Mapping out the future of research – A Q&A with Robert Bartha

Photograph of Robert Bartha, PhDYou recently went through a strategic planning process at the Institute. Why was this the time to do that planning process?

It’s been nearly 10 years since our last comprehensive planning process and so much has changed since then. We’ve seen changes with the research landscape, with funding; there have been many leadership changes at Western University; new scientists have joined the team at the Institute; and overall strategy changes at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry and Western, so it was time to re-assess our strengths and opportunities and formulate a new plan.

How do you believe that plan will accelerate research and enhance advancements of the teams at the Institute?

It’s a good question. First, we have streamlined our vision. It is: “Healthy lives through biomedical research.” This is an important step for us.

In addition, we have identified three overarching goals that are critical to forwarding our mission of a healthy life for everyone. These include:

  • Build research capacity – focused on three areas of research strength in imaging, neuroscience and cardiovascular disease.
  • Better integration of basic science and clinical research to accelerate the translation of our work to improve patient outcomes.
  • Develop and integrate new and exciting technologies to understand disease and improve diagnosis and treatment.

And to achieve those goals, we have identified new initiatives. Several of these focus on improving and expanding our facilities. However, we will focus on recruitment of scientists and increasing the interaction between scientists and clinicians in order to generate even more new ideas.

Funding for research remains a challenge in Canada, and our plan has been developed to increase our competitiveness.

We also want to expand activities within the Robarts Innovation Hub (link to story about Hub) to link with industry partners that can accelerate the translation of discoveries into products that will improve quality of life for patients.

Typically, through strategic planning processes, organizations achieve clarity in their purpose and goal. Did this occur for Robarts? If so, what do you believe your goal is?

Yes, it did. As mentioned, our vision is: “Healthy lives through biomedical research”. Our goal will always be to increase the societal impact of our work by producing science that provides new insights into disease processes and leads to new treatments, training outstanding future scientists, commercialization of our discoveries, and improving patient care. And we will be focusing largely on three specific areas of research:

  • Neurological conditions are amongst the most challenging and life altering. Few major advances have been made in the past 20 years, however new technologies allow us to study the brain in greater detail at the cellular, tissue and organ level. We will continue to focus efforts on neurological disorders and understanding brain function.
  • The development of imaging technologies to visualize cellular activities, tissue structure and whole organ function continues to transform our understanding of disease processes and improve patient diagnosis and treatment. We will continue to expand our expertise and infrastructure to develop cutting-edge imaging tools that bring new insights to human disease.
  • The vasculature of the cardiovascular system links organs and provides the essentials of life. We will continue to study the vascular system and its effects on disease at the organ and tissue level.

How will you keep community members engaged in the work taking place at Robarts?

Robarts has a strong commitment to the local community and we have always welcomed our local community through interactions with our scientists and trainees. We will continue to offer seminars and tours of our facilities at every opportunity.

We annually host the Discover Robarts series, which has gone virtual this year by Zoom. Although we truly miss having the community members visit us in person, we’ve had one virtual event and it went extremely well, with more than 250 community members participating. We look forward to welcoming the community back to Robarts when it is safe to do so.

What can community members who are interested in learning more about Robarts do?

Anyone interested in learning more about Robarts can visit our website, where there are videos and presentations available for viewing.

If anyone would like to learn more about specific research programs, opportunities to be involved in research, or to support our research programs.