2019 Women’s Health Research Institute Catalyst Grant Recipients


This grant competition provides support for pilot studies in women’s and newborn’s health, which aim to generate preliminary data; test new approaches, methodologies or tools; bring new teams together; and/or support new research in women’s and newborn’s health from established researchers.

This year, the competition introduced two applicant streams which were evaluated separately from one another: the Academic Researcher stream and the Clinician Investigator stream.


A. Fuchsia Howard and Paul Yong

PROJECT TITLE: Endometriosis and Painful Sex: Piloting Digital Storytelling

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: A. Fuchsia Howard, Assistant Professor, UBC School of Nursing Paul Yong, Assistant Professor, UBC Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

CO-INVESTIGATORS: John Oliffe, Leanne Currie, Heather Noga, Catherine Allaire, Jessica Sutherland, Angie Feret, Edurne Lopez, Darinka Aguirre, Sarah Lett, Megan Larente

SUMMARY:  Women with endometriosis commonly experience pain during sexual activity that negatively affects their quality of life and relationships. Recognizing that women seek health information online, the limited information specific to endometriosis and painful sex undermines their ability to understand and manage their symptoms and seek health care. With our patient partners, we will co-create Digital Stories in the form of written/audio narrations and videos about the impact of endometriosis-related painful sex and the ways in which women respond and manage. The aim of the proposed research is create Digital Stories and assess: 1) the acceptability of the co-creation workshop process, 2) the emotional impact of workshop participation, and 3) participant’s willingness to share their digital stories with broader audiences. This research will enable us to refine the co-creation process and the focus of workshop evaluation specific to participant experiences, and to determine target audiences and means of disseminating this patient-perspective evidence in future research. Our ultimate goal is to develop an innovative and engaging way of creating and sharing information to empower women to live their best life while also combating stigma.

Manish Sadarangani

PROJECT TITLE: Mechanism of interference of pertussis immunization in pregnancy with infants’ active immune response

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Manish Sadarangani, Assistant Professor, UBC Department of Pediatrics

CO-INVESTIGATORS: Bahaa Abu Raya and Scott Halperin

SUMMARY:  Vaccines to protect against pertussis (whooping cough) have been given to infants in Canada for many years, but newborns and very young infants remain at highest risk of severe disease, resulting in hospital admission and sometimes death. The most effective way to protect these youngest, most vulnerable infants is to give pertussis vaccine during pregnancy. In Canada, pertussis vaccine is recommended to be given during every pregnancy. This has reduced infant pertussis in other countries, including England and the USA. We have recently shown that infants born to women who receive pertussis vaccine in pregnancy have different (usually reduced) responses to their own vaccines. We know that higher antibody levels in pregnant women are one reason for this, but even in women with the same antibody levels this effect varies. We do not know what it is about pertussis antibodies after vaccination during pregnancy that causes these reduced infant vaccine responses. In this project, we will carry out detailed analysis of pertussis antibodies which are generated after vaccination in pregnancy and how the quality of these antibodies affects infant vaccine responses. We will do this by looking at how strongly the antibodies bind to parts of pertussis vaccine, and also if the antibodies cause the infant immune cells to get rid of vaccine after it is injected, before it can work. Answering these questions will enable policy makers in Canada and other countries in the world to ensure pertussis vaccines are given at the best time of pregnancy.

Sarah Munro

PROJECT TITLE: Storytelling as a tool for knowledge translation between researchers and government

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Sarah Munro, Assistant Professor, UBC Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

CO-INVESTIGATORS: Wendy Norman, Sheila Dunn, Melissa Brooks, Elizabeth Wilcox, Kate Wahl

SUMMARY:  It is vital for the well-being of Canadians that the healthcare system operates using the most up-to-date information. However, it can take years for governments to integrate new discoveries into health policy. One way to solve this problem may be to share research evidence about the healthcare system using real-life stories of Canadians accessing the system. To test this theory, we will interview a group of provincial and federal policy makers about how stories affect their decision-making on reproductive and sexual health. Next, we will use what we learn to help ask Canadians about their experiences accessing reproductive and sexual healthcare, and turn these experiences into stories for policy makers. The last step will be to test the preliminary effect of stories on policy makers’ knowledge, attitudes, and intentions. This study will provide a new set of methods to promote the use of research evidence in government. The methods will be created with and for policy makers and will be evaluated so that other scientists have tools to get research evidence into the hands of people who are responsible for the healthcare system. By closing the gap between science and government, this study will help ensure that the healthcare system provides the best possible care to all Canadians.


