Nova Scotia doctor fights to save research project

A Halifax cardiologist is fighting to clear her name are resume her research.

A Halifax cardiologist is fighting to clear her name and get on with research she believes could save lives.

Dr. Gabrielle Horne is an award-winning researcher who works for both Dalhousie University and the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre.

Last October, the hospital changed her status, meaning she can't recruit research patients there anymore.

Horne says heart disease is the number one reason Canadians are admitted to hospital. She's looking for a way to prevent or treat heart disease by using x-rays or ultrasounds to study the walls of people's hearts.

Her research was approved, and re-approved, by the hospital's research ethics board. But last fall, an unnamed person expressed concerns and the hospital took action immediately.

Dr. Judy Kazmirsky, the hospital's vice-president, defends what she describes as pre-emptive measures. "The only issue that will trigger a review is an issue of patient care. And that is what we're addressing," she said.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has come to Horne's defence. Executive director Jim Turk says the association has established an independent committee to investigate what it believes could be a violation of academic freedom.

"Here's an outstanding researcher doing important work, whose research was seriously interfered with for a period of five months."

The Canadian Association of University Teachers was also involved in the high-profile case of Dr. Nancy Olivieri, the researcher at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto who was threatened with legal action by a drug company wanting to stop her from publishing research findings.

Olivieri's six-year ordeal ended when the association helped broker a settlement between her, the hospital and the university.