MSFHR announces C2, Reach and Innovation to Commercialization awards

Congratulations to the recipients, which included 9 members of the WHRI!

Innovation to Commercialization (I2C) Award recipients
Bruce Verchere*

Project: Novel nanomedicines for resolving inflammation as a treatment for type 2 diabetes

*BCCHRI/WHRI joint member
Convening and Collaborating (C2) Award recipients
Davina Banner-Lukaris

Project: Building towards consensus on compensation and conflict in patient-oriented research (POR)
Mary de Vera

Project: Building partnerships for implementing a decentralized eHealth collaborative gout care model: BRIDGE
Liisa Galea

Project: Brain Exchange: Engaging Inter-disciplinary Perspectives to Support Women's Brain Health
Manish Sadarangani*

Project: Development of a comprehensive vaccine research agenda for BC through multi-faceted collaboration

*BCCHRI/WHRI joint member
Caroline Sanders

Project: SEED: Sharing to change Early childhood Experiences by Developing, caring, compassionate leadership
Laura Sauve*

Project: ‘Exploring Being Well Together’: Maternal & Infant Health Equity in the Context of HIV

*BCCHRI/WHRI joint member
Reach Award recipients
Julie Bettinger*

Project: “VACCINE BOOSTER TALK” short film for frontline healthcare professionals

*BCCHRI/WHRI joint member
Lori Brotto

Project: #DebunkingDesire: Disseminating Facts of Women’s Low Desire Using a Coordinated Social Media Campaign

The Third Annual Zili Conference – Preventative Health Strategies

Join Zili C.A.R.E. for a stellar line up of speakers and special guests, Saturday, October 5th, for the Third Annual Zili Conference.

The conference is a female physician-led initiative which brings together a community of over 350 women, patients, physicians, and allied healthcare professionals for a full-day of women’s preventative healthcare forum at the Vancouver Convention Centre. From 9am to 3pm, participants will be immersed in evidence-based presentations about the mind-body connection.

Hosted by CBC Vancouver’s veteran multi-award winning TV/Radio journalist, and Order of Canada recipient, Gloria Macarenko, the focus this year continues to delve deeper into Preventative Health Strategies, with the goal to provide a platform that will inform and assist women in navigating our medical system to their own specific health care advantage, changing the “band-aid” approach to female health care.

This year’s Keynote Speaker, internationally renowned author and speaker, and Order of Canada recipient, Dr. Gabor Maté, will be addressing an audience of women who are awakening to a rapidly evolving need for self-care. In addition to Dr. Maté, an impressive list of speakers include TV/Radio broadcaster, community advocate and current MP candidate, Tamara Taggart, Psychiatrist and author Diane Mcintosh, and 3-time Canadian Olympian Gold and Silver medalist Jennifer Heil, to name a few. A special guest performance by Canadian soul singer Miranda Joan, debuting her new song “Happy to Have You” rounds off an impressive list of women on stage advocating the pillars of Zili C.A.R.E.

Zili C.A.R.E founder, Dr. Maryam Zeineddin, has been a family physician for more than a decade and has witnessed an increase in devastating physical and psychological illnesses, many of which could have been more effectively treated if diagnosed earlier or avoided altogether with the right level of preventative care. Dr. Zeineddin believes our current medical system “is not set up to support women’s specific needs for mental and physical health in areas of access, research and tools.” Zili C.A.R.E seeks to bridge the present gaps in women’s health care education and awareness.

The four pillars of Zili C.A.R.E are about manifesting a healthy mind, healthy body, and healthy soul through the following continuum:

1) Calming the Mind
2) Activating the Body
3) Reinforcing the Body
4) Engaging the Soul

This convention strives to put the true meaning of health and self-care at the forefront of all Canadian women’s lives with evidence driven  information and insights, lifestyle tools and robust and supportive community.

Please visit for ticket purchase and additional details.

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2019 UBC Faculty of Medicine Awards

Among this year’s recipients were WHRI members Drs. Ron Abrahams, Lori Brotto, Blair Butler, Teresa Liu-Ambrose, and Paul Yong.

Faculty were recognized as follows:

Clinical Faculty Award for Excellence in Community Practice Teaching

Dr. Ron Abrahams
Family Practice

Clinical Faculty Award for Career Excellence in Clinical Teaching

Dr. Blair Butler
Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Distinguished Achievement

Dr. Lori Brotto
Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Service to the University and Community



Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose
Physical Therapy
Overall Excellence – Senior Faculty



Dr. Paul Yong
Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Excellence in Clinical or Applied Research



Read the full announcement from UBC.