Laura Sauvé

PROJECT TITLE: Defining the Hepatitis C (HCV) Cascade of care for pregnant women and their infants

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Laura Sauvé, Clinical Assistant Professor, UBC Department of Pediatrics

CO-INVESTIGATORS: David Goldfarb,  Richard Schreiber, Neora Pick, Chelsea Elwood, Margo Pearce, Mel Krajden, Naveed Janjua

SUMMARY:  When mothers with Hepatitis C (HCV) give birth, about 5-10% of the babies are infected with HCV –therefore, it is recommended that infants of women living with HCV get screened for Hepatitis C, so they can be linked to care and treated. This study aims to understand how many of the HCV-exposed infants born in BC are currently being tested for HCV by linking data from Perinatal Services BC to HCV testing data from the BC Centre for Disease Control. The information from this population-based data analysis will then be used to improve care for HCV exposed infants so that no infants are falling through the cracks –particularly those who experience marginalization. Identifying infants with hepatitis C before they have any symptoms will allow them to be treated early which leads to better long term outcomes (for example, less liver cancer and less liver failure).

Mark S. Carey

PROJECT TITLE: Canadian survey of clinical practice patterns for the management of rare gynecological cancers

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Mark S. Carey, Clinical Professor, UBC Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

CO-INVESTIGATORS: On behalf of the British Columbia and Canadian Community of Practice in Low-Grade Serous ovarian Carcinoma (LGSC-CoP)

SUMMARY:  In Canada, over 8,000 women are diagnosed with gynecological cancer (affecting the ovaries, uterus or cervix) every year. Surprisingly, about 40-50% of these cancers are considered rare and often life-threatening. Knowledge and experience in these cancers is limited, effective treatment options are lacking, and research funding is hard to obtain. Thus, if we want to improve the outcomes of these women we must change the way we fund and conduct research on these cancers. Our research is focused on the study of a rare type of ovarian cancer called low-grade serous carcinoma (LGSC). Our goal is to find better treatments for the LGSC patients. With the support of several researchers, we have built a Canadian database to collect information on all LGSC patients and their cancer treatments, whether or not they participate in a clinical trial. Our next step is to survey all doctors who currently treat LGSC patients in Canada to: 1) identify the treatments most commonly used in these patients and, 2) describe the barriers for database and clinical trial participation. The conduct of this survey will allow us to understand doctor’s treatment preferences and obtain key information to facilitate clinical trials for LGSC patients. Women with LGSC and their physicians require this information to make better treatment decisions for their best care. If successful, this study will help us address treatment inequalities faced by women suffering from a rare gynecological cancer in our province and in the rest of the country.

Joseph Ting

PROJECT TITLE: Effects of Prematurity on Children’s Health in British Columbia

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Joseph Ting, Clinical Associate Professor, UBC Department of Pediatrics

CO-INVESTIGATORS: Edmond Chan, Lianne Soller, Ashley Roberts, Kristopher Kang, Leanne Dahlgren, Jessica Liauw, Elodie Portales-Casamar, Sarka Lisonkova

SUMMARY:  Limited data is available on the early childhood outcomes of infants born to high-risk pregnancies in British Columbia (BC), and there is a lack of understanding in the variations of early health indicators that exist for premature infants based on their geographic area. To address these gaps for better healthcare planning, we propose to use the existing provincial healthcare database (PopBC) to investigate the following three areas in a premature infant’s first two years of life: (i) risk of infection and resource implication – in which we will analyse the variation in childhood infection risk based on how early infants were born, incidences of major infection diagnoses, and antimicrobial use; (ii) allergy outcomes – in which we will investigate the relationship between demographics, bacterial infection and antimicrobial history, and other clinical variables with the development of allergic conditions to better understand allergy risk factors in the preterm population; and (iii) healthcare outcomes among infants born mildly premature and requiring respiratory support during Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) stay – in which we will determine whether these at-risk infants have an increased attendance in emergency departments or admission to hospitals in BC for respiratory conditions. Understanding early childhood outcomes in infection-, allergy- and respiratory-related conditions and differences based on geographical regions will help to better educate patients and families, optimize care plans, and more efficiently use healthcare resources in the province to support the preterm population and improve newborn and children’s health in BC.