Laurie Hendren

13 december 1958 - 27 may 2019
It is with great sadness that the Opal team shares the news that Laurie Hendren, our dear friend and co-lead on the Opal project, passed away on Monday May 27th, 2019 following a brief deterioration in her illness.
Laurie was a powerful woman who had great intellect, a profound sense of fairness, and remarkable clarity of mind. She was a professor of computer science at McGill, renowned for her excellence in research and teaching. Her research centered around compilers and computer programming languages. She received numerous awards for her academic achievements and was an elected fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Recently, she was named the 2019 recipient of the Dahl-Nygaard prize, one of the most prestigious awards in computer science. Her research was her passion and she loved to teach and share her knowledge with her students.
We were introduced to Laurie in 2014 when she first received radiotherapy for breast cancer at the MUHC under Tarek’s care. From the beginning, Laurie wanted to help. Following conversations about the computational needs of radiation oncology, Tarek introduced Laurie to John. The three hit it off and agreed to work together. The almost five years since have been a fun and rewarding adventure in patient involvement in research and care and in the development of the Opal patient portal. Laurie was uncompromising in her insistence that patients should have access to their medical data. She pointed out the numerous benefits this can bring to both patient and clinician. She was instrumental in the development of all aspects of Opal, including its design, the technical details, and advocacy within the MUHC and across the province. Although still in pilot release, Opal is now being used by almost 200 patients at the Cedars Cancer Centre.
Opal has received a number of awards, including a Prix de cancérologie, an honourable mention from the Washington-based Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care and the Merck Patients’ First award. Later this week, the Opal team will proudly attend the award ceremony of the 2019 Prix d’excellence of the MSSS for which the project has been nominated.
Laurie’s wish was that Opal would be available to all patients in Quebec so that all patients who desire it can access their data and play an informed role in their medical care. The Opal team are working closely with the MUHC and the MSSS to make this a reality.
It was often pointed out that Laurie was not an ordinary patient. While certainly true in many ways, Laurie would take exception to this as there is no such thing as an ordinary patient–every patient is unique and every patient should have the right to play an informed role in their own care. But Laurie was an extraordinary person. She was also a great friend to all the members of the Opal team and she will be dearly missed.
Laurie is survived by her husband Prakash Panangaden, her daughter Jane Panangaden, mother June Hendren and brother Paul Hendren to whom the Opal team express their sincere condolences.