Research Spotlight: Dr. Erin Michalak receives a CIHR Spring 2019 Project Grant and Priority Announcement Bridge Grant

Building on nearly a decade of work with the CREST.BD network, Dr. Michalak’s project, ‘Bipolar Bridges: A Digital Health Innovation Targeting Quality of Life in Bipolar Disorder,’ aims to enable access to credible, evidence-based, and safe information for people living with bipolar disorder.

In our digital age, mobile phone users can access a wide variety of apps to help manage their health, but the personal health data that users generate often exist in what Dr. Michalak calls ‘islands of data’.

“Think about yourself. If you’re an app user you might have a mindfulness app that you’re using, a sleep app, or some type of social activity [app],” Dr. Michalak explains. “But we’re not doing a good enough job yet at pulling together those pieces of data.”

Her project seeks to centralize user data, which means that it could be used to generate more meaningful insights into how the changes a user makes might impact different parts of their life.

The app will harness block chain technology, which provides greater security for sensitive information. It will also give users authority to decide whether they’d like to share data with their healthcare team, researchers, or other people in their life – and revoke access for any party, at any time.

Every stage of this project is being driven with users’ worldviews in mind. Approximately one third of the team – including project Co-lead Dr. Steven Barnes – live with bipolar disorder, which importantly brings a diverse range of expertise and lived experience to the work. Further, a key part of the design process has involved mapping out the many types of users that may rely on the app’s services.

Considering the user journey helps the team think about how they can develop personalized content. For example, Dr. Michalak explains that a woman living with bipolar disorder may be at an increased risk for a mood episode in the postpartum period. Thinking about this unique need means that they can build an app responsive to a user’s life changes.

The team will use artificial intelligence and machine-learning technologies to analyze any data that users opt to share through the app. Dr. Michalak hopes that in future, any patterns that emerge through data analysis will provide a new way to predict quality of life.

“With this platform and this type of data I would like to be able to say ‘Based on what we know from lots of other people like you using machine learning techniques, these are the things that you can do that might make a difference to outcomes for you.’”

To learn more about Dr. Michalak’s work, visit the CREST.BD site.

Learn more about the CIHR Spring 2019 Project Grant recipients.

Research Spotlight: Gynecologic Cancer Initiative Research Excellence Cluster

Dr. Aline Talhouk and Stephanie Lam are spearheading the initiative to form a Patient and Family Advisory Council for survivors of gynecologic cancers as part of the new UBC Gynecologic Cancer Initiative Research Excellence Cluster, a partnership between women throughout BC and multiple research institutions, scientists and clinicians across the province.

The Gynecologic Cancer Initiative Cluster aims to pool resources and expertise from researchers across disciplines and throughout British Columbia, to build infrastructure which can enable research that individual researchers couldn’t tackle alone. One example of their work includes the Gynecologic Cancer Patient Registry, an initiative which enables patients to consent for their data and tissues to be used for research and consolidates information from patients who have consented to participate in research into one centralized database.

Dr. Aline Talhouk, the Director of Informatics and Research at OVCARE, and Stephanie Lam, a Clinical Coordinator at OVCARE, began working together on this project. With the desire to expand the scope of the Gynecologic Cancer Registry beyond the Greater Vancouver Area, the team recognized an opportunity to work alongside patients, who could provide insight on how best to communicate with, engage, and recruit other patients.

The team is interested in learning more about patients’ experiences from as early on as the point of diagnosis, or in some cases pre-diagnosis, to bridge the knowledge gap for researchers who hope to tackle research questions in safe and appropriate ways. They hope that the use of a Patient and Family Advisory Council will inform strategic priorities, the way that future research is conducted, provide insights into the landscape of survivorship, and identify where current gaps in research might lie.

Patients were initially recruited to the council via an educational forum held by BC Cancer, and the team is continuously seeking out new opportunities to recruit more patients. Patients’ roles within the Council are dependent on the level of participation they are interested in providing. For some patients this type of opportunity might look like participating in the bi-monthly meetings, or for others it might mean seeing a project through from start to finish.

