IMHA On The Move! - March 2015: In Memory of Cy Frank

Table of Contents

A Message from the Scientific Director

Photo: Cy Frank, 1949-2015.
First Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis.

A highly personal tribute to my friend and colleague, Cy Frank

It is with a heavy heart and much sadness that I write this month’s Scientific Director’s message. The sudden passing of our dear friend and colleague, Cy Frank, has shaken all of us to the core.

I have probably known Cy longer than most who have had the privilege of knowing him and working with him over the years. In the early 70’s, we were medical students together at the University of Calgary. Cy was in the class ahead of mine. We were literally kids in a medical school that was itself in its adolescence. This forward-thinking school was the perfect breeding ground for “out of the box” thinkers and problem solvers like Cy. We shared fun times and serious times together. We played a few hockey games together. I remember he had what is often referred to by goalies as a “heavy” slap shot. In other words, if you had the misfortune of being in the net facing him, you knew it when his shot hit your glove!

I lost track of Cy after we graduated. He pursued a brilliant career in academic orthopedic surgery, establishing himself as a leading researcher in a field that most would agree is not known for producing scientists of his caliber. He was as equally comfortable discussing mesenchymal cell biology with his basic science colleagues as he was discussing models of care for joint arthroplasty with Ministers of Health. He helped establish an exemplary multidisciplinary musculoskeletal research centre, the McCaig Bone and Joint Centre at the University of Calgary, that seamlessly brought together clinical researchers, basic scientists, and biomechanics experts, to name a few.

He was the ideal inaugural Scientific Director for the Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis in the newly-established Canadian Institutes of Health Research. He was given the daunting task of delivering strategic funding opportunities for a mandate that included arthritis, bone, muscle, musculoskeletal rehabilitation, oral health, and skin disease! “Here Cy…see what you can do with these…”

And he did. He developed the famous IMHA cube (see page 3). He put these mandated areas of research together into themes: physical mobility and health, inflammation and tissue repair, pain disability and health. He added knowledge translation. He added ethics. He gave it all a fresh new perspective that all could embrace.

He sought advice everywhere he could. Everyone wanted to work with Cy because he respected them and their perspectives. If he did not think you had a good idea, he did not embarrass you publicly; he would just point out why it was not a good idea without making it a personal attack. He got things done by consensus!

It was at this stage that I reconnected with Cy. I had the privilege of serving on IMHA’s Institute Advisory Board (IAB) under his leadership. We had lots of serious things to do, but also had a lot of fun doing them. The devil’s tail was established: if you made a particularly outrageous statement at a meeting, you got to wear it (along with a set of horns) until someone else made an even more outrageous statement. Why did Denis Morrice seem to wear them most of the time!

One of Cy’s favorite tools for setting research directions and priorities was the consensus conference. One of the first things he did as Scientific Director of IMHA was to collaborate with The Arthritis Society and the Canadian Arthritis Network Centres of Excellence to host an Osteoarthritis Consensus Conference that set the stage for major collaborations and strategic funding in this area. This was followed by a similar consensus conference in Inflammatory Joint Diseases, which I had the privilege of co-chairing. I still recall that after the conference was over, and we had numerous notebooks and flipcharts full of information, Cy insisted on keeping the key organizers behind for an extra half day on Saturday to make sense of the input. That made all the difference. We made sense of the chaos, and out of it we developed funding opportunities.

Two years ago, I had the privilege of being appointed the Scientific Director of IMHA. No sooner had I hung up the phone after speaking with Alain Beaudet and accepting the position, than I picked it up again and called Cy: “What do you think? Where should we go with IMHA now?” True to his name, he was “frank”. In his typical clear yet diplomatic manner, he let me know the strengths and weaknesses of the Institute, and areas that may be the most productive. He agreed to continue to help in any way he could, and I took him up on his offer!

In 2013, in conjunction with IMHA’s dedicated IAB, we began to develop a new Strategic Plan for the Institute. We organized a terrific brainstorming session in Vancouver in March of 2014 and brought together stakeholders from all over Canada, along with a number of international experts. At the end of the day, as he has always done so well, Cy brought it all together. He talked about one of his favorite topics: return on investment and performance measurement. He had chaired a committee for the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences that produced a thoughtful and timely report on this topic. The principles outlined in the report have since been adopted by CIHR as a whole in its evolving performance measurement regime. He gave us great advice as we developed our strategic plan and debated how we were to assess success down the road: “Be careful what you measure,” he said, “because that is what you will get.”

