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Research Prominence

Fostering connections at Royal Society of Canada seminar

[RSC Eastern Ontario]
Three Queen's researchers – Elizabeth Eisenhauer, Ugo Piomelli, and Una Roman D’Elia – will be making presentations at the Eastern Ontario Regional Seminar of the Royal Society of Canada on Saturday, April 22.

Four members of the Royal Society of Canada will be presenting their ongoing research at an upcoming event being hosted by Queen’s University on Saturday, April 22.

Four researchers – three from Queen’s and one from Carleton University– will provide insights into their work at the Eastern Ontario Regional Seminar of the Royal Society of Canada, set for the University Club from 10 am-4 pm.

The schedule of presentation includes:
10 am: Ugo Piomelli, FRSC, Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering – Queen’s University “Turbulence simulations: unravelling disorder, one vortex at a time”
11 am: Una Roman D’Elia, College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, Department of Art History and Art Conservation – Queen’s “Donatello and Pygmalion”
2 pm: Elizabeth Eisenhauer FRSC, Department of Oncology – Queen’s “Moving from the lab to the clinic – 30 years of progress in cancer treatment”
3 pm: Donald Beecher, FRSC, Department of English - Carleton “Boccaccio's ‘Tale of Titus and Gisippius’ (Decameron X.8) with a Coda on Friendship from a Cognitive Perspective

Along with presenting the research by Fellows and Members of the New College of Young Scholars Artists and Scientists one of the goals of the seminar is to foster discussion and connections, explains Pierre du Prey, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Art History and co-chair with Mike Sayer, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy.

“Participants, including our four speakers each year, make fruitful contacts among each other and the audience; contacts which stretch between the four universities represented and which cross disciplinary lines,” says Dr. du Prey. “Overarching themes emerge as if by magic from the diverse papers presented and the discussion that follows them. In this way arts and science become reunited by the common quest for knowledge.”

After 12 years at the helm, Dr. du Prey and Dr. Sayer are handing over direction of the forum, confident that it is set on a stable course, and bound for exciting new destinations. Hosted by Queen’s and actively encouraged by the RSC, it gives New Scholars and Fellows of the Society, as well as members of the general public, a chance to benefit from discourse at the highest level. The presentations are open and free to the public.

RSVP by April 19 at sayerm@queensu.ca, or 613-531-4853. 

A link to disability

Study finds new genes linked to intellectual disability.

A new study jointly led by Queen’s University’s Professor Muhammad Ayub and Professor John Vincent from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and has identified 26 new genes linked to intellectual disability. Currently the majority of intellectual disability patients receive no molecular diagnosis, which significantly affects their health and shortens their lifespan.

The study has implications for the diagnosis and clinical care of those affected, and also adds to the growing knowledge of brain development. It also may eventually lead to personalized treatments for affected individuals. Several of the genes identified are also thought to be connected with autism spectrum disorders.

 “Developments in technology and our strategic advantage of access to families from consanguineous populations made this big study possible,” says Dr. Ayub, who also works with the Development Disabilities Consulting Program at Queen’s University. “It is a significant step in the long journey to discoveries that could change our treatment for intellectual disabilities.”

The study involved 192 families from Pakistan and Iran with more than one family member who had an intellectual disability. About one in 100 children worldwide are affected by intellectual disability, which is characterized by significant limitations in learning that also affect daily functioning. Intellectual disability also frequently accompanies symptoms of autism spectrum disorders, and many genes have been found to be shared by the two illnesses.

Intellectual disability is frequently caused by recessive genes, meaning that an affected child gets a defective copy of the gene from each parent. The families in the study all had a history of marriage among relatives, which occurs quite commonly in communities in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. This background increases the likelihood that recessive illnesses may occur. Families with such a background and with multiple affected individuals can enable researchers to identify disease genes that would otherwise remain hidden.

Drs Vincent and Ayub along with the Canadian research team pinpointed mutations in 72 different genes related to intellectual disability in half of these 192 families. The identification of 26 new genes adds to 11 genes that the team has previously linked to intellectual disability among these families.

