Digital Health Hub

We Want To Hear From YOU! 

We need your input to help shape the creation of a new digital health research and services hub. This hub will be focused on women’s and neonatal health and will aim to support clinicians, researchers, and decisions makers who are leveraging technologies in order to enhance research and health service delivery for these populations.

Please complete this survey which will help the strategic planning team to:

  1. Identify current gaps in digital health and what you would like to see in a Digital Health Hub resource
  2. Take stock of all women and neonatal digital health projects’ happening throughout the province.


If you have any further questions please contact Ciana Maher, Research Program Manager, Digital Health, Women’s Health Research Institute

Congratulations to the recipients of the Women’s Global Health Research Trainee Awards!

The awards were presented to Kalysha Closson, PhD candidate, School of Population & Public Health, UBC, and Amanda Rowlands, Master’s of Science candidate, Faculty of Health Sciences, SFU.

Kalysha Closson

What is the title of your project?

Unpacking measures of sexual relationship power inequities to advance sexual and reproductive health among young women and men growing up in Durban and Soweto, South Africa: A multi-method youth-engaged study

Who is your supervisor?

My Senior Supervisor is Dr. Gina Oglivie and I am being co-supervised by Dr. Angela Kaida and Dr. Jeannie Shoveller.

Brief overview of the project:

My PhD research will seek to examine the validity and reliability of a Sexual Relationship Power Scale with youth in two partner South African sites the maternal adolescent and child health research unit in Durban and the Perinatal HIV research Unit in Soweto. Validation and reliability tests will both consider the statistical properties of the scale using data from a youth-engaged observational cohort study that aims to better understand patterns of socio-behavioural and biological factors influencing HIV risk among young men and women in South Africa, as well as construct validity through qualitative focus groups unpacking the scale with youth in the aforementioned settings.

What impact do you hope your work will have on women’s health?

This research is in line with Canada’s mission in taking a feminist approach to global aid, and will be critical to ensuring we have appropriate measures to track progress towards international targets aimed at ending AIDS and eliminated gender based violence.

Amanda Rowlands

What is the title of your project?

Sleep, Stress, and Women’s Reproductive Maturation

Who is your supervisor?

Dr. Pablo Nepomnaschy

Brief overview of the project:

I am exploring how stress axis activity and sleep patterns interact with each other, and how they may impact women’s reproductive health outcomes. Specifically, I am interested in how these interactions may impact the timing, onset, and quality of reproductive maturation. 

What impact do you hope your work will have on women’s health?

These results will inform on developing appropriate interventions and coping strategies to target specific stressors during the adolescent transition, to optimize women’s health and well being throughout their reproductive lifespans.  

What would it take for the province of British Columbia to Eliminate Cervical Cancer?

There were an estimated 1550 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in Canada in 2017, with approximately 400 women dying from this preventable disease. Cervical cancer remains a public health threat to women at the prime of their lives. With access to highly effective HPV vaccines and screening technologies, we have reached a time when elimination of cervical cancer in Canada is entirely possible and within our reach.

For years, BC has been a leader in cervical cancer prevention through its’ successful, decades long organized screening program. BC had also championed HPV vaccine research and program implementation. The WHO has issued a call to countries around the world to eliminate cervical cancer.  Research leads in BC are heeding this call, and taking the opportunity to build upon our world class programming to become leaders in the path towards elimination of cervical cancer, and have developed an action plan to achieve this goal.

The BC initiative had a unique opportunity to host a panel at the Women Deliver conference, held in Vancouver earlier this month. The session, “What would it take for the province of British Columbia to Eliminate Cervical Cancer?”

This dynamic panel discussed the reasons why elimination of cervical cancer in Canada is an important issue that needs to be addressed and tools and strategies that could be enhanced and or undertaken to achieve this goal. With the extensive expertise and varied backgrounds of each of the panel members, this robust discussion offered unique perspectives and suggestions for action items the BC initiative can move forward with in the path towards elimination of cervical cancer.

“This is a preventable disease that women should not be dying from, and we have a moral obligation to actively pursue elimination of cervical cancer….the tools to do this are available to us!”

Vancouver welcomes Women Deliver 2019 conference

Over 8,000 people from 160+ countries congregated in the Vancouver Convention Centre on June 3-6, 2019 for Women Deliver. The environment was electrifying.

The theme of the 2019 Women Deliver conference was “Power”. We were asked repeatedly, “How will you use your power for change” as it pertains to gender equality, the rights of women and girls, and their empowerment.