Photo: “Be careful what you measure because that is what you will get.” Cy Frank at IMHA’s strategic plan development meeting in Vancouver, March, 2014.IMHA staff, IAB members and Research Ambassadors listen attentively.

A few weeks ago when I heard that Cy had passed away suddenly, I was incredulous. I wandered around trying to understand this, but I still really cannot…how could he be gone when we can still feel his presence and impact all around us? There is an old Egyptian saying when someone passes away… “The rest is in your life.” This saying gives me comfort in knowing that the rest is truly in our lives. It will be up to us to carry on his legacy and his vision.

Cy, we will miss you.

Hani El-Gabalawy MD FRCPC
Scientific Director
CIHR Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis

A Message from Jane E. Aubin

I first met Cy as a colleague within the Canadian Arthritis Network (CAN) but, for me, he grew to be much more. His passion for transforming the paradigm from research for new knowledge to evidence for better health care for Canadians was built upon an enthusiasm for knowledge exploitation and translation that was always grounded in compassion – attributes I respected and admired. He brought these same attributes to his role as IMHA’s inaugural Scientific Director. By his quiet certitude, he led the “motley crew” comprising the first IMHA IAB to a new collective vision. I use “motley crew” advisedly, as we were all equally passionate and equally opinionated about our own research and the directions we felt IMHA and CIHR should go – bringing us to a collective and enduring vision was no small feat! Cy was also a leader within CIHR and within the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences in developing a performance measurement and return on investment framework that continues to position IMHA, CIHR and others for meaningful analyses of the impact of health research investments.

Beyond CAN and IMHA, Cy and I worked together as peer reviewers, workshop speakers, conference organizers, steering and advisory group members and trusted advisors. His thoughtful, challenging but gentle critique and prodding will be much missed. My hope is that we will all, but most especially his family, take solace in knowing that Cy made a huge and lasting difference in the IMHA community and in the Canadian and international health research and health care scenes.

Jane E. Aubin, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer
Vice-President, Research, Knowledge Translation and Ethics
Research, Knowledge Translation and Ethics Portfolio (RKTE)
Canadian Institutes of Health Research


A legacy of strategic training, KT and oral health research

By Richard Ellen

Shortly after the institutes were launched in 2000, CIHR developed an entirely novel direction in support of research training. Until that time, with the exception of a training program in dental research, CIHR’s predecessor The Medical Research Council (MRC) had depended almost exclusively on the award of individual fellowships. The Request for Applications (RFA) that announced the new CIHR Strategic Training Initiative in Health Research (STIHR) was revolutionary, calling for ‘transdisciplinary’ programs and encouraging applicants to develop training networks that bridged research disciplines, departments, and universities, and that included non-profit and commercial sectors as well as international partners. Applicants were also charged with submitting business plans for how their programs would become financially self-sufficient. Confusion and uncertainty reigned.

With Cy Frank’s encouragement, IMHA’s Institute Advisory Board (IAB) recognized a great need for training in research fields crucial for achieving IMHA’s research priorities. In the first peer-reviewed STIHR competition, a diverse set of training programs were funded, some through IMHA’s strategic budget, supplemented by contributions from IMHA stakeholders, and some entirely through CIHR’s central budget. Cy recognized intuitively that developing direct contact among the STIHRs’ directors and administrative assistants to share best practices, would advance the experience of IMHA trainees and boost the competitiveness of the STIHRs that came under IMHA’s umbrella. These meetings helped establish cross-disciplinary awareness among some of the key leaders in IMHA’s disparate research foci. Cy drove us to teach each other how to best approach the transdisciplinary, knowledge translation, and research ethics aspects of our mandate and to consider how we could measure success of our training efforts. During Cy’s term as Scientific Director, IMHA invested a significant portion of its limited strategic budget in training.

Knowledge translation (KT) became another entirely new direction for the institutes to develop. Cy Frank stepped up as a stimulating and engaging advocate for including patient groups and other key stakeholders in the design and promotion of IMHA’s considerable KT effort. Cy’s strong support for KT taught IMHA trainees, who were preparing to become the next generation of research leaders, to appreciate and learn how to apply the principles of KT in their research activities. Cy Frank projected unique enthusiasm for developing new, exemplary KT education tools. Perhaps the most encompassing and colourful example was a novel, high impact graphic design, IMHA’s knowledge translation ‘CUBE’. Through one easy-to-understand figure, audiences could appreciate the relationship of IMHA’s six research foci, how they worked together to illustrate how research inform various KT outcomes that would improve the public’s health IQ and musculoskeletal health - all on a foundation of ethical research practices. Typical Cy: the thought and the creativity that went into the CUBE propelled the cliché ‘outside the box’ to an entirely new dimension.