“For the participating families’ future cases of intellectual disability can be prevented by genetic screening of unaffected family members and relatives and focused advice on the risks of ‘within family’ marriages. For cultural reasons this would need to be done with great degree of sensitivity,” says Dr Ayub.

A broader goal in identifying genetic mutations is to develop diagnostic screening tools that are also relevant to populations in which ‘within family’ marriages are rare, such as Canada, United, Japan, China, and Europe. These screens would allow physicians to identify what exactly, at the molecular level, is leading to the condition and symptoms, and to use this information to plan more personalized treatment.

“The genes we have identified will be further studied for their role in development of brain and how their derangement leads to intellectual disability and other brain disorders,” says Dr. Ayub.

The study was published in Molecular Psychiatry.

Statement from Principal Woolf on Canada’s Fundamental Science Review

On Monday morning the Advisory Panel on Federal Support for Fundamental Science released its report, Investing in Canada’s Future: Strengthening the Foundations of Canadian Research. Queen’s welcomes this report and the Government of Canada's recognition of the importance of fundamental research to our country and to its global competitiveness.

Established by The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, the advisory panel included Queen's own Nobel laureate, Dr. Arthur McDonald. I wish to thank Dr. McDonald, and all panel members, for their dedication and hard work in undertaking this comprehensive review and for engaging with universities and other stakeholders across the country over the past few months.

I would also like to thank all those who contributed to the panel’s consultations – including Queen’s faculty, staff and students. Universities such as Queen’s play a critical role in supporting Canada’s prosperity by fostering innovation and discovery. We appreciate the opportunity to be involved in this important review.

The panel’s work has facilitated an important national dialogue and its recommendations inform the conversation as it continues over the coming months. I look forward to reviewing the contents of the report and to working collaboratively with the government to help advance Canada’s leadership in fundamental science.

Exhibit offers interactive look at Nobel Prize-winning research

The Queen’s and Kingston communities will soon have the opportunity to see where Nobel Laureate Art McDonald and his team conducted their ground-breaking physics experiments without travelling two kilometres underground. 

[Dr. McDonald with SNOLAB collaborators]
An upcoming exhibit will explore the new experiments that current Queen's researchers and students (pictured above) are conducting at the SNOLAB underground facility in Sudbury. (Photo by Bernard Clark) 

The interactive exhibit, New Eyes on the Universe, is coming to Queen’s University this spring. The exhibit highlights the discoveries of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) project. Dr. McDonald shared the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics for this experiment that proved that solar neutrinos change their flavour enroute to Earth, an important discovery for explaining the nature of matter and the structure of the universe.

New Eyes on the Universe also explores the ways in which the current SNOLAB facilities and experiments continue to push the frontiers in particle astrophysics.

“The exhibit is a wonderful way to bring the Queen’s community closer to the work our team did in Sudbury as well as the research that continues at the facility,” Dr. McDonald says. “We are excited to share the exhibit with the local region as well as with many of our colleagues who will come to campus for the annual congress of the Canadian Association of Physicists in June.”

[Queen's 175th logo]
Queen's 175th anniversary

Queen’s is hosting the exhibit as part of its 175th anniversary celebrations, which will conclude later this summer.

New Eyes on the Universe is a fitting way to cap our 175th anniversary,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “Over the past year, we have reflected on Queen’s monumental contributions, while also contemplating what the future holds for the university. Similarly, this exhibit allows visitors to celebrate Dr. McDonald and his colleagues’ outstanding accomplishments and learn about the ways in which Queen’s researchers, now and in the future, will play a leading role in unlocking the mysteries of the universe.”

Intimate and Interactive

The exhibit’s 40 panels present spectacular images of the history and development of SNO and SNOLAB, which is located two kilometres below the surface in the Vale Creighton Mine near Sudbury, Ont. Video kiosks let visitors explore themes and offer a virtual tour of SNOLAB. Through a life-size virtual display, Dr. McDonald presents information about the work of SNO and SNOLAB and his perspective on the future.

