The University of Calgary’s potential to address chronic diseases on an international scale is getting a significant boost from the World Health Organization.
The Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) has been designated a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for the Prevention and Control of Chronic Kidney Disease.
Directed by Dr. Marcello Tonelli, MD, the centre will in part expand on his past work in the prevention of non-communicable diseases. The primary goal of the centre is to prevent chronic kidney disease and improve outcomes for those around the world with the disease. A secondary goal of the centre is to help improve the management of other non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, cancer and lung and cardiovascular disease, in humanitarian settings.
“The University of Calgary is very proud of the impactful research conducted by our scholars in health science,” says Dr. Ed McCauley, PhD, vice-president (research). “Chronic kidney disease affects so many people. This collaborative centre will produce breakthroughs that will benefit people throughout the world. We are fortunate to have leaders such as Professor Tonelli who work tirelessly to pull together these important international collaborations.”
The designation runs for four years, commencing last month.
“Being named an official WHO Collaborating Centre is a testament to the expertise of our researchers and caregivers,” says Dr. Todd Anderson, MD, director of the Libin Institute. “It is a proud moment for the University of Calgary as the centre will have a large impact locally, nationally and globally on preventing chronic kidney disease and caring for those suffering from the disease.”
A nephrologist, Tonelli is a recognized expert in the prevention and control of chronic kidney disease. He also completed a volunteership at the WHO in 2014 focusing on treatment of non-communicable diseases following natural disasters and civil conflict. The work included modifying emergency medical kits deployed after a humanitarian disaster. The kits contain medication and equipment to treat chronic diseases like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes.
Tonelli isn’t tackling these significant health challenges alone. He is joined by a world-class team that includes Dr. Brenda Hemmelgarn, MD, and Dr. Braden Manns, MD — who were awarded the Kidney Foundation of Canada’s Medal of Research Excellence last year.
“It is exciting to be named a WHO Collaborating Centre,” says Tonelli. “It provides a clear path to address these important challenges. Working in partnership with the WHO and other major organizations like the International Society of Nephrology allows us to impact a wide range of people around the world.”
It becomes the second WHO Collaborating Centre at CSM, and the first centre worldwide with a focus on kidney disease. There are more than 800 centres in over 80 countries worldwide working in nursing, occupational health, communicable diseases, nutrition, mental health, chronic diseases, health technologies and other areas.
Non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease are a major public health issue, with the WHO now describing them as the leading cause of death worldwide.
Marcello Tonelli is the associate vice-president (health research), University of Calgary, and senior associate dean (clinical research), Cumming School of Medicine. He is also a professor in the Department of Medicine, and a member of the university’s Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta and O’Brien Institute for Public Health.
Todd Anderson is director of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, head of the Department of Cardiac Sciences and professor of medicine, Cumming School of Medicine. He holds the Merck Chair for Cardiovascular Research at the University of Calgary.