Through countless concurrent sessions, plenary talks, power stage messages, and side events, Women Deliver used the conference to redefine power as something each of us has the ability to use to improve women and girls. We were urged to embrace the facts which clearly illustrate that gender equality has a multitude of positive outcomes for all of society.

There was a clear call for better investments, including political, programmatic, and financial, towards achieving gender equality.  The week saw a number of exciting announcements from the federal government.

Gender Equality and International Development Minister Maryam Monsef announced her government’s $300 million contribution to kickstart a new platform aimed at helping women’s organizations in Canada and internationally. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an increase budget to $1.4 Billion/annually for 10 years starting in 2023 to support women and girls around the world.

Approximately 20% of attendees were youth, and their energy was palpable. They shared ideas, visions, and strategies for how our world can achieve gender equality, and this was focused on speaking up, driving solutions, and creating change.

Though Women Deliver was a single moment in time, it is intended to mobilize action. Each of us were called to think critically about how we would use our power to instigate change.

View some of the infographic postcards distributed at Women Deliver.

Dorothy Shaw is the WHRI’s 2019 recipient of the Career Contributions to Women’s Health Award

She is internationally renowned for her advocacy of women’s reproductive rights and freedoms. And in the current era where we are seeing the realities of women’s rights to access reproductive health care taken away from them, our need for champions is even more imperative. By all accounts, Dr. Dorothy Shaw embodies the label of champion.

Dr. Shaw has a long list of accolades. Some highlights include: her being the inaugural chair of the FIGO Committee for Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights from 2000-2003; being the first woman President of FIGO; while president-elect of the society for obstetricians and gynaecologists of Canada in 1991, Dr. Shaw lobbied Senate to remove abortion from the Criminal code of Canada.

Dr. Shaw has been a spokesperson for the Partnership for Maternal Newborn Child Health and has a longstanding history of engagement in civil society advocacy related to policy in global Reproductive Maternal Newborn Child Health. She was the inaugural chair of the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health from 2010-2014 and currently serves as Treasurer of what is now the Canadian Partnership for Women’s and Children’s Health. She is engaged in Canadian and global working groups on maternal and perinatal mortality.

In the last few years leading to her retirement, she was awarded the Christopher Tietze Humanitarianism Award by the National Abortion Federation as its highest distinction, honoring significant, life-time contributions in the field of abortion service delivery or policy.  Later that year, she also received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.  In 2015, she was the recipient of two medical leadership life-time achievement awards:  the Chris Carruthers Excellence in Medical Leadership Award from the Canadian Society of Physician Executives and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Distinguished Service Award.

In July 2016, Dr. Shaw was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada by Governor General David Johnston, for her work as an advocate for women’s health and reproductive rights.

Dr. Shaw has been heard time and time again calling for us to uphold the standards of woman-centered care, which means that judgement and stereotyping no longer have a place, that women are believed, and that their concerns are taken seriously. Thanks to Dr. Shaw’s voice and her actions, we have moved closer to achieving that desirable goal.

A look back on the Fourth Annual Women’s Health Research Symposium

On Friday, May 31st, 2019 the Women’s Health Research Institute welcomed over 200 members of the women’s health research community and its other stakeholders to the beautiful Vancouver Convention Centre for a day spent exploring work at the forefront of global women’s health research.

Our Fourth Annual Women’s Health Research Symposium was uniquely positioned as a pre-conference event for Women Deliver, which placed Vancouver at the centre of a variety of vital conversations around gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women.

The day began with an acknowledgement of the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, led by Elder Valerie Nicholson who set the tone for the day with a powerful call-to-action: “As learners, please teach; as teachers, please learn.”

Welcoming remarks were offered by Professor Santa Ono, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of British Columbia, and Katja Iversen, President and Chief Executive Officer, Women Deliver.

An inspiring keynote presentation followed, moderated by Dr. Gina Ogilvie and presented by Dr. Princess Nothemba (Nono) Simelela of the World Health Organization, who shared their vision and strategy for a future where cervical cancer has been eliminated globally. The WHO has set an ambitious, but achievable goal of the elimination of cervical cancer by 2030.

Other presentations included a look at the Health of Adolescent Girls in the Local and Global Context, featuring research by Drs. Grace Jaramillo, Angela Kaida, and Tricia Ong; a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Roopan Gill on Health and Human Rights Across the Reproductive Life Cycle for Women with discussion by Dr. Grace Jaramillo, Ms Julia Anderson, and Professor Saraswathi Vedam; and a talk on the health inequities that exist among adolescent girls by Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc.

