Telus CEO Supports Research on the Impact of Virtual Connection

President and CEO of TELUS and McGill alumnus Darren Entwistle is donating $100,000 of his salary to a research team at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), via the MUHC Foundation. The funds will support the entirety of a groundbreaking project aiming to understand the impact of virtual connections on hospitalized patients, who are cut off from their families and friends due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Mr. Entwistle is forgoing his salary for April, May and June to donate to Canadian health care workers on the front lines, battling COVID-19, choosing the MUHC as one of the recipients.

On June 5, MUHC researchers Dr. Inés Colmegna, rheumatologist, Dr. Amal Bessissow, internal medicine physician, and Dr. David Meger, computer scientist, began the pilot project to study the impact of these interactions and the ways in which video connectivity may contribute to a decrease in negative emotions such as loneliness, depression, anxiety and fear – all known factors that can lead to poor health outcomes.

“There are patients who have essentially been locked in their room for five weeks in solitary confinement,” notes Dr. Don Sheppard, Director of the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4), the group overseeing the research effort at the MUHC. “To reduce the risk of spreading the virus, nobody has been allowed to come and visit them. We saw clearly that this impacts their mental health, and quite likely their physical health too.”

The unique endeavour is evaluating the impact of virtual calls on anxiety, social isolation, depression and perceived stress. Those are the primary outcomes and will be tested with questionnaires specifically validated to verify those emotions. Among the variables collected as
part of the study will be the number and duration of video calls as well as the number of contacts with whom a patient has communicated. The data gathered from this study will serve as a proof of concept to test interventions in similar situations or with other patient groups in future randomized clinical trials.

“It is a particularly challenging time for people to be sick right now, they are scared and alone in their hospital beds,” notes Julie Quenneville, MUHC Foundation President. “This timely research project will bring light to the health benefits of staying connected to loved ones, even virtually, in times of need.”
This project is one of more than 40 projects being led by MI4, Montreal’s leader in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigating risks for Canadians and the world. Drs. Colmegna and Bessissow expect to report on the preliminary results of their research as early as October.

“The MUHC is fortunate to have been selected as one of the Canadian institutions to benefit from this generous contribution,” notes MUHC Foundation Chair of the Board of Directors, Norman Steinberg. “With this $100,000, researchers will examine and measure outcomes of this COVID induced isolation and offer meaningful solutions to combat it.”

This generous contribution builds on TELUS’ legacy of giving, with over $150 million dedicated to support Canadians through the pandemic and $1.3 billion in value, time, and financial support to Canadian charities and grassroots organizations since 2000.

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