Stephanie explains that the intention for many Patient and Family Advisory Councils goes beyond including patients in the recruitment process, and instead focuses on empowering patients to identify research priorities, review applications or publications, or collaborate on educational videos. What’s key, she emphasizes, is that these councils provide a range of projects for patients to get involved in requiring varying degrees of commitment, and that projects cover the spectrum of both scientific work as well as Knowledge Translation and educational activities.

Ultimately, the formation of this council has been a constant learning process, they describe. Moving forward, the team hopes to engage patients across the spectrum of gynecologic cancers to increase representation on the Council and to engage in more patient-oriented research opportunities.

If you have or have had ovarian, uterine, cervical, endometrial, or vulvar cancer and would like to learn more about the Patient Family Advisory Council and other patient-oriented research opportunities, contact

Research Spotlight: A Q&A with Brock Williams, PhD student

Brock Williams, a PhD student working alongside Dr. Crystal Karakochuk, is co-leading the project “Folic acid supplementation in children with sickle cell disease: A double-blind randomized crossover trial,” which recently received a CIHR Spring 2019 Project Grant.

Q: Could you talk a bit about your planned research?

A: Our team, which combines expert clinicians and scientists from UBC and BC Children’s Hospital, will be conducting a randomized clinical trial in which children with sickle cell disease are provided with high-dose folic acid (the current standard of care) and a placebo for 12-week time periods to determine circulating levels of folate and folate metabolites, and clinical outcomes during periods of supplementation and no supplementation.

Q: What is sickle cell disease? Does it affect certain populations?

A: Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that causes red blood cells to have an abnormal sickle shape, instead of a rounded shape. This can cause a host of health issues for individuals affected by the disease, ranging from anemia to blood vessel blockage (episodes of body pain, swelling). It mostly occurs in individuals of African and Middle Eastern descent. It is thought that sickle cell disease offers some protection from malarial infection, which is more common in those areas.

It is estimated that there are over 5000 individuals with sickle cell disease in Canada.

Q: What inspired this project?

In sickle cell disease, red blood cells have a reduced life span due to the cell’s abnormal shape. This increases the rate that red blood cells must be produced, and is thought to increase the amount of folate (a B vitamin required for the production of red blood cells) that an individual needs.

Most of the research that suggested individuals with sickle cell disease may have higher folate requirements was conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, before Canada introduced mandatory folic acid (synthetic folate) fortification of refined grains, and before the clinical adoption of medications that extend the life of red blood cells in sickle cell disease. The widespread clinical practice of prescribing 1-5 mg of folic acid per day to individuals with sickle cell disease, which can provide as much as six times the amount required by healthy individuals, has not been reassessed in the context of those medical and nutritional advancements.

Furthermore, controversy has arisen over the potential adverse effects of excessive folic acid intakes, calling this clinical practice into question.

Q; Are you using any innovative or unique approaches in your research?

A: This research is the first well-designed randomized clinical trial of its kind assessing the efficacy and potential harm of high-dose folic acid supplementation in children with sickle cell disease. It is also the first clinical trial in children with sickle cell disease to incorporate measurements of unmetabolized folic acid (folic acid that appears in blood circulation when enzymes which convert folic acid into a form our bodies can readily use are saturated) into the study design and assessment of folic acid supplementation.

Q: What impact do you hope your research will have?

A: We hope that the results of this research will inform clinicians as to whether high-dose folic acid supplementation is efficacious, safe, and warranted in children with sickle cell disease. We also hope that this research will be the first step in the future optimization of clinical nutrition care for individuals with this disease.

Brock Williams is a Registered Dietitian currently undergoing his doctoral training in Human Nutrition under the supervision of Dr. Crystal Karakochuk. Brock previously completed his graduate dietetic internship at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) (2014), MSc in Human Nutrition at McGill University (2012), and his BSc at St. Francis Xavier University (2010). His primary research interests lie in infant/child health, micronutrients, and in optimizing clinical care and health outcomes of paediatric populations.

Learn more about the Karakochuk Research Group.

Read our full CIHR Spring 2019 Project Grant Announcement.

Research Spotlight: Dr. Davina Banner receives a CIHR Spring 2019 Project Grant

What supports exist within research networks to promote meaningful patient engagement? Dr. Davina Banner hopes to find out, through her CIHR Spring 2019 Project Grant project, “Organizational Factors that Foster Engagement-Capable Environments: A Study of Health Research Networks.”

As a cardiovascular and rural health researcher, educator, and nurse, Dr. Banner-Lukaris has been involved with a wide breadth of research and care, but she sees her work with cardiovascular-respiratory health networks as the catalyst for her interest in patient-oriented research.