Though his own clinical practice and research were grounded in IMHA’s highest profile field of arthritis, Cy Frank became a tireless, equal-opportunity champion for all of IMHA’s communities. For example, at the outset, the oral health community was very wary of its status within the CIHR and the institute structure. The profession of dentistry had a long history of working at the margins of medicine. Key identification words such as ‘dental’ and ‘oral health’ had been dropped from the proposed institute name by the CIHR Council, and oral health had but one investigator, the late James Lund, named to the inaugural IMHA IAB. The oral health community had a strong record in connective and mineralized tissue research but how would IMHA accommodate its other strengths in salivary physiology, neuroscience, infection and immunity, biomaterials, and dental health services? At the first ‘IMHA on the Move’ gathering in Calgary, Cy Frank to the rescue. He scheduled an upbeat talk on highlights in oral health research right after the opening welcome by the CIHR President. The audience was receptive, and awareness of the breadth of oral health research began to grow like prairie grass.

Cy urged the IAB to support an oral health planning conference that identified key needs and strategic research directions, and at which he established direct contact with the new scientific director of NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, who presented the keynote address. Upon the first IAB renewal cycle, two additional investigators from the oral health community were appointed: Lois Cohen, to develop cross-border collaboration with NIH, and clinician-scientist, Richard Ellen. This sent a huge positive message to the oral health community. He assigned Ellen additional IAB duties, 1) tracking all sources of oral health research funding in Canada, and 2) acting as liaison between the IAB and the IMHA staff communications officer. These steps served to increase the frequency of discussion of business items specific to oral health at IAB meetings. The boost in visibility was a real boon to the oral health research community.

The role of a scientific director is to listen and to direct wisely, both among Cy’s strengths. Cy was well-recognized for his penchant for measuring outcomes. After every CIHR grant review cycle, his IAB reviewed the competitive record for IMHA investigators overall, and summaries for each of the IMHA research foci. These metrics were graphed and presented in a way that could be compared longitudinally. Notably, in the early years of CIHR and IMHA, the outcomes for oral health research grant applications in the open competition improved markedly. The results compared favourably to the other IMHA foci, and oral health investigators were well-represented among IMHA’s annual top research awardees. Cy propagated the ‘buzz’ that the oral health community may be small, but it is excellent. The oral health research community’s success in 1) research training; 2) initiating high quality, cross-focus collaboration to address IMHA’s research priorities; and 3) finding a proactive voice that advocated for IMHA grew from Cy Frank’s inclusive nature and wisdom. Initial doubts gave way to trust. Today, the inclusion of oral health research on the IMHA team is an accepted fact, a natural fit. For his enormous contributions, Cy was awarded honorary membership in the International Association for Dental Research, a global organization of over 11,000 members, which appoints, at most, one such honorary member per year. Typical for Cy, his acceptance speech was one of gratitude and grace.

Friends and Colleagues Remember

Past and present members of IMHA’s Institute Advisory Board and the IMHA community of stakeholders shared with us an outpouring of thoughts and memories of our respected and beloved friend and colleague, Cy Frank. We include here a few of them to remember the impact he had on the development of this Institute and its work, and on health care in Canada.

Bringing a Disparate Community Together

When Minister of Health, Allan Rock, announced that the MRC [Medical Research Council of Canada] would be transformed to the CIHR with [a number of separate] institutes, the arthritis community turned to the incredible Dr. Cy Frank for help.

Dr. Frank immediately noted that “arthritis” would not get an institute on its own and in typical Cy fashion he brought together the leading researchers in Rheumatology, Orthopaedics, Dermatology and Oral Health.

I vividly remember the first meeting of IMHA and thinking “There is no friggin’ way we are going to get these intelligent, passionate, type A, disparate group of researchers to agree on anything.” Then Dr. Frank’s magic was put into play. He was a good hockey player and his favorite NHL player being Bobby Orr, one could see the same level of finesse at work.

