WHRI Researchers Recipients of MSFHR Scholar Awards!

The WHRI is proud to announce two of our highly respected researchers, Dr. Sarka Lisonkova and Dr. Elizabeth Rideout, were 2017 Scholar Award recipients through the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR)!

Each year, MSFHR invests in British Columbia’s top researchers to continue to nurture their talent, advance new treatments and respond to health system priorities, therefore helping support the development and retention of BC’s research talent. The MSFHR Program focuses on “researchers who are building cutting-edge health research programs, training junior scientists and expanding their potential to make significant contributions to their field.”

Dr. Sarka Lisonkova is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine and an Associate Faculty member in the School of Population and Public Health. She obtained her medical degree from Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic before studying epidemiology in the US and Canada. She obtained an MSc in Epidemiology from the State University of New York, and a PhD in Epidemiology from the School of Population and Public Health, UBC. Dr. Lisonkova’s Scholar Award will support her research in improving maternal and perinatal health outcomes in high risk mothers.

After completing her BSc (Hons) at the University of Toronto, Dr. Elizabeth Rideout is currently combining her PhD and postdoctoral research to investigate how male-female difference in cellular metabolism lead to sex differences in body size, stress responses and aging. Dr. rideout’s scholar award will support her research in Identifying the molecular mechanisms underlying sex differences in fat storage using Drosophila as a model.

For more information on the MSFHR Scholar Awards, please click here.

WHRI Member, Nichole Fairbrother, Featured on CBC News for Upcoming Childbirth Study

WHRI Member, Nichole Fairbrother, has been featured on CBC news for her upcoming study which investigates why some pregnant women experience a fear of childbirth, so severe it has a debilitating effect on their lives. The study is hoping to develop a screening tool that will allow researchers to distinguish between women who are suffering from a more normal level of fear of childbirth versus women who are suffering from more severe, clinically-meaningful fear.

The study is currently seeking participants who are pregnant, over 19 and reside in British Columbia.

To read the full article, click here.

WHRI Member, Jonathan Simkin, Discusses Elevated Cancer mortality in Yukon

Every year, approximately 1 in 4 Canadians die from cancer, Canada’s leading cause of pre-mature death. Nationally, cancer mortality rates are declining overall but despite progress, the cancer burden is not evenly distributed across Canada. For example, geographic differences exist and cancer mortality rates are highest in Canada’s northern territories. Further, cancer information for Northern Canadians is limited and this information gap is a barrier to cancer programming in the North.

WHRI member, Jonathan Simkin, a doctoral student at the School of Population Public Health (UBC) and cancer epidemiologist at the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Yukon, is making an impact in the North by broadening the reach, depth and availability of cancer information concerning cancer in Canada’s North. Jonathan’s recent findings, published in the International Journal of Circumpolar Health, examines cancer mortality trends in the Yukon Territory across 15 years (1999 to 2013), providing new insights and a foundation of evidence to guide cancer research and programming in Northern Canada moving forward.

While cancer mortality rates are declining in Yukon and across Canada, a mortality gap exists and rates are elevated in Yukon compared to national counterparts. Lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death, is declining overall but trends differ between men and women. Among males, the lung cancer mortality rate has been declining since the beginning of the analysis period. Among females, the rate has been increasing, although it appears to be peaking. The study also compares mortality rates for major cancers between Yukon and many BC administrative health regions, highlighting important differences between the North and South, and urban and rural regions.

This study was supported by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and made possible through the work of a collaborative effort between the Department of Health and Social Services, Government of Yukon, and the BC Cancer Agency.

Vancouver to Host the Upcoming Women Deliver 2019 Conference!

The Women’s Health Research Institute is very excited to report that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recently announced that Canada will be hosting the upcoming Women Deliver Conference here in Vancouver (June 3 – 6, 2019). The official Vancouver launch will be in the Fall, and we expect to learn more about how the WHRI will play a role in shaping and contributing to the Conference then.

The Women Deliver 2019 Conference – the world’s largest of its kind – will present new knowledge, promote solutions, and serve as a fueling station for accelerating action, including policy changes and investments, for the health, rights, and well-being of girls and women and achieving a more equal world.

