When Samina Ali first began working as a pediatrician in the emergency department, repeatedly hearing a high pitch cry from young patients changed the course of her career. “I could hear this shrill, piercing cry and I would know that a child was having a painful procedure. It just made me cringe inside. I thought, ‘We’ve got to be able to do better for these kids than this’,” she says.
For the last decade, Ali has been researching ways to minimize pain for children in emergency departments. Her work is paying off and she has received recognition locally and nationally for her efforts. Ali divides her time between teaching and research in her role as professor in the Division of Emergency Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics, and treating patients as a physician at the Stollery Children’s Hospital.
Most recently, this fall Ali received the Award for Individual Leadership from the Canadian Association of Pediatric Health Centres (CAPHC) and was selected by the Medical Students’ Association class of 2021 as the Preclinical Mentor of the Year. In May 2018 she received the Dr. Helen Karounis Award for Professionalism in Emergency Medicine from the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians. In June 2018 she was nominated and recognized by the Department of Pediatrics with the Academic Faculty Research Paper Award for her work on the OUCH trial.
The three-site, national OUCH Trial involved 500 children with broken limbs and compared the use of ibuprofen on its own, ibuprofen with oral morphine and oral morphine on its own for reducing pain. The results showed that ibuprofen works for most pain and oral morphine was not the answer for kids. However, a solution is still needed for children who require more pain relief than provided by ibuprofen alone.
The next step in Ali’s research will be the No OUCH trial where ibuprofen, ibuprofen with acetaminophen and ibuprofen with oral hydromorphone, an opioid different from morphine, will be used in six centres across Canada. Recruitment for 540 patients will begin in December 2018. This time, children will be divided into two different studies – those who choose an opioid and those who do not.
Ali aims to make the work fun for those whom she mentors, teaches and conducts research with. “I want students, whether it is research or clinical, to feel excited, inspired and proud of what they are doing. It’s such a privilege to work in medicine. But I also want them to see that, while medicine is beautiful and incredible, it’s not their whole life,” she says.
She credits the accolades that she has received to the team of bright people she collaborates with locally and across the country. Ali is also transforming her research into knowledge that families, physicians and nurses can use. “We’ve been trying to do more public outreach. This is my new area. I’m just starting to learn from these experts across Canada about how best to reach out, to take the results and translate them so they are accessible to everyone,” she says.
Ali hopes the CAPHC award will translate to a national stage for awareness in children’s pain.
“All of a sudden, the public has an interest and there are more funding opportunities and more dollars to put behind improving children’s pain. That’s my ultimate vision,” she says.