all about lifelong learning as evident in my own personal CV; it really demonstrates that I enjoy new challenges. What I’m therefore hoping to gain from this is by working with people who have different skill sets than mine I hope I will become a better administrator, will become more astute in terms of business development, and that I will have learned more about how the world works rather than how Canada, Ontario or SickKids Hospital does. I think it’s important to recognize that a one-size-fits-all model cannot work in our world today, so I know I could learn a lot about how other cultures and other countries deal with their issues in healthcare. 

Could you give us an overview of your experience during previous visits to Qatar?

This is my fifth visit to Qatar, specifically to HMC. In the first year, I came as a Subject Matter Expert and worked on faculty development where we brought in the whole idea of job activity profiles, of how an academic clinician is different from a clinical investigator and is different from a clinical scientist - how a one-size-fits-all mandate doesn’t work even in the academic health center, and how it’s important to play to people’s strengths.

The second time I came back, it was to look at an approach to inter-facility transport in Qatar – to develop a model of best practice for an inter-facility transport service for high-risk mothers and newborn children.

The third and fourth time I came back was to work on the Neonatology Program in HMC. And now I’m back here for my fifth visit, being introduced to a variety of individuals and teams that I haven’t yet met before to get a really good sense of the whole partnership, and where I need to take this role as the Medical Director of SickKids International.

With your experience of working in Toronto, what do you consider to be the biggest barrier or obstacle to working in a multi-cultural healthcare organization?

It’s a challenging question to answer because in most countries, healthcare is carried out through the medium of English. And if it’s not their first language, they teach English as a second language. I’ve personally traveled throughout a variety of continents and countries and never had a challenge in communication with healthcare professionals because almost all of us would be fairly well-educated, and pretty much everybody speaks English to a degree. I’ve never had a challenge dealing with healthcare professionals regardless of their background or the country that I’m visiting or working in. 

Where I do see an issue is with families who may not or frequently don’t speak English. And I have that challenge working in SickKids Hospital, because Toronto is a real melting pot, consisting of citizens from all over the world, many of whom do not speak English. We simply use interpretative services, which are really helpful to have to the family, but it’s not a good idea to use them as a sole interpreter. 

What were your first impressions of Qatar?

First impressions – hot, arid, flat, unpopulated, with the exception of Doha.  I love the heat, I love the sun, I love the sea. And when you arrive in Doha, you’re awestruck by just the beauty of the city - I mean the architecture of the city – the buildings are beautiful.  And the people are generally very warm and friendly. I always enjoy working with the people who live here when I come to visit.

Saseendran Pooleri and Badarudeen Thachiram Veettil – Office Aides

A typical day for Saseendran and Badarudeen starts before the office opens to the rest of the team. They have the tough job of making sure everything is in place to ensure a flawless operational day in the office. They efficiently divide their responsibilities and are equally active in the day-to-day handling of the office logistics.

Badarudeen started working with Dr. Abdulla Al Kaabi in October 2008, two years prior to the official establishment of the partnership.

We asked Badarudeen about his experience working with the partnership. ‘’I started working with Dr. Al Kaabi from the beginning of this project; it has been great. I have met many nice people over the years and helped our office move from Medical City to the current Barwa Tower.’’

Saseendran joined our project team in 2012; we asked him about his experience. ‘’I’m very happy to have the opportunity to work with this team. I have made great number of friends at HMC. The team is very friendly and I have really enjoyed being a part of all the events.’’

The Office of Corporate Child Health Planning’s Executive Director, Ms Geraldine Johnston, calls this duo unsung heroes. “Whatever needs to be done Bader and Sasi are on hand to do it. No job is too much or too difficult. They are our Stars of Excellence.” she notes.