New Executive Director of WHRI – Welcome Dr. Lori Brotto!

lori-brottoWe are very pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Lori Brotto to the position of Executive Director, Women’s Health Research Institute, BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre, effective July 1, 2016.

Dr. Brotto has a PhD in Psychology from UBC. She also trained at the University of Washington where she completed a one-year internship in the Department of Psychiatry followed by a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship in Reproductive and Sexual Medicine. She is a Professor in the UBC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and was the inaugural Division Head of Gynecologic Specialties until the start of this appointment. She teaches sexual health interviewing for medical students and obstetric/gynecology residents, and is a supervisor for psychology residents and practicum students. She is a Registered Psychologist with the BC College of Psychologists.

Dr. Brotto holds a Canada Research Chair in Women’s Sexual Health. She conducts research on women’s sexual health, with specific lines of focus on the development and testing of mindfulness-based and psychological treatments for women. She is a member of the International Academy of Sex Research, the Society for Sex Therapy and Research, the Canadian Sex Research Forum, and the Canadian Psychological Association. She has published over 150 articles and book chapters, has given 200 invited presentations, and is frequently contacted by the media as a guest expert on the topic of sexuality. She was a member of the DSM-5 workgroup on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders published in May 2013. She is a health expert writer for the Globe and Mail where she writes a monthly column focused on sexual health and well-being.

The mandate of the Executive Director, WHRI will include setting the health research agenda for WHRI in conjunction with senior leadership at BC Women’s. Dr. Brotto will work with an Advisory Council and will collaborate with research leadership at UBC and other health authority research institutes to define and facilitate a women’s health research strategy for BC. She will play a pivotal role in the team effort towards integrating and coordinating the women’s health research effort within BC Women’s, PHSA, UBC and other partner universities. Her responsibilities will include planning, organizing, staffing, directing and managing outcomes of the WHRI and working effectively with government and community partners to enable the integrated research vision.

Dr. Brotto’s office will be located in the WHRI on the 3rd Floor of the Women’s Health Centre at BCW where she will be onsite Wednesdays and Thursdays. She will maintain an office and laboratory at the Diamond Health Care Centre the rest of the week.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Brotto on her appointment, and in welcoming her to her new role in the Women’s Health Research Institute!

Dr. Patricia Janssen receives a YWCA Metro Vancouver Women of Distinction Award

patricia-janseenWe would like to congratulate WHRI investigator, Dr. Patricia Janssen, for receiving the 2016 YWCA Women of Distinction Award in the category of Research and the Sciences. This award celebrates Dr. Janssen’s body of research on the promotion of healthy pregnancy and birth, particularly among marginalized women.

The YWCA Women of Distinction Awards honours individuals and organizations whose outstanding activities and achievements contribute to the well-being and future of our community. More information about the award and this year’s recipients can be found here:



Congratulations to Clara Van Ommen, a summer student working with WHRI member Dr. Melanie Murray

Congratulations to Clara Van Ommen, a summer student working with WHRI member Dr. Melanie Murray, who received a 2016 HIVMA Medical Student Program Award for her work on a study of HIV and ovarian aging. Clara was the only Canadian student to win this award in 2016!

Here is more information about the award and this year’s recipients:

Congratulations to WHRI investigator Dr. Kelly Smith for receiving the 2016 Nelly Auersperg Award in Women’s Health Research


Congratulations to Dr Kelly Smith in being the recipient of the Nelly Auersperg Award.  This award supports pilot studies in women’s health which aim to generate preliminary data, test new approaches, methodologies or tools.  The funding supports activities that will enable the pursuit of more ambitious studies and foster further funding applications.

Genetic counselling should be offered to psychiatric patients: UBC study

A new University of British Columbia study shows that genetic counselling helps patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorders understand and cope with their illness.

This is among the first studies to show the value of genetic counselling for psychiatric illnesses and researchers argue that the service should be made available to them. Genetic counselling is the process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease.

“Traditionally genetic counselling is applied to conditions that are caused entirely by genes like Huntington’s disease,” said Jehannine Austin, an associate professor in the Depts. of Medical Genetics & Psychiatry. “Psychiatric disorders arise because of a combination of genes and experience and our study shows that genetic counselling is just as valuable for these patients.”

In a randomized controlled trial, some patients were offered counselling while others were not. The focus of the counselling sessions was to help patients understand the cause of their illness, the genetic component and how they can protect their mental health going forward.
“People with mental health problems often feel guilty, ashamed or stigmatized about where the illness came from and this has a profound effect on how they feel,” said Austin.

Austin’s previous work showed that individuals with psychiatric illness will come up with their own explanation of the cause of their illness, if they aren’t provided with an explanation that makes sense to them. These explanations are usually not grounded in evidence, and often lead people to over-estimate the risk that someone else in their family may develop psychiatric illness. In some cases, these beliefs lead people to choose not to have children, or to have fewer children than they would like. This new study showed that genetic counselling helped to clarify misconceptions, including inaccurate risk perception. The study also showed that genetic counselling holds promise for reducing stigma and increasing individuals’ perceived control over their illness; these represent areas of future work.
“People often blame themselves for the illness they are living with,” Austin said. “We helped people better understand the cause of their illness and helped them uncover issues like guilt and distress.”

These results point to the benefits of a burgeoning field of genetic counselling that focuses on psychiatric disorders. The world’s first psychiatric genetic counselling clinic is led by Austin and based out of BC Women’s Hospital, in partnership with BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services. Clinicians from Europe and the United States have trained at the clinic and are now setting up clinics in their own parts of the world.

To read the abstract and article:

The Zika virus is an emerging concern for women and their medical providers worldwide

zikaThe Zika virus is an emerging concern for women and their medical providers worldwide. The associations with of Zika virus in pregnant women with microcephaly in their infants are very worrisome, especially since most cases in pregnant women are asymptomatic. For non-obstetric providers, sexual transmission has now been confirmed, and raises other public health issues.

Women’s Health Research Institute investigators, along with partner clinician scientists, are on the front lines nationally and internationally, studying this virus, developing management strategies and algorithms, and helping to care for exposed and infected women. Please consult your local public health and obstetrical leadership for specific guidelines.

Zika Resources:



Congratulations to Dr. Deborah Money

moneyDr. Deborah Money, has recently been appointed Executive Vice Dean, UBC, Faculty of Medicine, effective April 1, 2016. In taking her new position, she will be stepping down from her roles as Executive Director of the Women’s Health Research Institute and VP, Research at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre. The organizations are actively looking for a replacement for April 1, 2016.

Dr. Money will continue to work as a Reproductive Infectious Diseases (Ob/Gyn ID) physician at BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre and to lead an active teaching and research program as a member of the UBC, PHSA and Women’s Health Research Institute communities.

It is with mixed emotions that we offer congratulations to our leader, who has been a champion for women’s health research for so long. Please join us in offering our heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Money for her years of service to the WHRI and BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre. The search for Dr. Money’s replacement is currently underway.