The exhibit also includes a section on the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics, which Dr. McDonald shared with Japanese physicist Takaaki Kajita. There are images from Nobel Week in Stockholm and a display of the Nobel Medal, citation, and artwork.

Exhibit artifacts include unique detector components developed especially for SNO, as well as a scale model of the SNO detector. Another area of the exhibit shares interviews with young scientists who started their scientific careers with SNO.

New Eyes on the Universe will be on display in the atrium of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre from May 27-July 7. Admission to the exhibit and the Agnes is free for everyone.

The New Eyes on the Universe exhibit is owned and circulated by SNOLAB. The exhibit debuted on July 1, 2016 at Canada House, Trafalgar Square in London, and it is touring across Canada this year.

The SNOLAB Institute is operated under a trust agreement between Queen’s University, Carleton University, University of Alberta, Laurentian University, Université de Montréal, and Vale, and includes external and international membership from both academic and industrial sectors. 

Exposing the source

Queen’s researcher dives deep into factors that cause allergies.

Researchers at Queen’s University and Kingston Health Sciences Centre have published the first the set of findings stemming from the Kingston Allergy Birth Cohort – a study tracking the developmental origins of allergies in nearly 400 mother-child pairs from pre-birth into early childhood.

New research by Dr. Anne Ellis examines factors that may play a role in the development of childhood allergy. The study is the first published results from the Kingston Allergy Birth Cohort, which has followed over 400 mother-child pairs to examine environmental and genetic causes of allergies.

The study confirmed a number of previously-known factors that play a role in the development of respiratory symptoms, and also uncovers a new link between air fresheners and respiratory issues. Researchers looked at parent-reported symptoms of respiratory symptoms – such as wheeze, recurrent infections, use of asthma medications, etc. – in the first year of a child’s life, as well as external and internal factors that play a role in the development of allergies.

“The Kingston Allergy Birth Cohort is truly a novel experimental group,” says Anne Ellis, the study’s lead author and an associate professor in the departments of Medicine and Biomedical & Molecular Sciences. “Kingston has a number of unique characteristics – such as a rate of smoking that is above the national average, a rare mix of urban and rural populations and a wide array of socioeconomic levels. All of these factors allow us a unique insight into factors involved in allergy.”

The cohort study examined the patient’s exposomes – the combination of all internal and external factors that can play a role in health of a patient. These include general external factors (such as socioeconomic status), specific external factors (such as exposure to cigarette smoke), and internal factors (such as age, parental history). Dr. Ellis and her team were then able to determine which exposures were already significantly associated with each other and control for the factors individually to determine which correlations could be more meaningful.

The researchers uncovered a previously unknown positive correlation between the presence of air fresheners in the house and respiratory symptoms, independent of other causes. The study also confirmed a number of previously known correlations between exposome factors and likelihood of developing allergy symptoms. Exposure to tobacco smoke during pregnancy increased the likelihood of respiratory symptoms, while post-natal factors such as breastfeeding, the presence of older siblings or the mother being older at the time of gestation correlated with lower instances of allergy.

Dr. Ellis says the ability to follow the cohort – many of whom are now three to five years of age – through time will allow for a more thorough understanding of the factors contributing to allergy development. Further studies involving the cohort group are underway, using skin tests to identify allergies, as well as in-home investigations.

“This is the first real feedback we have for the participants in the Kingston Allergy Birth Cohort,” explains Dr. Ellis. “There are so many other factors that can contribute to the development of allergies. With the approach we used in the cohort, we’re able to account for general external factors, specific external factors and internal factors that can contribute to the development of allergies so that we can whittle it down to what’s truly significant.”

The full study, titled The Kingston Allergy Birth Cohort, Exploring parentally reported respiratory outcomes through the lens of the exposome, is available online from the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

More than a pinch of trouble

Researchers examine increased salt levels in North American lakes.

