Dr. Jaime Blackwood
Job title: Pediatric Critical Care Physician, Alberta Children’s Hospital
Why she's a 2016 Top 40:
Dr. Blackwood spearheaded the creation of Alberta Children’s Hospital’s Extracorporeal Life Support program, which has saved the lives of 28 children since 2011.
photograph by Jared Sych. photographed at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary.
Even as a young child, Dr. Jaime Blackwood knew she wanted to help people as a doctor. Today, she does just that as a Pediatric Critical Care Physician at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, where she spends her days working with children in a unit she says can be “one of the happiest places [and] one of the saddest places, too.
“I like when people don’t know exactly what my job is, because it means that they’ve never had a child so ill that they’ve needed to come to me,” Blackwood says. “I don’t ever want someone to need me, but, if they do, we’re there and we’re all focused, dedicated and doing our best.”
At the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), Blackwood provides hands-on, life-saving care to critically ill children suffering from conditions such as cancer, infections and organ failure — all while managing the unit’s multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists.
Blackwood is also the director of the hospital’s Extracorporeal Life Support (ECLS) program, which she spearheaded in 2009. While children previously had to travel to Edmonton for the life-saving therapy, Calgary is now home to the country’s largest and most-established ECLS program in a pediatric hospital without an accompanying pediatric cardiac surgery program.
ECLS is used as a last resort for children suffering from heart or lung failure, and is similar to putting a person on bypass so they can try to recover. Since 2011, the program has saved the lives of 28 children at ACH who would have died without it.
“We had children who came in really sick because their heart was failing or their lungs were failing, and [we knew] that if they had ECLS, it might give them a better option,” Blackwood says. “We knew that we wanted to be able to offer the best of the best to the kids of Calgary, and we needed ECLS to be able to do that.”
Blackwood and the ECLS team have already expanded the program beyond the PICU so it can benefit children in the hospital’s operating rooms, the emergency department and the neonatal intensive care unit, as well. They’re aiming to have it available to the entire hospital by the end of 2016.
“I truly think my job is a privilege,” Blackwood says. “It’s tough, it asks a lot of me and of my family, but it is absolutely a privilege to do what I do.” — Alana Willerton