Our breakout sessions examined the issue of underfunding in women’s health research, shed light on research around respectful maternity care, and introduced BC Women’s Health Foundation’s new expanded mandate.

The afternoon carried pace with a series of presentations on digital health projects benefitting women’s health, which featured Dr. Manjulaa Narasimhan of the World Health Organization speaking about their new guidelines on self-care interventions to support sexual and reproductive health rights of women and girls; Dr. Beth Payne, who spoke about her work on with UBC PRE-EMPT and the PIERS project; and Dr. Roopan Gill, who discussed her research on digital tools to provide post-abortion support.

The day concluded with a brief award ceremony, presented by Drs. Lori Brotto and Gina Ogilvie. Dr. Dorothy Shaw was awarded the Career Contribution to Women’s Health Research Award for her inspiring and tireless work to advocate for women’s health. Amanda Rowlands, Master’s of Science candidate, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, and Kalysha Closson, PhD candidate, School of Population & Public Health, University of British Columbia, were each awarded a Women’s Global Health Research Trainee Award.

Closing remarks were offered by Ms. Divya Mathew, Senior Manager, Research, Policy & Advocacy, Women Deliver.

WHRI partners with Vancouver Island Health Authority and University of Victoria to run womens health symposium

On May 6, 2019, the Women’s Health Research Institute (WHRI), in partnership with Vancouver Island Health Authority and the University of Victoria held a symposium focused on women’s health. The event was funded by a Collaborative Research Mobility Award from UBC awarded to Dr. Brotto.

The symposium brought together faculty members, staff, patient partners, community groups, and trainees from across Vancouver Island to hear about new research in women’s health. The day started with a trainee breakfast led by Dr. Karen Urbanoski, who shared personal experiences and insights about charting an academic career in women’s health.

Following breakfast, we then were treated by a panel presentation, where the theme for the panel was “Supporting vulnerable women: A focus on stigma and safety”. Leading the panel was Lisa Ridgway, a patient partner and lawyer who discussed the role of advocacy among vulnerable women, and how that is important for health research. Dr. Karen Urbanoski, who holds a Canada Research Chair in substance use, addictions, and health services research, focused on the unique social determinants that impact women who are using substances during pregnancy. Dr. Patti Janssen, a Professor in the School of Population and Public Health discussed an innovative project focused on women with a recent history of incarceration, and focused on understanding their health goals. Dr. Elizabeth Borycki, a Professor in the school of Health Information Science at UVic and MSFHR Scholar talked about the opportunities and challenges associated with e-Health apps and patient portals to support vulnerable women. Finally, Dr. Nichole Fairbrother, an Assistant Professor in the UBC Department of Psychiatry and Island Medical Program, enlightened listeners about the common yet rarely recognized condition of post-partum obsessive compulsive disorder.

Following the panel discussion, we had an interactive moderated question & answer period. The audience left inspired at what we had learned and how these scientists and patient partners are changing the landscape of health for vulnerable women.

Networking, conversation, and collaboration were woven throughout the morning focused on women’s health. In alignment with the WHRI’s mission focused on collaboration, new relationships were formed and discussions were rich. The WHRI is excited to expand its network of membership to all researchers, stakeholders, and community persons across Vancouver Island (and across BC) who share an interest in women’s health research.

For more from the event check out @womensresearch, @VIHealthRes, and #5DIM on Twitter, or check out the recording here.

KT Pathways: a free new tool for everyone wanting to close the gap between what we know and what we do

WHRI is excited to announce the launch of KT Pathways, a free digital assessment and learning tool for anyone that creates or uses research evidence.

Why should you care?

A lot of time and money goes into research but much of the knowledge discovered by researchers is never used. That means missed opportunities for that knowledge to contribute to the health and well-being of our communities and society. KT Pathways was developed to help people to use that knowledge.

Who is KT Pathways for?

KT Pathways is for anyone who wants to learn how to close the gap between what we know and what we do. It’s for those who:

  • Want to use evidence to inform the decisions they make in work;
  • Want to produce knowledge that is used by others; or
  • Want to make knowledge more accessible to those who can use it.

 How does KT Pathways work?

Knowledge translation (KT) encompasses all the activities aimed at increasing the impact of research on policy, practice and even further research. KT Pathways is designed to help users assess their current KT skill level. Users rate themselves against the core skills required for successful KT to identify their strengths and areas for development.

If you are a  KT beginner, KT Pathways is a way to learn about all the different skills involved in KT (they may be different than you think). The assessment results will direct you to tools and resources specifically tailored for you.

