Dr. Andrew Chan: Innovator, researcher and a conduit for dynamic partnerships

Dr. Andrew Chan

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” baseball legend Yogi Berra once quipped. For Dr. Andrew Chan, it was a choice between pursuing a residency after completing medical school and a career in engineering. Fortunately, he’s now in a position where he experiences the best of both worlds as senior program lead, research and innovation, at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton.

The facility primarily treats stroke and spinal cord injury patients and has a specialized geriatrics unit. His work focuses on research and innovation, collaborating with clinicians to develop solutions for problems that arise. He’s the conduit where academic partners, industry, research, physicians and patients connect. Or, as Dr. Chan puts it, “I see what products we can create to make life easier for patients.”

He sowed the seeds for his current career path as an undergrad studying mechanical engineering at the University of Alberta. The co-op program introduced him to what was then called the Glenrose Research Centre.

“I thought their approach was unique,” says Dr. Chan. “Many innovations come from engineers who they think will work, but in a clinical setting, they don’t. On the clinician side, they’re so focused on problems that they don’t have enough time to think of solutions. At Glenrose, those two groups could come together and make stuff happen. And I thought, ‘This is something I’d like to be a part of.’”

“The biggest thing I appreciate about AGE-WELL is how practical they are…AGE-WELL’s approach is very much person-focused, which, for aging, is important.”
Dr. Andrew Chan


After finishing his PhD, his path eventually led him back to Glenrose where he can be “a jack of all trades,” gather input from various stakeholders, and synthesize it into a broader, solution-driven strategy. Dr. Chan’s role also means having opportunities to get students involved in research and help them understand why so many products fail. They’ve shown a talent for innovative solutions.

For example, a student team was able to help an older gentleman who had trouble maintaining a steady grip on his walker. One hand kept slipping off, causing him to fall. They designed a support mechanism to attach to his walker using a 3D printer. It was a $20 solution, which allowed him to walk independently again. “It was life-changing,” says Dr. Chan. “Sometimes, it’s the simple things that can make a big difference.”

His interest in innovation lines up nicely with AGE-WELL, which he learned about when he was working with the Program to Accelerate Technologies for Homecare (PATH), an AGE-WELL research project involving testing and implementation of technologies to support aging in place. He went on to complete AGE-WELL’s EPIC training program in March 2023.

“The biggest thing I appreciate about AGE-WELL is how practical they are,” he explains. “I’ve been to conferences that are too technical or too clinical. AGE-WELL’s approach is very much person-focused, which, for aging, is important. Innovation starts with the needs of an individual, then the evidence for efficacy and clinical trials builds from there.”

As he creates new tools to improve patients’ lives, his family is on his mind. He saw firsthand how dementia affected his grandmother. It has helped inspire his future goals, which include advancing Edmonton as a hub for strong academic research and product development alongside Canadian companies, and ensuring Glenrose is at the centre of this dynamic ecosystem. As Dr. Chan notes, “The grassroots innovations that can come from these partnerships would be very powerful.”