New research, co-authored by Queen’s doctoral candidate Jamie Summers (Biology), has determined that salt levels in many North American lakes are increasing.

[Jamie Summers]
Queen's doctoral candidate Jamie Summers (Biology) has co-authored a study on salt levels in North American lakes. The study found that  as little as one per cent of the surrounding surface area of a lake being paved substantially increased the risk that the lake's salt levels would be elevated, and that over one quarter of fresh water lakes are at risk of ecological damage due to increased salt.

The study also determined that a paved surface area of only one per cent around a freshwater lake substantially increased the risk that the salinity (chloride concentration) of the water would increase. Over a quarter of freshwater lakes in the United States had sufficient paved or impervious surface area within 500 metres of their shores to put them at risk of increased salinization.

“We found, across a fairly large region, that many lakes are becoming elevated in salt concentrations and that the run-off from a relatively small amount of development near a lake likely contributes to this,” Ms. Summers explains. “With our population becoming increasingly urbanized, and urban environments expanding, there is a salt threat to our freshwater lakes.”

The researchers examined long-term trends in salinity levels as measured in lakes and reservoirs across North America, with attention paid to the northeastern United States and the province of Ontario – the North American Lakes Region. The team examined lakes with salinity data dating back a minimum of 10 years, and excluded lakes that varied greatly in water levels.

As many of these lakes are in regions that experience cold winters, the team considered road salt as a source of the elevated lake salinity. The percentage of paved surface area within 500 metres of the lakeshore was used as a proxy for salt inputs. The study found a strong relationship between lake salinity and the percentage of paved surface area, with increasing salinity trends in lakes with as little as one per cent of the land area being paved within the 500-metre buffer.

The researchers estimated that more than 7,770 lakes in their U.S. study region were at risk of elevated salinity, with road salt applications as a likely source. Ms. Summers says these figures are likely a conservative estimate, due to often incomplete lake data. The research team further determined that 14 lakes were on track to reach the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s aquatic life threshold criterion for chronic chloride exposure by 2050.

“We have known for a long time that human activities, such as applying road salt can have an impact on lake ecosystems, but seeing the extent of the problem and how much of an effect urbanization and road salting can have on lakes is an eye-opener,” Ms. Summers says. “A small amount of development in a watershed can yield substantial risks for important fresh waters.”

The paper is the result of a collaboration between the fellows of the Global Lakes Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON) and data contributions from dozens of sources. An international grassroots network of researchers, GLEON organizes and completes research on lakes and reservoirs all over the world to examine how lakes are responding to a changing global climate. The fellowship consists of 12 PhD candidates who receive 18 months of funding and logistical support to collaborate on a research project in a diverse international team.

The complete study, titled Salting our freshwater lakes, is available online from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

‘Diverse, interdisciplinary, highly successful’

[John Fisher]
John Fisher is serving as interim vice-principal (research) of Queen’s University from March 1, 2017. He is also a professor and researcher in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, with a cross-appointment to the Department of Medicine (Respirology). (Photo by Berbard Clark)

From March 1, 2017, John Fisher is serving as interim vice-principal (research) at Queen’s University. A professor and researcher in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, with a cross-appointment to the Department of Medicine (Respirology), Dr. Fisher most recently held the position of associate vice-principal (research), as well as director of research in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Dr. Fisher sat down with the Gazette to discuss the priorities and goals for the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) over the short term and further into the future.

GAZETTE: You have extensive experience both as a researcher in the health sciences and in administrative roles, including most recently as associate vice-principal (Research). Through this, what have you learned about research at Queen’s?

JOHN FISHER: What resonates with me is that our research is diverse, interdisciplinary and highly successful. These three aspects characterize the foundation of research at Queen’s, and they are the basis for our membership in the U15 group of Canadian research-intensive universities. Queen’s occupies a research leadership role as a U15 member, and the key objective now is to ensure that we continue to enhance our position in research both nationally and internationally.