Working with an interdisciplinary health network allowed Dr. Banner to experience first-hand the power of a collaborative approach to shaping research. As she began studying the intersection between patient, healthcare providers and researchers, she recognized a gap in knowledge around how best to facilitate and support the patient engagement she was seeing.

Working alongside Principal Knowledge User Audrey L’Espérance, Strategic Advisor and Research Associate at the Centre of Excellence on Partnership with Patients and the Public (CEPPP), Patient Co-Leads Marc Bains, Co-founder of the Heartlife Foundation, Sylvain Bédard, Patient Coordinator at the CEPPP, and a team of researchers healthcare providers and network leaders, Dr. Banner will explore the dynamics of meaningful patient partnerships.

The project will consist of a systematic review, to gain an understanding of what types of organizational supports have worked well. The second phase of research will involve learning from active networks in both Canada and the United Kingdom, two countries with well-established research agendas for patient engagement. Finally, the team will work to develop indicators of engagement capacity which they hope will better inform the organizational structures and supports necessary for meaningful patient engagement.

Dr. Banner has worked alongside Mr. Bains and Bédard on several projects over the past few years, and she credits their passion for patient-advocacy and the perspectives they bring as people with lived-experience as invaluable for shaping her understanding about how research could be undertaken. It’s this type of learning-partnership and foundation for meaningful engagement that Dr. Banner says will allow them to successfully co-create and co-produce outcomes.

Dr. Banner hopes that this research will contribute to the science of patient engagement and provide an opportunity to change perspectives in research and healthcare services in the future.

Learn more about Dr. Banner on her website.

Read our full CIHR Spring 2019 Project Grant Announcement.

P2RISM- Digging deeper into post-partum and neonatal lab tests

Lab physicians, Drs. Vilte Barakauskas and Kate Chipperfield, at BC Children’s and Women’s hospital alongside patient co-leads are spearheading  the P2RISM study (Pregnancy and Pediatric Reference Intervals for Safe Medicine) to help improve care for pregnant women and newborns.

Healthcare relies heavily on the lab and reference intervals (RIs) to guide test interpretation and patient management, but did you ever wonder how we know what is normal or abnormal? RIs should represent the intended population and method of testing. However, current RIs for pregnant women and neonates are poorly characterized owing to their quickly changing physiology and difficulty in obtaining blood samples from babies.

This study aims to recruit healthy pregnant women and newborns to donate blood samples (collected at the same time as routine newborn metabolic screening),1day post-partum, in order to create RIs that lab physicians and clinicians can be confident in. We will also be collecting participant feedback on their overall experience with the study in order to refine and shape future endeavours involving blood collections in healthy populations.

More information can be found at:

Dr. Wendy Norman received a CIHR Spring 2019 Planning and Dissemination Grant

The grant will be used to plan research priorities to support nurses in providing optimal medical abortion care.

Approximately one third of Canadian women experience abortion in their lifetime. Despite its prevalence, access to abortion services is fragmented across Canada, with women from vulnerable groups (teens / low income families) experiencing barriers to access high quality care.

Mifepristone – considered the ‘gold standard’ for medical abortion – became widely available in Canada in 2017. That year, changes to health regulation also extended authority to nurse practitioners to prescribe mifepristone. However, this authority was not extended to registered nurses, “even though this large workforce has been deeply engaged in patient care, diagnosis and medication prescriptions,” says Dr. Norman’s Research Manager, Anita Chiu.

This presents a barrier to equitable access to medical abortion care – one that Dr. Norman hopes to address with this grant. Along with Co-Principal Applicant Ruth Martin-Misener and Principal Knowledge User Josette Roussel, Dr. Norman seeks to identify research priorities that will support the wide range of nursing roles involved in providing medical abortion care, and how that support can be optimized to improve access to and ensure the quality of medical abortion care.

Further, the team hopes to develop strong partnerships among researchers and stakeholders, both provincially and nationally, to address the practicality and outlook of optimizing the scope of practice for nurses to better support medical abortion care in Canada

“This work will make tremendous positive impact on women’s health,” says Chiu. “Exploring ways to optimize the scope of practice of nurses [will help] to better serve Canadian women seeking family planning knowledges and services.”

To learn more about Dr. Norman’s work, visit the Contraception and Abortion Research Team (CART) website.

Read more about the CIHR Spring 2019 Project Grant recipients.