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Idea exchange

Advancing research: CIHR president visits Faculty of Medicine

Teaching and Learning

By Melissa Ennis and Virginia Middleton

Earlier this year, Canadian Institutes of Health Research President Dr. Michael Strong provided a keynote address at the Faculty of Medicine Resident Research Symposium.

A group of seven people are posing for a group photo with a wooden background behind them.
From left are Dr. Margaret Steele, Kayleigh Maxwell, Garette Tingley, Adam Comerford, Rebecca Quilty, Dr. Laurie Twells and Dr. Michael Strong.
Photo: Jennifer Armstrong

Memorial has a longstanding relationship with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Canada’s major federal funding agency for health research.

The symposium, hosted in person and virtually, was an opportunity for Memorial’s postgraduate residents to present and discuss their clinical research.

“Research and scholarship in academic medicine is a continuum that will lead to better quality health care,” said Dr. Margaret Steele, dean of the faculty. “Being able to hear directly from a key Canadian leader in clinical research like Dr. Strong is a significant opportunity for our postgraduate residents and elevates the importance of research that is addressing patient needs.”

Dr. Strong’s clinical research focuses on understanding the cellular biology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

His keynote presentation, The Road Ahead: The Changing Landscape of Health Research in Canada, provided an opportunity to discuss how research has evolved in recent years.

Resident research

The faculty recognized four residents’ research as part of the symposium.

Dr. Adam Comerford’s research project is a retrospective cohort study looking at the maternal and neonatal outcomes of methadone use during pregnancy.

Dr. Kayleigh Maxwell’s research project concerns the rate of ischemic heart disease in Newfoundland and Labrador, which is one of the highest rates in Canada.

Dr. Garrett Tingley’s research project evaluated the impacts of a Department of Anesthesia initiative on length of stay and pain scores after cervical spine surgery.

Dr. Rebecca Quilty’s research project investigated Lyme disease, an infection spread to humans by the black-legged tick.

Indigenous perspective

As part of his visit, Dr. Strong attended a meet-and-greet hosted by N.L. SUPPORT (Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials).

As Newfoundland and Labrador’s SPOR (Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research) SUPPORT unit, one of 10 units across Canada funded by CIHR, N.L. SUPPORT provides specialized services to researchers, patients, clinicians, and policy-makers to conduct patient-oriented research.

N.L. SUPPORT gathered a number of its staff, researchers, funding recipients and partners to meet Dr. Strong and highlight their work in patient-oriented research.

Among the participants was Dr. Russell Dawe, program director of the Family Medicine Residency Program in the Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Dawe accompanied Dr. Strong to view a piece of artwork that resulted from a project led by Jack Penashue and Dr. Dawe with funding from N.L. SUPPORT. The painting is titled Patshitinikutau Natukunisha Tshishennuat Uitshuau (A Place for Elders to Spend their Last Days in Life): Developing an Innu Approach to Palliative Care.

A group of people facing each other in a room with windows in the background
Dr. Strong (far right) meets with Oliver Hurley, Dorothy Senior and Dr. Chris Patey to discuss SurgeCon, an emergency department surge management platform.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

The Innu painting shows the perspective of an Innu elder and some of the things they might want to see around them as they approach the end of this life and prepare to transition to the spirit world. The painting is displayed on the second floor of the Faculty of Medicine.

“Since its inception, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research has supported hundreds of researchers from Memorial University who are contributing to the development of health research that is relevant to the province, Canada and internationally,” said Dr. Strong. “In collaboration with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, we are also advancing a culture of patient-oriented research in the province through the Newfoundland and Labrador Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials Unit.”

Over the years, Memorial researchers and graduate students have received critical investments from CIHR to investigate a wide range of health-related issues, including heart disease, stroke recovery, cancer and hearing loss, plus many others.

The support allows the multidisciplinary teams to help address health-care challenges directly affecting our communities and improve health outcomes for Canadians.

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