Hazel Wood of Bone and Joint Canada recalled the many agenda items for B&JC and Dr. Frank saying to her: “ ‘Distill our long list of goals into three priorities,’ and then he helped us to get down to three that all agreed were the priorities. He talked about doing that in his own career, picking a path and then drilling down to get really good at a few things.”

It was always a good feeling travelling to an IMHA meeting knowing that positive decisions would get made. They were always dynamic meetings with lots of debate, some yelling, definitely full participation (no choice), and then collaborative decision making. He was the master of priority setting and consensus building.

Cy was a true visionary and we were always amazed at his “outside the box” thinking. His quiet humour had a way of disarming any defensiveness and making you feel that everyone was an equal member of the team.

Those of us that crossed paths with him were blessed and enriched.

Denis Morrice
IMHA Advisory Board Member (2001-2009)

I feel so privileged to have known and worked with Cy and the remarkable group of people who gathered at Emerald Lake in 2001 to plan, strategize, argue, play, debate and ultimately come together as a team. Cy was an inspiration – how could someone bring together individuals who were fierce champions for their particular research island to work together? I remember thinking, “This will never work, our areas are too disparate, we’re all too siloed,” and then marvelling at Cy’s ability to listen, to demonstrate the links, to articulate the bigger vision. And I saw him be a fierce champion of IMHA at the CIHR table, but at the same time fostering links and collaboration. He gave of himself 100% all the time – his loss is immeasurable.

Juliette E. Cooper
IMHA Advisory Board Member (2001-2007)

I did not know Cy very well, but I did have the privilege to meet him at several IMHA and CAN events and even work together with him in a couple of “small group” breakout sessions. I was truly impressed by his intellect, knowledge, and practicality. He was a true gentleman who was passionate about bone and joint health, health research and organization of healthcare. He leaves a powerful legacy: his accomplishments and ideas will, no doubt, serve to guide us in improving the life of Canadians.

Debbie Feldman
IMHA Advisory Board Member (2010-present)

For the People: Knowledge Translation and Improving Patient Care

I met Cy in 2004 at the inaugural gathering of the IMHA Knowledge Exchange Task Force (KETF) - a dynamic and innovative consumer (patient) centred team under the leadership of Cy (IMHA Scientific Director) and Flora Dell (KETF Chair).

As KETF "research ambassadors," we were empowered to link IMHA with the grassroots communities that we represented to ensure that research important to patients and the public was undertaken and that its’ findings were implemented to improve health services and patient outcomes.

Cy was a visionary – a quiet and confident leader who worked diligently to build research capacity and evidence informed health care in Canada. He will be deeply missed by the Canadian arthritis community, and beyond.

Mary Brachaniec
IMHA KETF Member (2004-present)

It was an honour to work with Cy and be a part of IMHA from its inception. During his tenure Dr. Frank, our leader, worked tirelessly to achieve so much in the field of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis scientific research. He furthered and encouraged the inclusion of Trainees. His desire to ensure the distribution of scientific knowledge resulted in the development of the IMHA Research Ambassadors to further the Transfer of Knowledge and Exchange. Cy, we are so sad, we miss you – and, dear friend, what a wonderful legacy you leave.

Flora M. Dell
IMHA KETF Chair and Advisory Board Member (2001-2006)

Cy Frank was a surgeon and scientist par excellence: a role model to all, a gentle giant professionally and a man in a million. He transformed orthopaedic practice to treat patients more quickly and effectively and how research in Canada is conducted with much more focus and ability to improve patient care.

Following a vision, he created what is now, a world famous orthopaedic research centre, the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health in Calgary where he brought together musculoskeletal scientists and clinicians to work together to achieve goals beyond their individual abilities: its contributions in research and teaching have been considerable. With IMHA he took this approach to the national level, complementing and expanding to other fields, the work already underway following the creation of the Canadian Arthritis Network (CAN) with which I was deeply involved.

Cy was a delight to work with in all sorts of collaborative projects, from establishing IMHA, where he worked tirelessly to make it what it is today, to creating and hosting in Banff, with yours truly, the first and very successful International Conference of National orthopaedic Research Societies, then involving Canada, USA and Japan. Under his leadership, IMHA and CAN, with the support of The Arthritis Society, went on to create a National Osteoarthritis Initiative in Canada.