This conference will come at a time when support for the empowerment of girls and women is more critical than ever in order to maintain and increase the gains in health, education, and economic participation of women, as well as close the existing gaps in reproductive rights and health care services  that advances gender equality for women and girls in the developing world.

Want More Funding for Research in Women’s Health? Support the Report!

Written by Liisa Galea:

On April 10, 2017, the Fundamental Science Review, written by nine experts in science and technology, was released to the public. The Honourable Kristy Duncan commissioned the review of federal support for science, the first of its kind over the last 40 years. The mandate included a review of all disciplines, basic and applied, which involved federal support and peer-review and a review of programs tailored to knowledge generation rather than industry or commercialization. The significance of this report for the future of science and importance of scientific funding within Canada cannot be overstated– this is the singular most important report to be completed in our scientific careers. This report was written, in part, after consultations with 230 people across the country at five roundtables (the attendees are listed in Appendix 2), and 1275 written responses from researchers, institutions, and the general public. Increases in annual budgets for research monies to the four agencies (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC and CFI) were recommended to stem the hemorrhaging of research productivity in Canada and on the world stage. The recommended increase in budget amounts to less than 1% of the Government of Canada’s annual budget (a total increase of approximately $1.4B over 4 years). This increase is needed in part to offset Canada’s decline over the past 15 years in gross domestic expenditures in research and development (GERD) as detailed in the report (Chapter 3). Canada’s ranking in GERD intensity (GERD as a percentage of GDP) has fallen as key nations, including the G7, GERD intensity has risen or remained stable. The executive summary outlines 35 recommendations. Most of the recommendations involve changes to oversight in the federal support for basic research. Eleven of these recommendations concern the creation of a new National Advisory Council on Research and Innovation (NACRI) to oversee research funding within Canada and advise on the current funding models for fundamental research and innovation. Another 12 recommendations suggest harmonizing the four agencies (CIHR, SSHRC, NSERC and CFI) with the formation of a formal Four Agency Coordinating Board to oversee common issues such as peer review, scholarships, international partnerships, rapid review mechanisms, needs of different career stages (including early career) and the importance of equity and diversity in funding outcomes.  A heavy emphasis in this report is placed on the protection of funding basic research, with more funding directed towards investigator-driven research at the expense of targeted priority-driven and partnership-oriented research.

At a meeting in Toronto on Canada’s Fundamental Science Review (attended by Gina Ogilvie and Liisa Galea from WHRI), several roundtables were set up to discuss the recommendations and the best pathways to support the recommendations. David Naylor, who was chair of the Advisory Panel, fervently stressed that these 35 recommendations be implemented in full and that researchers and scientists speak with a united voice in our support of the report.  It is, by nature, our desire to see more funding come to our own research areas but it is essential that the funding levels increase across all disciplines.  Recommending a redistribution of funding will not help a chronically underfunded research community within Canada ( nor will it improve GERD intensity). While women’s health is not mentioned specifically in the report, the report frequently refers to the underrepresentation of women, minorities and Indigenous populations as awardees of CERCS, CRCs and in operating grant awards across tri-council. The WHRI recommends that we support the report in its entirety and some suggestions on how to do so are given below.

The full report:


The Executive Summary can be found here:


What can you do:

  • Use social media to spread the message to #SupportTheReport
  • Attend meetings on Science Review of Funding in your community ( #SciRevYYZ, one on June 21, 2017 at UBC).
  • Write your MPs to thank them for funding support and indicate your support of the Fundamental Science Reviews Recommendations using personalized examples.
  • Invite MPs to your research laboratories to show them what science and research can do for society and the community as a whole. Stress or highlight the impact of local jobs and job opportunities within your laboratory but also in knowledge creation. A package with helpful tools to engage our MPs has been created by the Association of Canadian Early Career Health Researchers (ACECHR) and can be downloaded from: http://www.acechr.ca/summerofsciencecan.html
  • Engage public interest to #SupportTheReport by personalising your research, telling your research story to the public and highlighting the potential of fundamental science so that government and the public can better understand why research is so important
  • Keep the message POSITIVE and support ALL of the recommendations

Successful Engagement: 13th Annual World Congress on Endometriosis

The World Congress on Endometriosis, hosted this year by the BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis, took place at the Vancouver Convention Center.  Led by our very own Dr. Catherine Allaire, this year’s congress included over 120 presentations and 1100 delegates from 58 different countries around the world. Topics included the latest developments in basic science, clinical research, patient-oriented research, surgery, medical treatment and complementary therapies with a focus on improving the quality of life for women living with endometriosis.