Research is also the foundation of a transformative educational experience. Whether it’s fundamental research or applied, whether it’s particle astrophysics or whether it’s knowledge translation in a rehabilitation therapist’s teaching clinic, research provides a great educational experience. We pride ourselves at Queen’s on this experience, and it’s something that attracts students here.

So for me, it all comes back to this diverse, interdisciplinary, successful base of research that drives our educational experience.

QG: As interim vice-principal (Research), what are your priorities and how can you contribute to the research enterprise during this time?

JF: The budget process has delivered relative financial stability to most sectors of the institution. Deans are looking at faculty renewal, and this is a critical opportunity to enhance our research prominence. This is also an opportunity to enhance transformative areas of research that bridge the gap between one faculty and another. There are also great projects underway that embrace knowledge translation and knowledge mobilization across the university and with external partners.

The launch of the Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre (CPARC), led by Professor Tony Noble, is an institutional priority that is one of the foundations of our research strategy. CPARC is an exciting opportunity for Queen’s to further demonstrate research excellence in this field. The centre will bring several new hires to Queen’s, and the searches are underway. Physics is an important focus in the coming months.

The other area that has really struck me over the last three years in the research portfolio is the importance of industry partnerships and technology transfer. This is a vast area that appears to grow in importance daily. It all starts with researchers mobilizing their discoveries to the next step, whatever that may be. It also includes researchers working directly with industry to come up with creative solutions to problems. This is a very important area to both the university and the government as it influences regional, provincial and national economic development. So this is an area that is a challenge, but one that is very enjoyable. Kingston appears to be on the brink of growth with respect to industry partnerships and tech transfer.

Strategic Research Plan Renewal
The Queen’s Strategic Research Plan is a foundational governing document that supports and guides the institutional research mission. Over the past five years it has supported the research landscape at Queen’s in a variety of ways – allowing us to enhance our research prominence through targeted areas of focus, successes in external funding, development of internal funding programs, engagement of trainees, and innovation and partnership activities.
The current iteration of the SRP will conclude at the end of 2017. Over the next several months, it will be reviewed and refreshed. Details about the intended overarching design of the renewed SRP; our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion; and the general schedule for community engagement and document revision can be found on the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) website along with updates on timelines and process.
A draft SRP will be presented to Senate for review and feedback.
For more information, read this related Gazette article

QG: What challenges are ahead for you and the research portfolio?

JF: Funding is clearly one, and we need to think creatively about solutions that work with government and industry partners. The deans are launching some very interesting programs, and you can see how each of them is thinking about how to catalyze research in their faculties. They are being very strategic in how they do that, ensuring their programs have the best potential to secure Tri-Council funding or to develop industry partnerships and innovation.

Another challenge will be how we approach research digital infrastructure. Whether it’s the social sciences, education, engineering, arts and science, or medicine, all are influenced enormously by computing and the ability to pursue sophisticated analytics. Traditionally, universities have thought about digital infrastructure as a vehicle to deliver education.  However, the research landscape has continued to grow and requires additional capacity and sophistication with respect to research infrastructure. An example includes the role of our Vice-Provost and University Librarian, Martha Whitehead, who is a leader in Canada with respect to data management and how we develop data management plans. There is a renewed Centre for Advanced Computing, led by Don Aldridge, which is building digital research infrastructure for faculty research.

QG: In 2016, Queen’s conducted an external review of research and related innovation programs, platforms and structures at the university. What do you see as the key recommendations that came out of the process?

JF: The response to the research review has many moving parts. There were 13 recommendations that came out of that review, and there has been action on a number of them. A key recommendation is faculty renewal, which will drive our research performance.

An integral part of the renewal will be to embrace equity, diversity and inclusion in the pursuit of new faculty members and their research expertise. The Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI) has held a series of town halls that clearly highlight the benefits. This is also true within the broader research sphere, where equity, diversity and inclusion provide additional input and perspectives for success. The federal government is directing institutions to think proactively about how we can enhance diversity and inclusion within the Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) or Canada Research Chairs (CRC) programs. Ultimately this will influence how the research portfolio looks at our CRCs and our CERCs and this work parallels the great work that the PICRDI is doing.

