2017 Highlights

Thank you for your ongoing support of Respiratory Therapy by Farzad (Respiratory Blog).   The intent for this blog has been to support the RT community, to assist in its growth, to celebrate the influential individuals, to share advice and perspective of experts,  and to share my own personal journey in this field.  I feel honoured that many individuals have allowed me to share their perspective.  While there are many posts, I would like to highlight some of the popular ones from this year (2017).

March   Advice from a personal Trainer for HCP -Keerthanan Kugathasan

April  Advice from a Nutritionist for HCP

May  Advice from a Chiropodist for HCP -Piyush Jadav

July   Influential people: Dr. Mika Nonoyama

August   Thank You Christiane 
and  The  Journey Back to Acute Care -Viral Patel 

September   PFT Symposium 2017

October  Working as an RT- Mieke Fraser
and          CPAP Gentleman – Andrew Wroblewski

November   COPD- Sheery Tso

December   Eric Cheng and RTWB


Eric Cheng and Respiratory Therapists Without Borders

Respiratory Therapists Without Borders (RTWB) is a volunteer organization with the mission to “improve respiratory health through educational advancement of local healthcare providers worldwide” (RTWB.ca). This global organization is co-founded by Mr. Eric Cheng.  RTWB works with Healthcare Education Partners (HEPs) around the world (RTWB Prezi).  He accepted my invitation to talk and to answer few questions.

Google Maps:  http://goo.gl/LTHHO

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?  How did you hear about the respiratory field and what made you decide to become an RT?

Growing up, I never thought I would do anything in the medical field. Born to a family of engineers, no one could stand the sight of blood – literally. My father and grandfather would faint at the sight of blood. But as a systems design engineering student, I had the privilege to do a co-op term at Princess Margaret Hospital (Ontario Cancer Institute) where I was exposed to animal models to verify imaging hardware. I always had an interest to work directly with people. So naturally after a failed academic term in engineering made the transition to respiratory therapy and kinesiology.


Outside of work, what do you enjoy to do?

I love my family. We can be found roaming around Port Moody in Beautiful British Columbia where we live, work and play. We do everything from stalking garbage trucks to exploring local trails or just hanging out. There is no shortage of world-class mountain biking trails to explore here too.


What were some aspects about yourself that you had to improve to  become a better RT/leader/ an RTWB-Contributor and Co-founder?

Interesting question, I’ve never really been a fan of the leadership title. I’ve been trained that “patient care in a privilege”. As such, we are to stand in the gap as patient advocates. The lives of my patients and people that we service through RTWB has taught me to be a more passionate/strategic advocate for patients – not just in resource limited settings, but also in our current healthcare system. I’m continuing to learn daily how to navigate various healthcare systems in order to improve the quality of care available.


Where do you see the future of the Respiratory Therapy field?

Great question! I believe that the future of healthcare will be led by those in the developing world. Developed world healthcare systems are often not as dynamic and flexible to the ever changing demands of our world. With technological advances, collecting data for best clinical practises is increasingly becoming easier and more accurate. Along with this will be challenge to stay current. Clinical teams need to be agile and quick to adopt practises/workflows at an ever increasing pace. The lack of structure and unfathomable demands of healthcare systems in the developing world make them highly adaptive ready to embrace emerging technologies to excel leaps and bounds. An example from the telecommunications sector: villagers who have never seen motorized transport or used a landline, are adept users of smartphones now readily available globally. Healthcare providers are now able to get latest research at their fingertips.


What is the story behind the birth of RTWB?

I wanted to volunteer on a medical mission of some sort. Medcines Sans Frontiers (Doctors without borders) at that time listed respiratory therapist as people not to contact for volunteer opportunities. This pained me along with Annette Lievaart (RRT in Edmonton), Clement Hui (SRT in Toronto) and Pauley Ting (Engineering classmate of mine). Together we met on Skype for the first time in 2010. We still have yet to all meet in person; but we have done board meetings in 3 different continents in 4 different time zones. With our mission of ‘improving respiratory health through educational advancement of local healthcare providers worldwide’ solidified, we’ve kept an open invitation to anyone and everyone interested in joining our cause to be empowered. Our team includes everyone from student and seasoned respiratory therapists to accountants/engineers/business professionals to vacationers who want to transport goods for us. We are a completely volunteer run organization with a clear vision and open door to anyone/everyone interested in improving respiratory care worldwide.


