Regional health institute marks 3-year milestone of one-of-a-kind Windsor-Essex innovation

Windsor-Essex healthcare and academic institutions are marking three years since they joined together using a one-of-a-kind model designed to elevate health research excellence – an innovative model that has proven to deliver exceptional results.

WE-SPARK Health Institute is an official partnership of Erie Shores HealthCare, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, St. Clair College, the University of Windsor and Windsor Regional Hospital, governed by a Board of Trustees made up of the CEOs of the respective organizations. Its six committees include representatives from across all partner organizations who inform, direct and implement the institute’s strategic priorities of Organizational Effectiveness, Research Excellence, Community Engagement, Knowledge Translation, and Building Capacity.

The seeds of the institute began approximately 13 years ago as a grassroots effort between health researchers and healthcare professionals across the Windsor-Essex region, and after years of planning and consultations, officially launched on March 9th, 2020 during a celebration and signing of a Memorandum of Understanding at the Windsor Club.

In the span of the three years since its launch, WE-SPARK can boast a number of accomplishments. Local health researchers have attracted almost $30M in external funding to the region, included local patients in clinical trials, engaged in almost 700 collaborations, and provided training opportunities for over 1,000 St. Clair College and University of Windsor students on research projects. Through the WE-SPARK grants program, 52 local grants have been awarded totaling almost $1M. The institute holds regular think tanks, conferences and town halls, and publishes newsletters and quarterly and annual impact reports for its many stakeholders and the Windsor-Essex community.

Dr. Lisa Porter, a cancer researcher and distinguished professor at the University of Windsor is WE-SPARK’s executive director, and the visionary behind the institute. The very busy day-to-day operations are run by assistant director Karen Metcalfe, along with a lean but mighty staff.

“Health research has far-reaching benefits,” says Dr. Porter. “It creates an academic culture that attracts and retains the best and brightest in healthcare, keeps our professionals current, supports the best learning experience for students, empowers and educates the community, delivers new therapies, brings in new infrastructure, provides answers to healthcare problems unique to our region, and aids in rapid adoption of the best prevention and care practices. And, data shows that patients treated in institutions that conduct medical research live longer. This is not an advantage that can be reserved for those living only in larger cities: we need and deserve that here in Windsor-Essex.”

On April 20th, WE-SPARK will be hosting its Cheers to Hope event to raise funds for local health research. “We believe that together we can transform health and care of people here in our region” concludes Porter. For more information, please visit: