Dr. Karin Humphries receives a CIHR Spring 2018 Project Grant

While gender-based inequities affecting women’s heart health have been gaining attention (see the #TimeToSeeRed campaign from the Heart and Stroke Foundation) women may also face inequities based on their age. WHRI member Dr. Karin Humphries and her team have received a CIHR Spring 2018 Project Grant to address this healthcare gap with their project “hs cTn – Optimizing the Diagnosis of Acute Myocardial Infarction/Injury in Women (CODE-MI)”.

When women under the age of 55 experience a heart attack, their risk of death is two times higher than their male counterparts. Dr. Humphries and team believe that this could be changed with a lower cut-point for the biomarker high sensitivity cardiac troponin (hs-cTn; a protein released when the heart is damaged during a heart attack) since women produce lower levels of the protein than men.

This lower cut-point will be introduced in 26 emergency departments across the country, with the intention of identifying more women with heart damage, and thus improving health outcomes and care.

The project grant will provide $1,656,226 over five years.

Meet the students!

Meet Aya, Chadni, Nicole, and Ryan, four students working on WHRI-affiliated projects over the summer.

Aya Zakaria

What do you study?
I am currently a 4th year student in the Honours in Biotechnology program. It is a joint program between UBC and BCIT in which students spend two years in BCIT to undergo rigorous laboratory training, and the final two years in UBC to enhance their theoretical knowledge and research skills.

Who is supervising your project?
Dr. Hélène Côté and Anthony Hsieh. Anthony is a PhD student in the Côté Lab and is also an alumnus of the Honours in Biotechnology program.

In one or two sentences, describe the project you’re working on:
My research investigates the mitochondrial toxicity of various combination antiretroviral therapy regimens on primary human blood cells. These drugs are used to treat HIV and have been previously linked with mitochondrial damage. The focus will be centered on examining signs of mitochondrial damage such as changes in mitochondrial DNA content, membrane potential and reactive oxygen species.

What’s your role in the project?
Under the guidance of my supervisor, I am performing all the experiments and data analyses. I also play a primary role in designing each protocol.

What’s been the most memorable/favourite thing you’ve done on the project so far?
My favorite thing about this project is the independence I am given while designing, performing and analyzing my experiments and results. Being so heavily involved with each step has exposed me to the underlying principles of academic research. It also gave me the opportunity to strengthen my networking skills while interacting with the scientific communities that the Côté lab is part of, such as the Centre for Blood Research.

Chadni Khondokerchadni khondoker headshot

What do you study?
I am a fourth year Integrated Science Student integrating human physiology and motor function in the Faculty of Science at UBC Vancouver.

Who is supervising your project?
Dr. Melanie Murray is supervising the project.

In one or two sentences, describe the project you’re working on:
This study will use existing prospective data from the CARMA (Children and Women, AntiRetroviral and Markers of Aging) study to examine the contraceptive choices and associated factors of women living with HIV (WLWH) and their HIV-negative peers. WLWH less frequently choose hormonally based contraceptive methods when compared with their HIV-negative peers; we aim to determine associated factors such as drug interactions with antiretroviral therapy or other medical contraindications that may influence contraceptive prescribing practices.

What’s your role in the project? 
My role in the project is to conduct a literature review on the topic of contraceptive choice among women living with HIV, to determine the appropriate covariates for analysis, download and clean data from redcap for statistical analysis, as well as begin the preparation of a manuscript. I have the pleasure of attending educational talks delivered by inspiring professionals in the health care field that aid in the progression and development of this project.

What’s been the most memorable/favourite thing you’ve done on the project so far?
My favorite part off this project so far has been to be able to work along side and be mentored by a dynamic group of strong, inspiring female professionals. I am constantly left in awe by their passion, vision, and dedication to advancing health care and commitment to engaging marginalized populations. They go above and beyond for their patients as well as their students and role model ways to approach situations both objectively and with empathy. I feel very grateful for the opportunity to work at Oak Tree Clinic and l look forward to what lies ahead.

Connect with Chadni on LinkedIn

Nicole Ng

What do you study?
I am a medical student at UBC going into my second year!

Who is supervising your project?
Dr. Paul Yong

In one or two sentences, describe the project you’re working on:
Right now, I am working on a project looking at factors associated with negative impressions of the medical profession in women with endometriosis.

What’s your role in the project?
My role in the project is to analyze the data collected from the Endometriosis Pelvic Pain Interdisciplinary Cohort Data Registry at the BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis and to present my findings at different opportunities such as the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute Summer Student Research Program poster day.

What’s been the most memorable/favourite thing you’ve done on the project so far?
The most memorable thing I’ve done so far on the project is learning more about how chronic pelvic pain and endometriosis can have big impacts on different aspects of a woman’s quality of life and current approaches to address these problems.

Ryan Yanryan yan selfie

What do you study?
I am currently working on an audit of the Evaluating Maternal and fetal Markers for Adverse placental outcomes (EMMA) clinic here at BCWH.

Who is supervising your project?
Drs. Chantal Mayer and Julie Robertson

In one or two sentences, describe the project you’re working on:
Pregnant women across BC and Yukon are referred for assessment by their prenatal care providers (obstetricians, family doctors, midwives, etc.) if they are at high risk for developing placental disease, including pre-eclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction. We are investigating if the current referral criteria and in-clinic assessment appropriately selects the population at highest risk and what the maternal, fetal and neonatal outcomes are.

What’s your role in the project?
Currently I am collecting data from various sources about the referral, EMMA assessment, and pregnancy outcomes, which will then be analyzed and ultimately used to inform better care.

What’s been the most memorable/favourite thing you’ve done on the project so far?
In June, I gave a short presentation of my work to other participants of the BCCHR Summer Student Research Program.

BC Perinatal Data Registry

The Women’s Health Research Institute (WHRI) is pleased to announce the launch of a pilot project in partnership with Perinatal Services BC (PSBC), allowing WHRI members to access data from the BC Perinatal Data Registry (BCPDR) through a dedicated in-house Data Analyst at the WHRI. It is our intention that by providing direct access through the WHRI, the data request process will be more streamlined and efficient, thereby increasing the number of researchers who are able to gain access to BCPDR data.

The BCPDR contains maternal, fetal, and neonatal health information for an estimated 99% of all deliveries and births that occur in British Columbia. From the year 2000, the BCPDR has captured approximately 45,000 births per year, including data on maternal postpartum readmissions up to 42 days post-delivery and baby transfers and readmissions up to 28 days after birth. Access to person specific (record level) de-identified data from the BCPDR can be provided for addressing a specific set of research questions. Aggregate data without personal information that are expressed in summary form (i.e. total births, average age of mother at delivery, total cesarean sections, etc.) are also available to assist with research planning.

The WHRI is now able to accept, review, and approve data access requests, as well as providing the data, for WHRI members. We are able to offer co-ordination of the entire data access request process, including guidance, support, and advice to WHRI members who are preparing an application for BCPDR data.

You are able to apply for research data from the BCPDR facilitated by the WHRI if:

  • You are a WHRI member, or under the supervision of WHRI member
  • You require access to an unlinked set of data from the BCPDR. You cannot link WHRI BCPDR data with any other data.
  • Your project has been approved by a Research Ethics Board.
  • You have contacted the WHRI Data Analyst prior to submission of the Data Access Request.

 You are able to apply for aggregate data from the BCPDR facilitated by the WHRI if:

  • You are a WHRI member, or under the supervision of WHRI member.
  • You are requesting data for provincial or sub-provincial (e.g. Health Authority) summary data that do not include personal information or potential identifiers.
  • You require the data for the purposes of research planning only.
  • You have contacted the WHRI Data Analyst prior to submission of the Data Access Request.