In response to the external review, we’re soon going to launch the renewal of the Strategic Research Plan (SRP) and I would encourage the engagement of faculty, students and staff to help us revise the SRP because this is going to drive where we go in the future.

Strategic Research Plan renewal process underway

The Queen’s Strategic Research Plan is a foundational governing document that supports and guides the institutional research mission. 

The current iteration of the SRP will conclude at the end of 2017. Over the past five years, it has supported the research landscape at Queen’s, allowing it to focus, and be shaped by, the successes of our faculty, post-doctoral fellows and graduate students, as well as undergraduate students.

During this time, several federal award programs have contributed significantly to Queen’s research excellence, as has the Queen’s National Scholar program. Partnerships and innovation that extend beyond traditional academic boundaries have continued to grow at Queen’s, and globally, as an important part of the research ecosystem.

Over the next several months, the SRP will be reviewed and refreshed to reflect the evolution of research strengths and recent accomplishments, and to develop research priorities and future potential with respect to the direction and emphasis of the university’s research mission. The overarching design of the renewed SRP will be to:

  • Reflect the diversity, breadth and depth of scholarship across the academy;
  • Identify and position areas of institutional strength and excellence for further success through engagement with government, industry, and with regional, national and international partners;
  • Identify specific recommendations to guide and support the research enterprise;
  • Fulfill the requirements for a variety of funding programs including the federal Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) program and the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF).

A foundational principle underlying the strategic research plan is a commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, as addressed by the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion, coupled with the recommendations of the Queen’s University Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force. These principles are important for the successful enhancement of our research prominence through faculty renewal and emerging or established strategic themes of focus.

Interim Vice-Principal (Research) John Fisher and former Vice-Principal (Research) Steven Liss began the renewal process in January 2017 through an initial engagement with the deans, which was paralleled by early discussions with leaders of stakeholder groups and associate deans/vice deans of research. This led to a request of the deans for feedback on the current and emerging Faculty priority research areas and a snapshot of Faculty investment in research.

The recent external review of research provided a series of insightful recommendations. The process that led to the Canada Excellence Research Chair at Queen’s, the CFREF award in Particle Astrophysics, and the Strategic Mandate Agreement between the University and the province will all be informative in developing and articulating a plan that is appropriately aligned to current opportunities and needs, while identifying a framework to discuss longer-term aspirational goals.

The Senate Advisory Research Committee (SARC) has been informed of the renewal process and a small writing team will be established to support the drafting of the revised SRP.

Engagement with the community through a variety of online and in-person engagements are being planned. 

The three phases of the renewal are comprised of: 1) Planning, consultation and feedback; 2) Drafting the SRP and soliciting feedback; and 3) Revision of the SRP draft followed by a consultation phase culminating in Senate consultation.

Retreat focus on academic writing

For faculty members, academic writing is a career requirement that requires time and focus.

The Faculty Writing Retreat, to be held April 20 at the Donald Gordon Centre, will have a greater focus on supporting faculty in the preparation of research funding applications. (University Communications)

However, there are always pressures as schedules fill up and distractions, both at the office and at home, are ever-present.

It can seem an impossible task at times. But there is help available.

On April 20 the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) is hosting another Faculty Writing Retreat at the Donald Gordon Centre. Building on the success of previous retreats, the full-day event provides participants with the opportunity to hear from and meet colleagues as well as time for writing.

The retreat helps in three main ways, explains Liying Cheng, Acting Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at the Faculty of Education, and a past participant.

Firstly and invaluably, she says, the retreat helps faculty members get away and focus on writing.

“The key point of the retreat is to physically remove yourself from the home or office, to where there is only one thing you can do – write,” says the professor of Teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language. “For faculty members it is really important to have that quiet time and focus.”

