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Setting the bar

Medicine faculty member named Marilyn Harvey Award recipient


By Susan Flanagan

Dr. Kathy Hodgkinson is this year’s winner of the Marilyn Harvey Award to Recognize the Importance of Research Ethics.

The associate professor and program coordinator of clinical epidemiology/genetics in the Faculty of Medicine focuses on genetics and inherited causes of sudden cardiac death, in particular arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) in her research.

Dr. Kathy Hodgkinson
Dr. Kathy Hodgkinson
Photo: Colette Philips

Dr. Hodgkinson is part of the team that discovered the ARVC sudden cardiac death gene in Newfoundland and Labrador families, which has led to international research collaborations to explore the genetic connections to sudden cardiac death worldwide.

Clinical care and disease management

Early in her study of families with a history of sudden cardiac death, Dr. Hodgkinson felt strongly that it would be unethical to conduct research on the families involved without also providing them with appropriate and timely clinical care and disease management.

“Traditionally, we separate research endeavours from the provision of clinical care, but when dealing with this type of genetic research into families, where the disease being researched has high recurrence risks — 50 per cent risk of transmitting the disease gene from an affected parent to a child — morbidity, and mortality rates, it is likely that research findings will change risks for family members,” said Dr. Hodgkinson, who studied genetics in Montreal and Manchester before coming to Memorial.

“Indeed, all genetic research of this type has the potential to immediately affect the families being researched. It was clear that we would have to use our research results for the clinical well-being of these families.”

“She has set the bar for other scientists to follow suit.” — Dr. Mark Abrahams

The Marilyn Harvey Award, named for a research nurse who brought forward her concerns regarding research ethics to senior administrators at Memorial, was created to recognize individuals who have demonstrated leadership in creating an environment of excellence in their commitment to research ethics.

“Dr. Hodgkinson is the perfect candidate for this award, which values courage among members of its research community,” said Dr. Mark Abrahams, vice-president (research), pro tempore.

“Her commitment to research ethics is second to none. By concluding that marrying her research with clinical care meant better clinical management, she has set the bar for other scientists to follow suit.”

There have been two other Marilyn Harvey Award winners to date.

Dr. Fern Brunger

Dr. Fern Brunger
Dr. Fern Brunger

Dr. Fern Brunger, professor of health ethics in the Faculty of Medicine, was the recipient of the Marilyn Harvey award in 2015 for her work with the provincial Health Research Ethics Authority Transition Team that established the innovative centralized provincial Health Research Ethics Board.

Dr. Brunger chaired the board for its first seven years of operation and contributed greatly to various national and provincial working groups and helped draft policy statements on research ethics, including CIHR’s Privacy Best Practices and Guidelines for Health Research Involving Aboriginal Peoples.

She is a clinical ethicist with the Provincial Health Ethics Network of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as member of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Standing Committee on Ethics.

Dr. Larry Felt

Dr. Larry Felt
Dr. Larry Felt

Dr. Larry Felt, retired faculty member, Department of Sociology, who passed away in 2016, was the inaugural recipient of the Marilyn Harvey Award in 2014.

A dedicated researcher and faculty member for more than 38 years, Dr. Felt rigorously applied research ethics methodologies, not only to his own research in working with low-income families and research collaborations involving the fishery, the environment and health, but he played a significant role in guiding the research of others.

Dr. Felt was one of the original members of the Interdisciplinary Committee of Ethics in Human Research, which was established in response to the 1998 Tri-Council Policy Statement on Ethical Conduct for Research involving humans.

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