Deborah J. Cook

Distinguished University Professor of the Departments of Medicine, and of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact of McMaster University; Fellow, Canadian Academy of Health Sciences; Fellow, Royal Society of Canada; Officer, Order of Canada; critical care physician of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton
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For pioneering research that has developed and defined evidence-based critical care medicine in Canada, informing best practices around the world.

The Work:

As the foremost authority in critical care medicine and health research methodology, Dr. Cook’s 30-year contributions to the design and the conduct of practice-changing clinical studies have led to major improvements in the care of hospital’s sickest patients. Her multi-method multi-disciplinary research interests include advanced life support, prevention of ICU-acquired complications, research ethics and end-of-life care.

She has addressed complex ethical challenges as patients receiving technology transition from life to death through the internationally-adopted ‘3 Wishes Project’. This unique inter-professional model of end-of-life care encourages clinicians with different backgrounds to improve the dying experience for hospitalized patients by honouring their lives, easing family grief, and fostering humanism in practice. The 3 Wishes Project helps to identify and meet the needs of patients dying in hospital by eliciting and fulfilling final meaningful wishes for them, which has proven particularly helpful during the pandemic as family visits are limited for hospitalized patients, including those at the end-of-life.

Dr. Cook was a founding member of the first successful critical care research collaboration in the world – the Canadian Critical Care Trials Group – which flourished under her leadership as chair and champion of patient-centred investigator-initiated research.

The Impact:

Dr. Cook’s research has helped to alleviate the enormous human and economic costs of critical illness for patients, families, healthcare systems and society. Dr. Cook has designed and conducted several landmark national and international studies on how best to prevent common and often lethal complications of critical illness such as blood clots, lung infections and gastrointestinal bleeding, providing key evidence for reviews and guidelines used at the bedside worldwide. She has passionately improved the field of critical care, reducing morbidity and saving lives in the ICU, impacting critical care practice across the globe. She has also championed compassionate end-of-life care models that impact families, patients and care providers.

Over her career, Dr. Cook has garnered dozens of national and international honours recognizing her outstanding contributions to critical care research. Her research focuses on creating measurable health, social and economic benefits for patients needing advanced life support. Her pioneering research has transformed critical care medicine and has had an enduring global impact on patients, practice, and policy.