For more information on the WHRI BCPDR, including a list of available fields, please see our website: http://whri.org/bcpdr-data-request/


For any questions, further information or to apply, please contact the WHRI Data Analyst:

Emma Branch, 604-875-2424 ext.4796, emma.branch@cw.bc.ca

MSFHR Reach Award recipients announced

Congratulations to WHRI members Drs. Angela Kaida, Lori Brotto, Allison Carter, Jessica McAlpine, Paul Yong, and Caroline Sanders and trainee Natasha Orr, whose projects have been selected for funding by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) Reach Awards!

The program provides funding for projects involving collaborations between researchers and research users to support dissemination and uptake of research evidence.

Project title


Project trainees

#LifeAndLoveWithHIV: A social media initiative to support the sexual health needs of women living with HIV

Read our Q&A with the team here.

  • Angela Kaida (SFU) *
  • Margarite Sanchez (Positive Living Society of BC)
  • Lori Brotto (UBC) *
Allison Carter (SFU)  *
Biologically informed ovarian cancer prevention: Promoting education and awareness
  • David Hunstman (BC Cancer)
  • Jessica McAlpine (BC Cancer) *
Shaina Lee (UBC)
Knowledge translation for a new understanding of sexual pain in endometriosis

Read our Q&A with Natasha here.

  • Paul Yong (UBC) *
  • Jessica Sutherland (BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre)
Natasha Orr (UBC) *
Developing and disseminating an interactive menstruation (info)graphic (I’M IN)

Read our Q&A with Dr. Sanders here.

  • Caroline Sanders (UNBC) *
  • Joanne Hall (Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia – Living with CAH Support Group, UK)
Erika Belanger (UNBC)
* denotes WHRI member

Click here to read more about the award and to access the full list of recipients.

MSFHR 2018 Reach Award project: “Knowledge translation for a new understanding of sexual pain in endometriosis”

Congratulations to Dr. Paul Yong and Natasha Orr, recipients of a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) 2018 Reach Award! The Reach Award provides funding to support the dissemination and uptake of research evidence. Read our Q&A with Natasha below to find out more about their project!

Briefly, what research will you be disseminating with the MSFHR Reach Award?

Endometriosis-associated sexual pain is multifactorial, and may result from endometriosis lesions, the pelvic floor musculature, depression, and/or central nervous system sensitization. Treatment efficacy may depend on the specific cause of pain. Some patients do not know that their pain is caused by a variety of factors; therefore, we will be disseminating our research findings on the causes of sexual pain to provide women with a better understanding.

How will you be disseminating it?

We will organize a one-day workshop that explains the causes of sexual pain and provide patients with tools to manage their pain.

Research users are expected to play a key role in Reach Award-funded projects. How did your patient partner get involved with the project and what will their role look like within your team?

Our research team is committed to helping people with endometriosis and we are extremely fortunate to have a Patient Research Advisory Board that collaborates with our team. Our patient- partners helped draft the Reach Award application and will continue to be involved in the creation of this workshop (e.g., themes, speakers).

Why is it important to share this research?

Our physicians may suggest treatment options that patients are not familiar with, so the goal of this workshop is to provide patients with a better understanding of individualized treatments for their sexual pain. For example, a patient with endometriosis who has central sensitization may benefit from a multidisciplinary treatment plan (including physiotherapy, mindfulness, etc.) before undergoing surgery. This may be surprising for patients who may feel that surgery alone will eliminate their pain. Our workshop will disseminate the research on why different treatment approaches to sexual pain in endometriosis may be needed.

When/where can we expect to see your research disseminated?

We plan on having this workshop in May 2019 at a community venue. Patients at our centre (BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis) will receive invitations, as well as women from the community. You can expect to see more information about this workshop in early 2019. We look forward to seeing you all there!

MSFHR 2018 Research Trainee award recipients announced

The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) has announced the results of its 2018 Research Trainee competition, naming 33 post-doctoral fellows to be provided salary support through this award.

