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The top life-saving skills in the world are passed from doctor to doctor at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

We often hear the phrase "teaching hospital." But what does it actually mean?

At Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, it means that the entire institution is a living classroom. It means that the top life-saving skills in the world are passed from doctor to doctor. It means that young and old learn from each other. It means that acts of caring are witnessed and duplicated. It means that knowledge is shared between professions. It means that all staff and patients are encouraged to learn.

"Everybody's a learner; everybody's a teacher," says Dr. Joshua Tepper, vice-president of education at Sunnybrook. "Lifelong learning is part of our culture." The health sciences centre provides not only traditional educational support to interns and residents, but also education of other health-care professionals. Each year, Sunnybrook boasts 4,000 learners from more than 25 disciplines, including medicine, nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, paramedics, dietitians, chaplains, technologists, and creative caregivers.

"This makes us an exciting place for people to come and learn. We also recruit the best professionals because they want to teach here and be part of the education engine," adds Dr. Tepper.

Education of patients and families is also important at Sunnybrook. New education centres are opening throughout the hospital. The Patient Education and Research Learning Centre (PEARL) at the Odette Cancer Centre is dedicated to patients and families who want to learn more about cancer.  The CRIB (Centre for Resources & Information on Birth, Babies & Beyond) provides information for women and their families, and the Holland Patient and Family Education Centre provides resources at the Holland Orthopaedic and Arthritic Hospital.

"When people learn to manage their health better, they have better outcomes and costs to the health-care system are reduced," says Dr. Tepper.

Sunnybrook has several new education initiatives in its sights. One is to build classrooms closer to clinical settings, so that learners can seamlessly transition back and forth from bedside to classroom. This is called point-of-care education. Another, larger, initiative is to build a world-class learning centre at Sunnybrook to service the north-end of the city, with technologically advanced classrooms, multi-use spaces and virtual library connectivity.

An ongoing initiative is to make sure, through research, that the education is being delivered using the most up-to-date techniques. "We have a responsibility as an academic health sciences centre to be the teachers' teacher and help determine how education can best occur," says Dr. Tepper. "We must be nimble and pro-active, as health-care knowledge changes at such a rapid pace."

This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's advertising department, in consultation with Sunnybrook. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.