What is a typical day for you (as a leader at RTWB)?

As a completely volunteer run organization, everyone puts in whatever they can with spare moments. It is a charity for all respiratory therapists. We believe that every respiratory therapist has something to offer and my job is to facilitate opportunities for respiratory therapists to give back using our expert skills, knowledge and judgement. Getting back to your question, we have an excellent team of talented volunteer professionals making work light and fun.


Do does your organization find remote hospitals to help, or hospitals/clinics approach you/your organization?

Both, we’ve approached places and others have come to us. All healthcare education partners (HEPs) must be reputable healthcare establishments with a documented respiratory education gap. Some of our volunteers have signed on HEPs while on vacation and others have found us on the internet.


What are some of the current projects that RTWB is working on?

A list of deployment opportunities is available at www.rtwb.ca -> Get Involved -> Get Deployed or Volunteer Postings. If there isn’t anything that suits your strengths/passions within the organization, please feel free to write your own job description for something you are passionate about that “improves respiratory health through educational advancement of local healthcare providers worldwide.” It is my firm belief that each respiratory therapist has a unique way to contribute and I invite you to dream with us about how you can use your skills/passions to get involved in OUR charity.


What are your main obstacles (i.e. financial? RT volunteers? Supplies? International relations? Etc.)?

At this point, our biggest need to RT volunteers to be deployed. We have no shortage of sites eager to have an RT on the ground.


Where do you see the future of RTWB?

Wayne Gretzky once said, ‘you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’ Our vision is to see the respiratory profession synonymous with ‘giving back’. Within the Canadian healthcare system, RTs follow orders, I believe that RTs need to recognize the value of our collaborative voice at the interprofessional table and start taking more shots – especially in the charitable world. Our future is bright, but we are in desperate need of a generation of sharp shooters that will bring us to the next level of our game. RTs are the underdogs of the healthcare system and we don’t give up easily, we hope to be ever accelerating our global contributions to respiratory health whether it be in research or education.


E.g. of cool projects

  • Bubble biphasic – concept pitched by RTWB to team of engineers who have developed a product that attaches onto existing bubble CPAP systems to provide the next level of respiratory support with nothing more than an adaptor on already familiar equipment. Currently undergoing clinical safety trials
  • One of our volunteers has 2 young children and can’t travel, so she does skype in-services to a room full of ER docs periodically to help start using a retired home BIPAP in the ER… Results? COPD ICU admissions are reduced by 86%!!! https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1xpscMQ_Xb1b1d5bW1NR1gyMFk/view


What are the ways RTs can get involved with RTWB? 

www.rtwb.ca -> Get Involved


What is the process for an RT who is interested to travel abroad to volunteer at a remote hospital?

www.rtwb.ca -> Get Involved -> Get Deployed


Can you give us an example of how it feels to volunteer at hospital abroad? What are some of the sources of satisfaction/challenges?

www.rtwb.ca -> Get Involved -> Share your story



What are the ways companies/organizations can be involved with or give to RTWB?

www.rtwb.ca -> “DONATE”

Time, money, resources or whatever other creative idea you have. Pitch your ideas to ideas@rtwb.ca. We are eager to hear from you!


Any final words?

With the ease of global travel and communication, the RT practise is a global one. We need to have a global consideration in our practise. This includes learning from what our healthcare colleagues are doing in developing world contexts where clinical skills and education are pushed to their limits and beyond. I encourage everyone to explore how you can be involved. Thanks Farzad for these thought provoking questions. Thank you (the reader) for tuning in so far, if you have, I encourage you to get involved with RTWB where we hope to empower you to take your best shot at improving respiratory health.

Thank you Eric for taking the time to answer my questions, and to share your perspective and experience with us!