Among the recipients are WHRI members Drs. Robine Donken and Laura Schummers. Dr. Schummers will be joining the CART-GRAC team to study the effect of mifepristone in primary care on abortion service access, outcomes, and costs. Dr. Donken will be working with Dr. Gina Ogilvie’s team at Global Control of HPV Related Diseases to evaluate the effectiveness of a single HPV vaccine dose.


Read the full announcement here.

Biological and Behavioural Perspectives on Parental Health: Highlights from the Parental Brain Conference

by Liisa Galea, Ph.D.

On July 13-14th, 140 attendants from around the world gathered in Toronto to share their research and insights on the Parental Brain.

There were three keynotes by John Russell (University of Edinburgh), Patrica Tomasi (Huffington Post Canada) and Ruth Feldman (Interdisciplinary Center, Herzlia, Israel).  John Russell spoke about pregnancy allostatis and the many physiological challenges for the mother during pregnancy that have repercussions for women’s health. Ruth Feldman took us on a journey of the positive influence of kangaroo care in children up to 21 years later(!), as well as fascinating world of brain synchrony with parenting and the human parental caregiving network. Patrica Tomasi spoke on how researchers can leverage the media to advocate for postpartum depression, her nine points for success are here.

The symposiums centred on: Parental interactions with gut, immune and placenta; treats to mothering; genetics and epigenetics of parenthood; alloparenting; and the neurobiology of nurturing (a tribute to Craig Kinsley who passed away in 2016 at 61 and whose body of research was a stimulus for many at the conference). We also featured a symposium on young investigators sponsored by Wiley. For those interested, abstracts and program can be viewed here or take a look at the hashtag #PB2018. Look out for two special issues to be published on the event one in January 2019 in Elsevier’s Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology (FIN) featuring all the invited speakers and the other in Journal of Neuroendocrinology. The event was co-organized by myself, Frances Champagne(US), Joe Lonstein(US) and Jodi Pawluski (France).

I want to take a moment to acknowledge how truly international the event was as of those 140 attendants we had representation from New Zealand, Israel, Brazil, Netherlands, USA, Germany, Uruguay, Austria, Spain, Hungary, France, Sweden, Belgium, Ireland, Scotland, England, and Mexico! One of the goals of our meeting was to formalize the Parental Brain as a group in an effort to engage our members and hold regular meetings. Towards this end, we have created a closed Facebook group that you can reach here or follow us on Twitter at @ParentalBrain.

Parental Brain originated almost 20 years ago with the first meeting held in Bristol, England in 1999 with organizers Colin Ingram, Michael Meaney, Judith Stern, and John Russell. Many of the meetings have culminated in special issues and/or books, if you have not attended but are interested I highly recommend joining our group to have your say in the next meeting. Parental Brain 2018 would like to acknowledge the support it received from Elsevier, Wiley, Sage Therapeutics and CIHR-IGH.

Liisa Galea, Frances Champagne, Joe Lonstein, and Jodi Pawluski stand together
Figure 1. The organizers of Parental Brain 2018 Liisa Galea, Frances Champagne, Joe Lonstein and Jodi Pawluski.

Dr. Wendy Norman receives a CIHR Spring 2018 Project Grant

Dr. Wendy Norman is a recipient of a 2018 CIHR Project Grant for The Canadian Nurse Practitioner medical abortion study! In 2017 Nurse Practitioners (NPs) became the first non-physicians permitted to perform abortion in Canada, although little is known about how to support them to provide medical abortions, or what barriers may exist for implementation of high quality care for this new service.

To address this knowledge gap, Dr. Norman, along with her team – Dr. Ruth Martin Misener (Dalhouse University), Josette Roussel (Canadian Nurses Association), and Dr. Sarah Munro (WHRI member, postdoctoral trainee co-investigator) – will investigate the barriers to and facilitators of accessible provision of medical abortion services by NPs in Canada.

