In 1976, Chuck and Doris Raeside, with tremendous support from the Loyal Order of the Moose #359, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, formed the registered charity first known as the Northwestern Society of Intestinal Research (SIR) to help deal with the loss of their daughter, Gail Raeside, who succumbed to an intense battle with Crohn’s disease at a very young age. The Society started with 27 charter members, including Dr. Frank Anderson, the first chair of the Medical Advisory Council.
In that era, patient-focused care was not the dominant driver in Canadian healthcare. A visit to the doctor could often be an overwhelming experience for a patient, especially on receiving a serious diagnosis. Important information regarding the course and treatment of the disease might appear complex and confusing and a full understanding of the condition could be lost. Therefore, this need for patient resources gave impetus to the Society’s mandate to educate patients, physicians, and the public about digestive health and to raise funds for medical research. This mandate has remained consistent over the years.
It was this gap in patient care that the founding members of the Society sought to address. Dr. Frank Anderson originally wrote several easy-to-read patient information pamphlets and booklets, which remain the backbone of the education component of our mission. Updated regularly, our array of pamphlet topics now covers many digestive topics and we continue to add new titles regularly.
A regular report, in the form of a newsletter, began at the Society’s inception and continued every other month spanning thirty years. Finally in January 1997, following a contest looking for creative inspiration, the newsletter was named The Inside Tract® and were subsequently awarded the registered trademark. This publication now has 10,000-20,000 print copies on a quarterly basis, with a far-reaching online distribution.
Over the years, physicians outside the province of BC also sought our resources for their patients, prompting the Society’s transformation from a BC-only organization to a nationally registered charity with a formal name change to The Canadian Society of Intestinal Research on April 5, 2002. Lawyers completed the final paperwork for the extra-provincial registrations by that Fall.
Virtually every year since its inception, the Society has contributed to gastrointestinal medical research through our granting process. CSIR has also funded continuing medical education courses for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and dietitians.
From the outset, the Society held lectures for the public on specific gastrointestinal diseases and disorders in British Columbia. These popular forums launched outside of the province in October 2001 with the BadGut® Lecture Series in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where we brought together family doctors, gastroenterologists, and many other patient groups for a dinner to explain the upcoming plans. The lecture series that season included a different topic twice a month for seven months covering a full range of digestive conditions. An unequivocal success, we have continued to hold the BadGut® Lecture Series in that city and many other cities and communities throughout the country, partnering with provincial bodies in Ontario, British Columbia, and Manitoba to reach audiences in 26 satellite communities via videoconferencing and many locations live. We will continue to provide these valuable patient forums across the country as funding permits.
A major challenge in this area of healthcare is removing taboos associated with talking about our digestive and bowel processes. In 2003, CSIR collaborated with other groups to have April declared Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness month. Together with Help Fight Liver Disease, National Colorectal Cancer Awareness, and National Nutrition month in March, Hepatitis Awareness month in May, Celiac Awareness month in October, and Crohn’s and Colitis month in November, these form part of Health Canada’s Calendar of Health Related Days and are recognized throughout the health professional community across Canada. Official acknowledgements like this are instrumental in breaking down social stigmas because they provide openings to talk about the conditions. The media regularly consults the Society for our expertise and we continue to push major Canadian publications to publish stories on digestive conditions. Our hope is that this will lead to broader recognition of the need and importance of funding for medical research into digestive diseases and disorders.
In our continued objective to reach all Canadians living with a digestive disease or disorder, CSIR formed a sister registered charity, the GI (Gastrointestinal) Society / Société GI (Gastro-Intestinale) known as the GI Society in 2008, which will be taking over the majority of services offered by CSIR. This allows us to expand our scope and overcome some limitations of our original constitution.
We participate provincially and nationally on issues of importance to the health and wellness of patients with digestive conditions in Canada, from coast-to-coast-to-coast.
While we still have a long way to go, we are proud of the steps we have taken over the past years. We thank all of you who have been with us for all or part of this journey and hope you will continue to walk with us into the future.