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I will remember you - Ahmed Coovadia - Part 2

This blog is a follow-up to an earlier one and presents musings by Ahmed Coovadia on:

  • Colleagues who made a difference in his career;
  • Time on the CSTM Board of Directors; 
  • Challenges facing the profession; 
  • Contributions of Canadian Blood Services to our blood system;
  • Visits to transfusion services outside Canada.


Colleagues who made a difference  

The individuals and organizations who had an impact in my career are too many to mention, however, a few need to be recognised. 

At Sunnybrook

  • Peter Pinkerton for his vision and support in moving the department to reach the highest standards in transfusion medicine;
  • The chiefs of Anaesthesia (the late K. Weber) and surgery (A.H. Harrison) in accepting the transfusion service as an integral component of patient care. 
    • Their support laid the foundation in the 1980s to the development of “a day in the blood bank” for all existing staff and residents, who were provided a one-on one-session by the staff on what is done and how collectively we can improve the system not only by education but, most importantly, by communications. 
  • ​The transfusion service staff throughout my career at Sunnybrook, who I am truly indebted to for what collectively we have been able to accomplish over the decades in improving patient care and advancing opportunities for education.

CSTM Board of Directors

Through my term on the CSTM Board of Directors I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work closely with colleagues across the country. This enhanced my understanding of challenges on a national level but also provided a network of individuals one could call upon for advice.

Through the leadership of Cindy Whitman and members of the Board we undertook a change with regard to Board meetings. At least once a year Board meetings were held in conjunction with an educational day within community settings. The intent was to introduce CSTM and at the same time provide educational activities, thereby, once again laying the ground work to “networking.”


Over the years with the addition of dedicated physicians and nurses in the discipline, we have moved the pendulum towards better management for our patients and further enhanced our discipline across the spectrum of medicine. One hopes that this trend will continue in light of the many fiscal challenges ahead.

At the same time one should not lose sight of the impact of the very dedicated technologists who have carried the flame often under very difficult times, who will need the support to continue and grow with the advances in the field.


However, in recent years we have seen a sharp decline in resources for technologists, not only for their professional growth but in providing opportunities to attend Canadian conferences, and thereby establishing a network with colleagues across the country.

This has been an ongoing challenge in that most institutions resources are limited for staff educational opportunities. The challenge remains with all of us to remain steadfast in finding opportunities for the front-line staff to be able to attend and participate at our annual conference. This is imperative if we are going to prepare the next generation.

National Blood Service (CBS)

Over the last decade, I have been fortunate to have worked at CBS as a Hospital Liaison Specialist and Utilization Specialist. The move clearly brought to light the many challenges and complexity of a National Blood Service that one may not be fully aware of in a hospital setting. The many CBS improvements, such as, but not limited too, leukoreduction, phenotyping, testing and logistics have had a very positive impact to hospitals and patient care. 

Challenges facing the blood supplier and hospitals will continue, however, with continued collaboration, and perhaps integration, these will be overcome.

Over the years many initiatives have led to improved products and services from CBS. A couple of recent changes have not only benefited patients but also the Hospital Transfusion Services. Case in point being the initiative of CBS phenotyping units, which from my perspective has greatly improved the availability of products for patients with multiple antibodies (sickle cell and thalassemia patients), diminished screening units at CBS and hospitals (cost savings) and unnecessary repeat testing due to lack of historical results on donor.

With greater collaboration between CBS and hospitals, opportunities could be pursued or improved in having patient’s registry (e.g., sickle cell patients), prenatal testing and reference testing centres that would provide improved patient care and in the long run efficiencies to the system.


On reflection we need to applaud our community hospital staff in managing and continuously improving their level of service with limited resources and expertise, an amazing reflection of dedication and professionalism. 

With the transformation of CBS, Ontario Regional Blood Coordinating Office (ORBCoN), and hospital transfusion services, it is imperative that we not lose sight of a strong collaborative relationship to continue and further enhance our blood system. In Ontario, the collaboration of ORBCoN and CBS have clearly played a pivotal role in improving utilization and opportunities for continued education. Continued efforts can only pave the way for excellence in our field.

Visits to transfusion services outside Canada

Having the good fortune to have practiced at an academic centre, I was fortunate to meet many individuals from other countries that came to Canada to further their education. Through this relationship I had the pleasure to volunteer in their respective countries (including Brazil, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, USA).

One of the key components on these visits is to have an open mind and the ability to listen. There are many ways to achieve a process, and as such, acquire knowledge through dialogue and understanding. The friendship acquired on my visits were invaluable to me as an individual. On my last visit to Kuwait with Shelley Feenstra,RN, we as a group were able to directly link the clinical and nursing service not only with the blood bank but also with the blood service. This goal is achievable as it is paramount to any blood service for greater opportunities not only in patient care but improved efficiencies in healthcare.

These visits to foreign nations were an invaluable experience in exchanging ideas and ultimately improving our processes. The challenges faced by all are similar but the establishment of networking and collaboration are priceless.


Ahmed had a long career at Sunnybrook, one of Canada's premier hospital transfusion services (1976 - 2007) and ended his career as a CBS Hospital Liaison Specialist and Utilization Specialist (2007 - 2017). He also served as an AABB assessor for 17 years (1995 - 2012) and was active at the top levels of CSTM for six years (2002-2008). He epitomizes service to the transfusion profession and I admit to being a 'fan girl' (term usually applied to female footie [soccer] fans of male players), even though Ahmed ended his career on the 'dark side'.

I'll end with a note Ahmed sent me about influences in his early transfusion career: 

"Pat: a key factor in my early days in the vocation was through the dedication of members of the transfusion community in the Toronto area that were responsible for the creation of the antibody club. Meetings were held once a month and we were privileged through Marie Crookston (Cutbush)  - discover of the Duffy blood group system - and her team ( Betty Croucher, Edna Zuber and Sheila Haddad, et al.) to have the opportunity to listen and acquire knowledge from the leaders in transfusion medicine on many occasions: Mollison, Garratty, Issitt and others.  This laid the foundation for many of us to continue our pursuits in transfusion and, if and where possible, to encourage others to follow."

Comments are most welcome. Please add to the record of what it was (or is) like to work as a transfusion professional in Canada.


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