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Dr. Brian Hodges

Dr. Brian Hodges

Executive Vice President of Education, The Michener Institute of Education at UHN

The Michener Institute has been using digital education to fast-track graduates and redeploy health professionals to the frontlines.


Since 1958, The Michener Institute of Education at University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto has been producing work-ready candidates and creating programs tailored to meet the emerging needs of an ever-changing health-care system. As Canada’s only institution specializing in applied health sciences education and the only one funded by a provincial government, Michener has close links to both the hospital networks and the Ministry of Health.

These links — along with Michener’s agility, curriculum development expertise, and health human resource planning experience — were key factors in helping UHN respond to the COVID-19 crisis. “The magnitude, force, and lethality of the virus really made it evident that we had to have a quick pivot. So all parts of UHN, including Michener, rapidly strategized how to help the system,” says Dr. Brian Hodges, Michener’s Executive Vice President of Education and Chief Medical Officer at UHN.

Shift to e-learning prepared people for frontlines

Knowing the system needed every single health care professional, Michener responded by rapidly shifting all of its academic and continuing education programs to digital education.

Students in their final semester of the Respiratory Therapy and Medical Laboratory Science programs — two critical skill needs in COVID-19 care — were fast-tracked to graduate five weeks early and start working in their respective professions by completing their coursework and final exams online.

Similarly, redeployed medical personnel working outside their level of comfort were able to get up to speed quickly through the online continuing education learning modules on critical care. “Michener led a team that got an entire redeployment curriculum designed and online in 10 days, something that would typically take about six months to build,” says Hodges. News of the program’s success travelled fast, and it’s now used by thousands of health-care professionals across all of Ontario’s 194 hospitals and by the military working in long-term care facilities.

Graduates and current and continuing students all volunteering on the frontline

Whether recently graduated, currently enrolled, or medical professionals pursuing continuing education, Michener’s students have stepped in to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. Graduates from Respiratory Therapy and Medical Laboratory Science programs all found full-time jobs on the frontlines immediately upon graduating. “There was no time for any orientation or onboarding, but they were very adaptable and adjusted quickly,” says Hodges.

Many current students stepped into the fray as volunteers — from Nuclear Medicine students conducting COVID-19 screenings to Medical Laboratory Science students working double shifts in a lab to develop a way to enhance screening capacity. “This tendency to go the extra mile and to try to help is very characteristic for students that are attracted to our institution,” says Hodges.

In addition, many health care professionals, like oncology nurses, transplant surgeons, and dermatologists, volunteered to help in the ICU and were able to do so thanks to the quick availability of Michener’s e-learning modules. “I think COVID-19 has shown us the importance of having a health-care system that’s partnered with education and the role of e-learning,” says Hodges. “All of a sudden we have this fast-moving virus that no one has heard about and where do you get training when you don’t have time? So it’s a different way of thinking about education.”

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