Launching of the New Comprehensive Stroke & Neurology Clinic in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)

HELLO DR. ATIF ZAFAR! THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO CHAT WITH US! TELL US A BIT ABOUT STROKE CARE IN CANADA IN GENERAL AND TORONTO IN PARTICULAR?
In Canada, stroke occurs every 9 minutes. Believe it or not, we lose two million neurons every single minute we wait out before seeking care. Imagine if all stroke patients can make to the hospital as soon as the stroke strikes, the world will be a better place. Ontario, being the most populated province in the country is impacted by stroke the most. In GTA (Greater Toronto Area), there are various stroke centers spread across the territory. A few of those hospitals are comprehensive centers where both medical and surgical treatment of stroke care is available. An area of concern is the lack of access to stroke specialists for patients at risk of having future stroke. 

WHY DID YOU MOVE TO TORONTO, CANADA FROM THE US?
I am passionate about building health systems and programs in states, provinces and seeing the public health impact at the national level. My previous experience in the US includes starting a stroke program from scratch and eventually transforming it into a comprehensive academic stroke leader in the region. When I heard about the opportunity at St. Michael’s Hospital/Unity Health, an academic hospital of the University of Toronto, I felt I can make a difference in how we manage stroke care in the region. I am also very interested in understanding the 2 different healthcare systems in North America – the US and Canada boast two different models of healthcare – and as a physician and student of leadership, I am curious to see how an amalgamation of these 2 models may create an innovative modern hybrid healthcare system that may be sustainable, dynamic and patient-centric.

WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO OTHER PHYSICIANS, FAMILY DOCTORS IN THE GTA?
I have spoken with various partners in the GTA area and realized that access for neurologists and stroke doctors in an issue for our colleagues in family medicine and other specialties. As the medical director of stroke program at St. Michael’s Hospital, I am prioritizing patient access to neurologist as the main issue. We are providing rapid access to stroke and cerebrovascular patients in our stroke clinic with option to be seen in person or via tele-health. You can connect visit atifzafar.com for more information. 

WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO YOUR PATIENTS IN TORONTO AND IN CANADA?
“Don’t wait it out, when you are having stroke symptoms”. Also, if you have risk factors like hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol problems, obstructive sleep apnea, or other similar risk factors, make sure you stay on top of it. If you don’t, you may be at higher risk of having a stroke or heart attack. Also, we have a Stroke Clinic located at St. Michael’s Hospital, 30 Bond Street, Toronto, Ontario where you are more than welcome to come and talk to me or any of my partners who specialize in stroke and cerebrovascular diseases. In the times of COVID19, we also offer tele-clinics where you can get access to care through online or phone communications. You can visit atifzafar.com for more information or visit St. Michael’s Hospital Stroke website.

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