CBR Member Feature: Dr. Andrew Shih

By Wayne Zhao, PhD Student, Devine Lab     

Dr. Andrew Shih is a staff hematopathologist at Vancouver General Hospital. He is also the Medical Director and Regional Medical Leader of Transfusion Medicine at Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. Dr. Shih recently joined the Centre for Blood Research at UBC and I was honoured to interview and welcome him as a new member of the CBR.

Could you tell us about your research interest?

Dr. Andrew Shih

My research interest started at McMaster University where I worked on projects such as red blood cell genotyping to improve transfusions in sickle cell disease patients. I have also conducted research on the quality differences between different methods of production. Now, as I’ve transitioned from being a hematologist to practicing transfusion medicine exclusively, I have developed an even broader interest in transfusion related research. I have been interested in using “big data” to make transfusion practice more data-driven.  Transfusion in specialized populations who need it most, such as trauma and transplant patients, has been some of the focus of my most recent work.  I believe even to this day, many transfusion practices are not evidence based and therefore, I believe more research into clinical transfusion outcomes is needed to improve and standardize practice.

What is Transfusion Boot Camp and how are you involved with it?

I first was a trainee learning in the Transfusion Boot Camp when I was a fellow at McMaster University. Transfusion Boot Camp is a program/initiative designed to bring medical trainees together to learn about transfusion. The bootcamp, which began at the University of Toronto, has been successfully hosted throughout Canada and the rest of the world. Dr. Jacqueline Trudeau, a transfusion medicine physician/anesthesiologist, first introduced the Boot Camp to British Columbia. Here in BC, I am a seminar leader for the Boot Camp. I provide trainees with up-to-date and essential knowledge of transfusion. I would like to extend my thanks to the CBR which has been a huge supporter of the Boot Camp. The CBR provides administrative support, organization of transfusion medicine experts across the province to lead seminars, as well as learning materials such as case print-outs, answer cards, and tally sheets to make the Boot Camp as successful as it is today.  I’m hoping to expand this with the help of my colleagues to other medical providers, such as nurse practitioners and paramedics.

Dr. Shih posing with his winning ‘uplifting’ photo from a contest to decorate new VGH elevators

What do you see in the future of transfusion medicine?

There has been a progressive decrease in the usage of many traditional blood products such as red blood cells but increases in demand from specialized patient populations such as trauma, transplant, and others requiring chronic transfusion such as hemoglobinopathy patients.  Research into specialized transfusion services are needed to improve patient outcome and demonstrate the value of blood to patient care.

To make sure all patients are indeed getting the best care from transfusion, I am in support of hospitals implementing the idea of transfusion appropriateness as a care quality measure, where transfusion occurs with best practice recommendations.  I also believe that we need to strengthen the connections between lab and clinical services, where I’ve had the unique viewpoint of practicing in both settings.

Finally, I envision that we can use computer simulation to best predict blood inventory to reduce product wastage while preventing blood shortages. This idea was pioneered by my predecessor Dr. David Pi. Using a mathematical model, we can predict product usage based on previous experience and model the optimal state.  This was done at Vancouver General Hospital and improved already excellent wastage rates from outdating.  I believe this may be even more critical for platelet units where the shelf life is only 7 days and therefore there are the highest risks for supply issues.

Trip to Cape Town | Photo credit: Andrew Shih

What are your favourite things to do outside of the lab?

I enjoy hiking, camping, photography, and travelling. I love going to places that have very distinct cultures compared to here. During my residency I went on a backpacking trip to Vietnam and I really enjoyed it. Since then I have been to Iceland, Japan, China, Greece, the Scandinavian countries, England, France, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Brazil, and Argentina. Next on the agenda for me is probably Ireland or Cambodia.  I’m also a huge music buff and wine/scotch/beer snob!