Dr. Lori Brotto, Executive Director of the WHRI, was one of many keynote lecturers and discussed the impact of sexual dysfunction for women living with endometriosis.

In addition to hosting the event, the BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis had numerous presentations and posters reflecting their recent research.  A patient friendly pre-congress course chaired by Dr. Paul Yong provided patients with the opportunity to become empowered through knowledge, and mingle with the worlds leading endometriosis researchers.  Dr. Catherine Allaire presented on the one year outcomes of the BC Women’s Centre for Pelvic Pain and Endometriosis revealing that pain catastrophizing may be an area of focus for future research.   Dr. Paul Yong presented on a ground-breaking paper that recently found cancer-causing mutations in non-cancerous endometriosis.  Dr. Christina Williams presented a poster on her research into ethnicity and endometriosis.

Due to the dedication of Dr. Catherine Allaire the 13th World Congress on Endometriosis not only featured the first patient focused pre-congress course, but also organized the first ever Congress Fundraising Run for Endometriosis!

For more highlights of the Congress visit #WCE2017 on twitter!




WHRI member, Dr. Ron Abrahams, receives the Meritorious Service Cross!

WHRI member, Dr. Ron Abrahams, Medical Director of Perinatal Addictions, along with Sarah Payne, RN, MA, former Senior Practice Leader of Perinatal Addictions and Manager of Fir Square, will be receiving the Meritorious Service Cross this year. 

The Meritorious Service Decorations, created by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, are federal decorations that recognize Canadians for their exceptional deeds that bring honour to our country, and are an important part of the Canadian Honours System. 

Dr. Abraham and and Sarah Payne are being recognized for their continued support for expecting mothers who are challenged by substance abuse. Together, they recognized the need for a safe and supportive environment in the BC Women’s Hospital for pregnant women struggling with substance abuse, and established the Fir Square Combined Unit which will foster best health outcomes for women and their babies. 

Given Vancouver’s current increasing opioid crisis resulting in devastating impacts of addiction in our communities, the Fir Square Program offers a true model serving some of our most marginalized women and babies who deserve an opportunity for recovery, good health and a life together as family.

Fir Square is the first program of its kind in Canada, and thanks to Ron and Sarah’s dedicated vision and leadership, women and their babies not only receive the direct care they need during their stay at Fir, but also access to a supportive network and tools to lead healthy lives beyond our hospital walls.

Please join us in congratulating both Ron and Sarah for this well-deserved recognition!

WHRI Members Receive CIHR Grants!

On Monday May 15th, results from the CIHR 2017 Foundation and Project competition were released, revealing multiple WHRI members who were recently awarded funding to further explore crucial women’s health areas of research. WHRI members received more than $1.8 million in new grants and awards.

Congratulations to:


WHRI member, Deborah Money, along with co-investigators, received a CIHR project grant of $1,411,425 to support research surrounding the relationship between vaginal and cesarean delivery with respect to infant gut microbiome pattern. Using advanced gene-based methods to profile the bacterial communities present in women during birth, Dr. Deborah Money and her team will be conducting a study to determine, based on mode of delivery, whether the maternal vaginal microbiome pattern is predictive of the infant gut microbiome pattern.

WHRI member, Hamideh Bayrampour, is the recipient of a $218,025 CIHR project grant to conduct a study to initiate the development of a valid tool which will measure and identify anxiety experienced in women during pregnancy. Creating this tool and referring pregnant women with anxiety to appropriate services can improve pregnancy postpartum and child outcomes, and enhance the quality of life for women and their babies.

WHRI member, K.S. Joseph, is a CIHR Bridge Grant recipient receiving $100,000 to support his research to identify newborn birth weight-for-gestational age values (and related indices) that will distinguish babies at low versus high risk for severe illness or death. Given the discrepancy between the Gates Funded Intergrowth-21st Project’s birth weight-for-gestation age and Canada’s current standard, this study has proposed to adapt the intergrowth standard by identifying the birth weight-for-gestation age centiles of this standard that distinguish babies at low vs high risk for illness and death.

