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New CEO at Southlake keen on technology, innovation

NEWMARKET, Ont. – New technologies will be of the utmost importance at Southlake Regional Health Centre in raising performance and patient safety, and also in transitioning the community hospital to a research-oriented academic centre.

So says Dr. Dave Williams (pictured), the physician and former astronaut who was appointed CEO and president of Southlake last month. Dr. Williams will take the helm at Southlake on July 18.

“Southlake is already a leading-edge organization,” said Dr. Williams. “We’ll be focusing on service excellence and providing the best clinical care.

“We also want to emphasize patient safety and quality of care,” he continued. Finally, he noted, Southlake is now transforming itself into an academic, teaching and research centre.

“So how do we optimize all this when there are 3,000 members of our team? Technology can definitely assist us as we do this.”

Dr. Williams – a leading physician and former astronaut – comes to Southlake with a substantial amount of healthcare experience, which he has gained through various leadership positions held at teaching and research centres.

Attending McGill University in Montreal, he completed his Bachelor of Science (1976), Master of Science (1983), and Medical Doctor degree (1983), having earned numerous honours including the Wood Gold Medal. He has served as Director of Emergency Services at Sunnybook (1992) and as an emergency physician at Kitchener General Hospital/St. Mary’s General Hospital (1989-1990).

Most recently, he held the position of Professor of Surgery and Director of Medical Robotics at McMaster University (2008-2011), and Chief Medical Officer, Patient Safety and Quality at St. Joseph’s Healthcare System in Hamilton (2010-2011).

Dr. Williams joined the Canadian Space Agency in 1992. During his career, he has logged more than 687 hours in space, with a record-setting 17 hours and 47 minutes performing spacewalks. Having also lived and worked in the world’s only underwater ocean laboratory, he became Canada’s first dual astronaut and aquanaut in 2001.

Between his two spaceflights, he held the position of Director of the Space and Life Sciences Directorate at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. With this appointment, he became the first non-American to hold a senior management position within NASA. He concurrently held a six-month position as the first Deputy Associate Administrator for Crew Health and Safety in the Office of Space Flight at NASA Headquarters in 2001.

“The Board of Directors at Southlake is extremely excited to announce the appointment of Dr. Dave Williams,” said Stephen E. Quinlan, Chairman of the Board. “We are confident that the range of experience and leadership qualities he offers will greatly aid Southlake as it transitions into a teaching and research centre.”

“To have successfully recruited a candidate of this calibre is a testament to the reputation that Southlake, its programs, and its people have earned as a centre of excellence within the Province of Ontario,” Mr. Quinlan added.

Recently reappointed as Adjunct Professor of Surgery at the University of Toronto, Dr. Williams is thrilled to be joining “the world class team at Southlake and their commitment to service excellence,” he said.

“When I look at the remarkable clinical achievements of the team, including a number of firsts in cardiac care, coupled with a new state-of-the-art cancer centre, it is clear that Southlake is at the forefront of medical care,” he said. “Building on partnerships with the University of Toronto and York University, we are perfectly poised to expand Southlake’s role as a future leader in clinical research and academic medicine.”

Dr. Williams and his wife, Cathy Fraser, live in Oakville, with their two children.

Dr. Louis Balogh will continue as Interim President and CEO until the arrival of Dr. Williams. At that time, Dr. Balogh will return to the position of Southlake’s Vice-President, Regional Programs.

Dr. Williams said Southlake could become a test bed for many of the innovative surgical and imaging innovations that are being pioneered in Ontario. As well, the hospital is expected to produce research and innovations in its own right.

He is also interested in exploring the new generation of wireless healthcare solutions – from wireless telemetry and monitoring in hospitals, to the use of iPads and iPhones, to the use of wireless devices by visiting nurses in home care.

“Wireless devices are changing the way we practice medicine,” said Dr. Williams.

About Southlake Regional Health Centre (
Based in Newmarket, Southlake Regional Health Centre is a full-service hospital with a provincial mandate to deliver advanced diagnostic and treatment services in cancer care, cardiac care, thoracic surgery, pediatric and perinatal care, child and adolescent eating disorders, and child and adolescent mental health care. It also specializes in arthritis care and cataract surgery. Serving more than one million residents of York Region and South Simcoe, Southlake is in the process of transitioning to a teaching and research centre. Currently, 2800 staff, 460 physicians, 600 students, and 800 community residents work, practice or volunteer at Southlake.

Posted June 2, 2011