The research will build on the highly successful Mifepristone Implementation Research in Canada study which looked at mifepristone provision by physicians. Findings have already contributed to changes in several mifepristone policies and revisions to the product monograph by Health Canada, and health professional regulator revisions to physician and pharmacist scope of practice in five provinces.

The project grant will provide $481,950 in funding over 3 years.

Meet the students!

This summer there are four students working on projects with Dr. Gina Ogilvie’s team! Sandy Zhang, Catherine Sanders, and Kara Plotnikoff are SFU Master of Public Health students completing their practicums over the summer, and Christine Lukac is an epidemiologist and UBC Medical student researching the impact of the school-based HPV immunization program.

Sandy ZhangSandy zhang

Sandy is currently working on CervixCheck, a web-based application which utilizes HPV self-collection kits to improve cervical cancer screening in BC. Sandy is involved with community engagement to help guide and inform CervixCheck’s online platform. Her role focuses on engaging with patients and clinicians in four family practices through administering a cross-sectional survey to assess the feasibility and acceptability of the program. Her work will provide knowledge and insight into the acceptability of CervixCheck in preparation for its launch.

Sandy’s favorite part of her practicum thus far has been the opportunity to connect with women in the community and work with frontline health care teams to better understand and address the existing barriers to cervical screening through a unique program like CervixCheck.

Connect with Sandy: LinkedIn

Catherine Sanders

Catherine is excited to be completing her practicum with the Advances in Screening and Prevention in Reproductive Cancers (ASPIRE) project. The most recent ASPIRE initiative is a pragmatic, randomized control trial in rural Uganda which compares 3 different approaches to cervical cancer screening.  Her role has been to assist with the design and implementation of the study, primarily through the development of standard operating procedures, training materials, and data collection forms. The most valuable aspect of her practicum has been gaining knowledge and experience in Implementation Science as an ideal approach to conducting research and improving health care and health service delivery in low- and middle-income countries.

Connect with Catherine: LinkedIn | Twitter

Kara Plotnikoff

Kara shares her time between the BC Centre for Disease Control and the Women’s Health Research Institute. Kara has been involved in the development, implementation, and analysis of a survey for BCCDC STI clinic clients exploring their perceptions about STI vaccines as an emerging form of prevention and treatment. Kara is also working with STRIVE-BC to plan a pre-conference symposium dedicated to the research and development of STI vaccines at a global scale, to be held preceding the STI & HIV World Congress in July 2019. Kara enjoys her time at the WHRI because of the ample opportunities to learn about the important and ground-breaking work in the field of women’s health research while being immersed in a dynamic and forward-thinking environment. She can often be found attending rounds or listening to webinars and live-streams trying to learn as much as she can about research and research methods.

Connect with Kara: LinkedIn | Twitter

Christine Lukac, MPH

As part of Dr. Ogilvie’s team, I am studying the impact of the school based Human papillomavirus (HPV) immunization program on the rates of genital warts (GW) in BC. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection, and GARDASIL®4 is a highly efficacious vaccine that protects against four HPV serotypes, including 6 and 11 which are associated with 90% of GWs. In 2008, the first cohorts of girls were immunized in grades 6 and 9, and by 2017 they reached the age of sexual maturity. Among the first immunized cohort, some women are now sexually active and may have been exposed to HPV. This work is timely and the results are highly anticipated by public health stakeholders in BC to monitor attainment of population health targets and optimize the HPV immunization program.

This project has afforded an opportunity to practice research skills during all stages of the study: literature review, project planning, data access, data management and analysis, communicating results, writing a manuscript, and submission for publication. I am grateful to be working with Dr. Ogilvie as she creates learning opportunities, promotes the strengths of her team members, and builds collaboration between her networks. For example, Dr. Ogilvie connected me with Dr. Robine Donken, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Vaccine Evaluation Center and Women’s Health Research Institute. One of my favourite and enjoyable parts of working on this project has been meeting with Dr. Donken on a weekly basis to discuss progress and next steps in data management and analysis.

Connect with Christine: LinkedIn