WHRI member, Melanie C Murray, is the recipient of a $100’000 CIHR Bridge Grant to study who will benefit most from WelTel, among those who are HIV-positive. In addition to this, the study will explore if personality traits and sense of life purpose change over time in the setting of a program that provides increased links with care provider, among persons who are HIV-positive.

All of the WHRI members who have received CIHR funding are listed below. Congratulations to all!

PIs: Money, Deborah M; Hill, Janet E; Joseph, K.S; Van Schalkwyk, Julianne E. Co-Is: Albert, Arianne; Elwood, Chelsea; Gantt, Soren M; Grabowska, Kirsten; Hutcheon, Jennifer A; Links, Matthew G; Manges, Amee R; Mitchell, Sheona. Defining the maternal legacy: Does mode of delivery impact the role of the maternal vaginal microbiome in predicting the infant gut microbiome? CIHR Project Grant. 5 years.

PIs: Bayrampour, Hamideh. Co-Is: Brant, Rollin F; Butler, Michelle M; Fairbrother, Nichole; Janssen, Patricia A; Joseph, K.S. Pregnancy Specific Anxiety Scale (PSAS): Instrument Development and Psychometric Testing. CIHR Project Grant. 3 years.

PIs: Joseph, K.S. Co-Is: Kramer, Michael S; Liu, Shiliang. Adapting the Intergrowth-21st Project newborn standard for Canada. CIPR Bridge Grant Recipients. CIHR Bridge Grant.1 year.

PIs: Murray, Melanie C. Co-Is: Cote, Helene; Flynn, Catherine J; Hill, Patrick; Sutherland, Christy. Individual disposition and mHealth: Personalized care to improve outcomes. CIHR Bridge Grant. 1 year.

Award Announcement: WHRI Team Member’s Win the 2017 Canadian Evaluation Society Student Case Competition!

The WHRI is proud to announce two of our team members, Felicia Phan and Selina Suleman, were members of UBC’s School of Population and Public Health (SPPH) winning team for the 2017 Canadian Evaluation Society Student Case Competition (CES-CEDEF). CES-CEDEF is an annual event that is designed to give first-hand experience in both evaluative analysis and reporting under pressure given a short time frame.

In early February, 10 teams from across Canada participated in Round One of the case competition which required teams to complete an evaluation proposal for the Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre youth Ambassador Program within a 5.5 hour time limit. UBC’s team did exceptionally well and proceeded to the final round, along with 3 other teams. The final round of the case competition took place on Monday, May 1st where Transformative Growth Solutions, the team which included WHRI team members, had to respond to a proposal request from the Ottawa Child and Youth Initiative Growing up Great Research and Evaluation Task Group. The top 3 teams had 5 hours to prepare the proposal before presenting in front of a live panel as well as a large audience. The Transformative Growth Solution’s proposal set them apart from the other 2 teams, resulting in their team winning the 2017 CES-CEFEF Case Competition!

For more information on the case competition, please click here.

Ground-Breaking Study: Cancer-Causing Mutations Found to be Associated with Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition found in 10% of women which is caused when the endometrium, tissue lining the inside of the uterus, grows abnormally outside of one’s uterus resulting in severe pain and in some cases, infertility.

WHRI member, Dr. Paul Yong,  and Dr.Mike Anglesio, a scientist at the BC Cancer Research Centre, recent findings, which were published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, may change the way doctors and researchers approach endometriosis Using gene-sequencing technology to analyze endometrial tissue, this study discovered mutations in  non-cancerous pelvic lesions of women with endometriosis, which share similar characteristics to cancerous tissue. This new finding opens an avenue for the potential use of experimental cancer drugs  to treat endometriosis, which could significantly increase the treatment options available. This study is not only beneficial for the future of endometriosis treatment, but also marks the first time advanced technology has been used when conducting endometriosis research.

This study was partially supported by a WHRI grant award (the Nelly Auersperg Award for Women’s Health Research) and the study was made possible through the collaborative effort of several partners, including research by scientists from the B.C Cancer Agency, the B.C. Women’s Hospital, Vancouver Coastal Health, the University of British Columbia, and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.