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Respirologist Making a Difference in Thunder Bay

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Dr. Birubi Biman

Dr. Birubi Biman recognized with Board of Directors’ Award 

The people of Thunder Bay are breathing a little easier because of Dr. Birubi Biman.

For the past 25 years, Dr. Biman has been Thunder Bay’s sole general respirologist, serving a community with a much higher burden of lung disease than other parts of the province. Throughout her career, Dr. Biman has treated many complex and rare clinical cases, including blastomycosis and interstitial lung disease.

At the May meeting of CPSO’s Board of Directors, Dr. Biman was recognized for her extraordinary commitment to lung disease treatment, education and research, all performed in a manner described by her colleagues as compassionate and culturally informed.

Dr. Biman provides care at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. She also provides clinical service to patients from other rural, remote, under-served communities in Northern Ontario, including many Indigenous communities. 

“The quality and quantity of Dr. Biman’s care and leadership are felt intensely throughout communities in Northwestern Ontario.”

Dr. Biman has been instrumental in developing and maintaining several outpatient programs, including the Chronic Ventilation Program and Clinic, the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder Clinic and the Northwestern Ontario Asthma Clinic. 

Dr. Biman’s commitment to Thunder Bay is evident, and although she was not born or raised there, her upbringing – first in northern Australia, followed by northern Quebec and Elliot Lake – led her to develop an affinity for rural, remote communities.

Dr. Biman attended the University of Ottawa’s medical school, where she met her future husband, Dr. Harshad Telang. While she did her residency at McMaster, he completed his in Thunder Bay, where they settled in 1999. 

“We both wanted to do clinical work, but we also envisioned a life of teaching and mentoring, and we saw the new school as an opportunity to be a part of building a strong medical community,” she said. 

The prospect of working in a community which would soon have a medical school is what cemented the decision to move to the region. 

And when the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (now known as NOSM University), opened in 2005, Drs. Biman and Telang became an integral part of it. Today, Dr. Biman is Section Chair, Internal Medicine, and Dr. Telang is Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs.

Dr. Biman has received seven teaching awards throughout her career. A former resident, Dr. Azadeh Mofid, remembers how she would look forward to the Tuesday afternoons when Dr. Biman would share her love of the “detective work” that had made respirology so compelling to her as a learner. 

“We would pick some challenging cases that were interesting from a learning perspective, and [Dr. Biman] would lead interactive discussions and teach us how to interpret investigations such as imaging, labs and breathing tests,” remembers Dr. Mofid. 

A love of sleuthing has fuelled Dr. Biman’s interest in research, including determining whether hyperpolarized gas MRI can be used to improve imaging for asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary embolism and lung cancer. In producing high-quality images that make physiological processes visible, Dr. Biman says the technology offers promise in helping test and evaluate new treatments.

Dr. Barbara Zelek, Head of the Clinical Sciences Division at NOSM University, was one of Dr. Biman’s nominators for this award.

“The quality and quantity of Dr. Biman’s care and leadership are felt intensely throughout communities in Northwestern Ontario,” she said.