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Dr. Harsha Shanthanna, an anesthesiologist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, has been awarded the Career Scientist Award by the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society (CAS). This recognition is a salary support award that will allow Dr. Shanthanna to continue his research in anesthesiology and pursue his long-term goal of establishing a sustainable anesthesia research program.

The award, supported by the Canadian Anesthesia Research Foundation, represents a total of $120,000 given over two years. As well, it requires a matching contribution from the recipient’s institution or faculty in order to pursue their research goals.

 “For a clinician researcher like me,” said Shanthanna, “balancing the clinical and research priorities is challenging. This award serves as a motivation to continue to engage in research efforts that bring value to clinical care and help improve patient outcomes.”

Trained as a medical doctor – one of three physicians involved in chronic pain management at St. Joe’s – Shanthanna went on to obtain his MSc in clinical epidemiology, studying under the supervision of Dr. Lehana Thabane. He is an associate professor at McMaster University in the Department of Anesthesiology, where he is also the Associate Chair of Research. Shanthanna’s other appointments include the Michael DeGroote Institute of Pain Research and Care, and the new Michael DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research.

Currently, Dr. Shanthanna is working as a PhD candidate in health research methods, focusing on perioperative and chronic pain studies. His research interests include treatment of persistent pain after surgery, improving patient outcomes after surgery, regional anesthesia, and chronic pain interventions. As a researcher, Shanthanna has been recognized by several institutions, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) who honoured him with the RCT Mentoring Award.

Shanthanna has previously made headlines for his research surrounding the use of a class of drugs called gabapentinoids. Typically used to treat epilepsy and other neurological disorders, their off-label use included conditions like bipolar disorder and back pain. Dr. Shanthanna and his team found that these drugs were not effective in treating lower back pain, prompting calls for physicians to prescribe medications that will more effectively meet patient needs.

The long-term goal of a sustainable anesthesia research program will be an asset to St. Joe’s and researchers from McMaster University, and will facilitate a higher volume of research aimed at improving patient experiences with pain management.

“The specialty of anesthesia integrates many aspects of perioperative care and influences patient outcomes and satisfaction,” Shanthanna noted. He further remarked, “An active research program capitalizes on the opportunities and provides support for the staff and residents to engage in high quality research to facilitate evidenced based clinical care.”

Anesthesia research at St. Joe’s is conducted within the Father Sean O’Sullivan Research Centre (FSORC), which aims to improve the way health care and medicine are practiced. It is the largest of the five programs within The Research Institute of St. Joe’s.

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