The retreat also provides an opportunity to network with colleagues from other departments and faculties, Dr. Cheng says. Those connections can result in faculty members working collaboratively for grant applications.

Another important element of the writing retreat is the opportunity for consulting on writing and ideas.

“To me thinking aloud and talking aloud is part of the process of writing,” Dr. Cheng says. “Thinking aloud is a research method, but talking aloud about your idea helps you put it into coherent writing. For the consulting part, most faculty members have an idea going into the retreat and they have a chance to talk about it and immediately put those ideas into writing.”

The result can be a more refined idea as well as a more defined schedule and structure.

This Faculty Writing Retreat will differ slightly from its predecessors, with a greater focus on supporting faculty in the preparation of research funding applications. There will be opportunities for putting the finishing touches on a proposal with an impending deadline, incorporating feedback into a proposal yet to be funded, or connecting with colleagues on starting something new and collaborative. 

The day will consist of stretches of uninterrupted quiet time to write and opportunities to meet with Research Projects Advisors from University Research Services.

Registration is currently open to faculty working on any publications, and it will close on April 11 or when all available spaces are filled. This is a first come first serve event.

Addressing addictions

Study reveals some women with prenatal opioid dependence are not being treated.

A new study by Queen’s University researcher Susan Brogly (Surgery) has revealed that 25 per cent of women suffering from a prenatal opioid dependence were not being treated for their addiction. Using data from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), the study also shows rising numbers of affected mother-infant pairs and associated health care costs.

“The information on health care costs are new for Canada, which goes along with the 16 fold increase in the number of mother-infant pairs affected by opioid dependence over the past decade,” says Dr. Brogly. “That is a striking finding but not new data. A larger concern is the 25 per cent of affected women that did not have an opioid agonist prescription recorded in the Ontario Drug Benefit program database.”

Opioid agonist treatment with methadone or buprenorphine is used to prevent maternal illicit opioid use and withdrawal and to improve prenatal care and pregnancy outcomes.  Methadone is predominately used in pregnant women in Ontario, largely because the form of buprenorphine used in pregnancy is not available in Canada and has to be imported from the United States under a special Health Canada program.  The long delay in getting buprenorphine can result in ongoing drug use, relapse or other complications in the pregnancy.

Many practitioners use methadone (which requires a special license in Ontario) and which may cause more severe withdrawal in the neonate. Buprenorphine, in the form used in pregnancy, can be prescribed by family physicians, obstetricians and other physicians without a special license. 

“This is an important finding because it could indicate barriers and stigma towards specific groups of women accessing care in our socialized healthcare system,” says Dr. Brogly. “More effective programming to prevent opioid dependence and prescription drug misuse is clearly needed and buprenorphine needs to be more readily available for pregnant women.”

In the study, Dr. Brogly revealed the number of infants born to opioid-dependent women in Ontario rose from 46 in 2002 to almost 800 in 2014. In addition rates of preterm birth, birth defects, still birth and infant mortality were higher than those reported for the Ontario newborn population.  All of these complications translate into significant increased costs to the system.

“The next steps are to confirm whether there are barriers to care, to try to tease out which exposures and what period of exposure in gestation causes poor birth outcomes in this population,  to identify longer term outcomes of the mothers and infants, and to prevent substance in young women,” says Dr. Brogly. “These data can be used to argue for more treatment options, including buprenorphine, and drug treatment programs tailored to women and their children. Support should also be given to the mothers and their children beyond the immediate post-partum period to facilitate the growth of healthy families and children.”

The research was conducted in conjunction with Queen’s professors Greg Davies (Obstetrics and Gynaecology)), Adam Newman (Family Medicine), Ana Johnson (Public Health Sciences), Kimberly Dow (Pediatrics) and University of Toronto professor Suzanne Turner (Family Medicine).

It was recently published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada.

ICES is a not-for-profit research institute encompassing a community of research, data and clinical experts, and a secure and accessible array of Ontario's health-related data. There is a branch of ICES located at Queen’s University.

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