If you are a KT pro, KT Pathways will help further your growth in the field with up-to-date tools and resources. This tool can help you identify areas for further professional development and increase your KT knowledge and skills.

 KT Pathways development partners

WHRI was one of many academic and health system partners across BC who contributed funding and/or in-kind support to help develop KT Pathways. Other partners in this Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research led initiative include BC-based health authorities, universities, research institutes, the BC SUPPORT Unit and BC Ministry of Health.

Check out KT Pathways and start your KT journey!

Have questions? Contact Nicole Prestley at

An article co-authored by Dr. WS Chan was recently published in Stroke

The paper, which was also co-authored by WHRI member Dr. K.S. Joseph, is the first Canadian study reporting on the incidence and risk factors of stroke and cerebrovascular disease during pregnancy in Canada.

In her role as an Obstetric Medicine Physician at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre, Dr. Chan is often called upon to manage pregnant or postpartum women with symptoms of stroke. Her team noticed that the frequency with which they encountered these women appeared to be increasing, which led Dr. Chan to suggest a study to identify presentation and associated risk factors of stroke in Canadian Women.

In collaboration with investigators from the Canadian Perinatal Surveillance System, Drs. Chan and Joseph evaluated how pre-existing conditions (such as maternal age, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, connective tissue diseases, congenital heart disease, etc.) as well as some of the conditions which develop during pregnancy (like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, sepsis, or severe postpartum hemorrhage) are associated with the risk of stroke and cerebrovascular events in pregnancy.

The study reported that the overall rate of pregnancy-associated stroke and cerebrovascular events during the period of 2003-2016 in Canada was rising, with the current risk of stroke sitting at approximately 13 cases per 100 000 deliveries. The majority of these occurred postpartum, and were hemorrhagic strokes.

Although the annual rate is lower than those reported in the US (where approximately 22-27 cases are identified per 100 000 births) much can still be done to reduce this risk further in Canada with a better understanding of maternal risk factors for stroke.

Knowing that the presence of preeclampsia confers the greatest risk of stroke during pregnancy and especially postpartum should prompt clinicians to promptly diagnose and manage these patients when symptoms develop, especially after the patient has delivered.

To read the article in Stroke, click here.

To learn more about Dr. Chan, click here.

International Midwives Day: Zoe Hodgson

In honour of International Midwives Day we’re shining the spotlight on Zoe Hodgson, PhD and Registered Midwife.

  1. What are your research interests?

All families face many choices during their pregnancy, birth and postpartum period. Midwives recognise the childbearing client as the primary decision maker and help them make decisions within a context of informed choice. To enable this, a midwife will review the options with a client and discuss the evidence for and against a given procedure, treatment or course of action. However, the current problem faced by midwives is that there is often a dearth of literature on many of the choices available to clients today, meaning such informed choice discussions are based on anecdotal reports alone. This is especially the case when these options are alternatives to the standard practice. The overall aim of my research program is to build research capacity and create a culture of research among midwives in BC particularly in relation to the study of midwifery outcomes.

  1. What inspired you to transition from your career as the Director of Women’s Research to catching babies as a midwife?

I always knew I wanted to be a careprovider. My role at the WHRI enabled me to become familiar with the maternity scene in BC. I was very fortunate to work with midwives, family doctors, nurses and obstetricians. Midwives have only been regulated and legally recognized as autonomous health care practitioners in BC since 1998. As such, midwifery in BC is still relatively new and has so much potential to grow! I saw midwifery as a career where I could both work as a clinician and academic and conduct research that really mattered to families. Not only this, but I was excited by the potential to narrow the gap between the acquisition of evidence and uptake into clinical practice. As a midwife, I can readily share new evidence with the families I care for.

  1. What has been the most interesting part of your journey to midwifery?

What hasn’t?! I am constantly blown away by this profession, the care providers, the families, and how much midwives truly embrace informed choice and support their clients to have their best possible birth experience. When it comes to baby catching, there is never a dull moment! I truly believe I have the best job in the world.

  1. How does your experience as a researcher influence your clinical work (and vice versa)?

Evidence-based practice is a key component of midwifery care. As midwives, we endeavour to provide our clients with the update to date evidence to allow them to make informed decisions. I feel very fortunate to be in the position to be able to use evidence in my daily practice and also be aware of the knowledge gaps and use these to fuel my program of research.

  1. What’s a fun fact about you?

I am one of a team of midwives who is currently training for Tough Mudder in Whistler in June. I am yet to master the monkey bars!