Cy’s approach, commitment and vision made this possible. He was a born leader, one of the nicest people you could meet, a joy to work with and always available to those seeking his wise counsel no matter who they were. He was never confrontational but always listened to others and stood up for his beliefs. His contributions are legendary and worthy of the highest honour that Canada can bestow on this great man. We have lost a national treasure. My heart goes out to his family at this time of mourning. He has left us a legacy that has made Canada a world leader in musculoskeletal research and orthopaedics.

Robin Poole
IMHA Advisory Board Member (2001-2004)
Co-Founder and Scientific Director Emeritus, CAN

Border Crossings: International Impact

At National Institutes of Health (NIH), we are very sad as we share the news about the loss of our colleague and partner, Cy Frank. He brought NIH representatives onto the IMHA Advisory Board to bridge our borders to advance our mutual initiatives in science. He did that with his gentle diplomacy and as others have mentioned, his extraordinary vision that global health science is in each of our nation’s interests. As a kind and thoughtful human being, he was a treasured friend who will be missed, but also remembered because he was a role model of how a leader should lead: always listening, learning, mentoring and creating anew. Reaching out to NIH exemplifies Cy’s leadership qualities of outreach, collegiality and inclusiveness.

His first board was a model of different perspectives and he always encouraged healthy argument and only rarely awarded a red devil’s tail to a member misbehaving! This latter should indicate just part of how he made the serious work of “standing up” a new institute fun. He motivated every member of the board to think outside the box while bringing all their previous exposures to the work and decisions of the Board. I can’t express how much this experience helped me in my work at NIH and how much Cy influenced my own leadership style.

When my service ended and Cy invited Dr. Lois Cohen from the National Institute on Dental and Craniofacial Research, he not only covered another of the important scientific and medical areas, but kept the relationship with NIH. In addition, with Lois’ appointment he brought a wealth of NIH grants administration experience, as well as, international collaborative expertise. Lois and I are so sad, but so grateful to have known Cy. Canada has surely lost a national treasure.

Joan A. McGowan
IMHA Advisory Board Member (2001-2004)
Director, Division of Musculoskeletal Diseases
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Institutes of Health

Lois K. Cohen
IMHA Advisory Board Member (2004-2009)
Consultant & Paul G. Rogers Ambassador for Global Health Research
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
National Institutes of Health

Photo Gallery: Remembering Cy Frank

Photo: Osteoarthritis New Emerging Teams (OA NETs) announcement.

Photo: Knowledge Exchange Task Force (KETF) members, 2005.

For more photos of Cy Frank visit page 6 of the PDF version of this newsletter.

External Links

Cy Frank’s life and work had a profound impact on health research in Canada. Some links to further remembrances of his life are here:

Funding Opportunities

For a full listing of CIHR funding opportunities, please visit the ResearchNet website.

Program Name: Operating Grant: eHealth Innovation Partnership Program (eHIPP)
Sponsor(s): Institute of Health Services and Policy Research (IHSPR), Institute of Aging (IA), Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (INMHA) and the Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health (IHDCYH) in collaboration with the National Research Council-Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP)
Deadline to Register: April 1, 2015
Application Deadline: June 3, 2015

Program Name: Knowledge Synthesis Grant: Spring 2015 Competition
Sponsor(s): CIHR Science, Knowledge Translation and Ethics Branch
Deadline: May 15, 2015

Program Name: Operating Grant : Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (2016 Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) Program Competition)
Sponsor(s): Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE)
Deadline (Phase 2 Application): August 28, 2015

Meetings of Interest

3rd World Congress on Controversies, Debates & Consensus in Bone, Muscle & Joint Diseases
April 23-26,
2015 Montreal, QC
(Abstracts due: January 20, 2015)

Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT/ACE) Congress 2015
May 27-30, 2015
Winnipeg, MB

21st Canadian Connective Tissue Conference 2015
May 28-30, 2015
Université Laval, Québec City, QC

28th Annual Canadian Student Health Research Forum
June 2 – 4, 2015
Winnipeg, MB

23rd World Congress of Dermatology
June 8-13, 2015
Vancouver, BC

EULAR Rome 2015
June 10-13, 2015
Rome, Italy

4th International Conference on Orthopedics & Rheumatology
October 26-28, 2015
Baltimore, Maryland, USA

American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting
November 6-11, 2015
San Francisco, CA

Military and Veteran Health Research Forum (MVHR)
November 23-25, 2015
Quebec City

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