To learn more about Eric and RTWB, you visit his LinkedIn profile and RTWB’s website at:



Farzad ‘Raffi’ Refahi


-RTWB Overview: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1xpscMQ_Xb1ZHBDRmNaeEhHMFk/view



At times we are wrong about our perceived level of competence. To better deal with it, this TED video suggests: 1. To ask for feedback and 2. To keep learning. Watch the video for more details.
-Who are the people you can ask for constructive criticism and feedback? Preceptor ? Manager?Experienced RT/colleague?Patient?
-Which areas you can further study?certificates? Articles? Workshops? Teaching?shadowing?


Give Back

Volunteering for COPD Day

Last Wednesday was the World COPD Day. I contacted Sheery Tse RRT from Markham-Stouffville Hospital (MSH) to inquire about her plans for the lung health awareness display. I met Sheery at the Respiratory Centre and took few items to Cornell Community Centre and Library.  While setting up, we were joined by MSH staff, vendors, educators and volunteers (including current and previous patients of the hospital).  During my four hours there I met many individuals ranging from those who read and saw the e-mails and brochures, hospital staff who were visiting the community centre during their lunch, and members of community who were at Cornell Community Centre for other activities.

It was amazing to watch Sheery and the other volunteers interact with people, listen to their questions and concerns, and share their thoughts and the printed documents.  Four of the volunteers were COPD patients who have benefited from Sheery’s hard work at the COPD Clinic.  The volunteers were inviting, caring and open.  They would start conversations with people, tell them their story and of their struggles which allowed people to open up.  People saw hope.  They realized that they are not alone.  Some people for the first time recognized that it is not too late to quit smoking.  They were motivated to read up about COPD, and to seek consultation from doctors, interprofessional health teams, and to utilize the support systems available to them.

My role was to share my experience and knowledge as a respiratory therapist while ventilating healthy and “smoker” lungs for observers.

I suggest that you find volunteering opportunities in areas that interest you. Don’t necessarily think of it as what you are offering for “free” (i.e. your time and experience), but rather, think of the invaluable experience you are gaining. You could receive a sense of satisfaction that you have made a difference for that organization, make a connection with other driven people, make a difference to the people you meet, and get exposure to people, stories, projects, and perspectives that you may have missed if you maintained your daily routine.

This volunteering opportunity encouraged me to more openly connect with people who stepped forward to have a conversation, those who opened up, those who allowed themselves to express their feelings of joy, concerns, fear and confusion.  It helped me realized that despite my busy schedule, I still have free time to contribute.  While experiencing a slightly busier week, I felt more energized and driven.

What are some areas that you would like to volunteer in?  How often you would be able to make that commitment? How much time you can free up by reprioritizing the activities in your day or week? What are some of your strengths, skills, knowledge and resources that you can offer? What are areas that you can benefit from by volunteering?  Who are the people you need to get in touch with to make it happen? Ask yourself these questions if you are curious about finding a volunteer opportunity to suit your skills and interests. Then reach out to the organizations that you have interest in to start a conversation about where your skills and interests match their needs as an organization.

Good luck!


Farzad ‘Raffi’ Refahi
Edited by Jessica Morgan
Photos from Respiratory Therapy by Farzad Facebook Page



The college strike, which also effected some RT programs in Ontario, has come to an end (CBC News. Nov 21 2017). Students, faculty and Practice Leads are now working together to make the best of the time left. It is natural, especially for students, to feel a certain level of anxiety about this. I would like to encourage the RT community to stick together and work even harder to make the transition from SRT to GRT a smoother journey for current students. I also encourage students to remain positive and work close with your preceptors to make the remainder of your year as productive as possible despite the added hurdle.
Stay positive, 
stay united and 
Good luck!

Farzad ‘Raffi’ Refahi


-Image source: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/52e95746e4b0809fd8c13593/551aabefe4b0db1c17b4e6be/56e58973746fb91c91d4bfa9/1457947846159/working+together.png?format=1000w
-CBC News .Nov 21 2017. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-college-students-return-to-classrooms-after-5-week-strike-1.4411720