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Examining the mind

Queen’s researchers Doug Munoz, DJ Cook, Ron Levy, and Steve Scott (Centre for Neuroscience Studies) have received a three-year, $857,062 grant from Brain Canada’s Multi-Investigator Research Initiative with financial support from Health Canada through the Canada Brain Research Fund. The project will study how Alzheimer ’s disease affects the brain and to devise new therapeutic strategies for slowing the progression of the disease.

(From L-R) Drs. DJ Cook, Doug Munoz and Ron Levy, (as well as Dr. Steve Scott, not pictured) have received a three-year grant from Brain Canada to examine new therapeutic strategies for Alzheimer's disease.

“This project stems from collaboration between our team and Dr. Fernanda De Felice, a leader in the study of Alzheimer’s disease from Rio de Janerio,” explains Dr. Munoz. “Her team has developed a way to create what looks like Alzheimer’s-like pathology in tissue cultures. Our project represents the evolution of this research and brings with it exciting new opportunities for Alzheimer’s research - including the potential for us to test therapeutics that may improve quality of life for patients and slow the progression of the disease.”

The team will use amyloid-beta oligomers – amino acid peptides that are a main component of the plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients – to mimic several attributes of the disease and its progression. Their study will also explore using trophic – growth-promoting – molecules and electrical stimulation to promote regrowth and plasticity of affected cells.

“The study proposed by Dr. Munoz and his colleagues at the Centre for Neuroscience Studies has the potential to lead to tremendous breakthroughs in the treatment of Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen’s University. “As the population demographics continue to shift and the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia increases, projects such as this will help us better understand and manage this disease. Queen’s is proud to support field-leading health research, such as this Brain Canada-funded project.”

An estimated quarter of a million Canadians have a diagnosis of dementia – a group of disorders affecting brain function, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common form. The disease leads to a decline in memory, communication, reasoning and emotional control, and has a tremendous impact on patients, families and the health care system as a whole. Dr. Munoz says he is hopeful that the project will lead to the development of new treatments that can alleviate the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s and improve quality of life for patients with the disease.

“If you have an older patient with a brain that is no longer working the way it used to, you won’t be able to reverse it back to the time when that brain was young and healthy,” explains Dr. Munoz. “What we aim to do, on the other hand, is to develop treatments that could allow the brain to work around the disease – alleviating some of the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s for the patient.”

The Brain Canada Multi-Investigator Research Initiative grant supports research that will “fundamentally change our understanding of nervous system function and dysfunction and its impact on health.” The grant aims to encourage and support research that will reduce the social and economic burden of neurological and mental health problems by developing means to prevent disease, diagnose disease earlier or to improve treatment.

The Centre for Neuroscience Studies at Queen’s is a  leading hub for research and scholarship in all facets of neuroscience.The Centre’s mission includes furthering the understanding of brain organization and function, as well as enhancing societal neurological and mental health, with emphasis upon improving the quality of life for those affected by neurological and psychiatric diseases.

Tackling youth concussions

Queen's outreach initiative provides on and off-field training for youth football players.

  • A youth football player learns how to approach a tackle safely to minimize injury risk, during on-field CESAP training. Allen Champagne (MSc'17) (in the white hoodie) offers technique coaching as the player prepares to go through the drill.
    A youth football player learns how to approach a tackle safely to minimize injury risk, during on-field CESAP training. Allen Champagne (MSc'17) (in the white hoodie) offers technique coaching as the player prepares to go through the drill.
  • Trevor Morley (Meds'17), right, explains to parents and coaches the signs and symptoms of a concussion.
    Trevor Morley (Meds'17), right, explains to parents and coaches the signs and symptoms of a concussion.
  • Chris Griffiths (Meds'18) explains the mechanism of injury behind concussion to a group of Thousand Islands Minor Football League coaches and parents.
    Chris Griffiths (Meds'18) explains the mechanism of injury behind concussion to a group of Thousand Islands Minor Football League coaches and parents.

On Saturday, April 22, representatives of the Concussion Education Safety and Awareness Program (CESAP) took part in the Thousand Islands Minor Football League community day at Kingston's Caraco Field. The organization, led by Queen's neuroscience and medical students, held off-field seminars for parents and coaches, providing information on concussions in sport. The presentation covered topics including how concussions occur, signs and symptoms and return-to-play protocols – all designed to ensure that players who suffer concussions receive appropriate treatment for their injuries.

While the parents took in the presentation, current and former Queen's Gaels football players took the participants through a series of drills aimed at improving their technique and minimizing injury risk. The players ran routes, practiced safe tackling and received on-the-spot guidance to improve their skills and play the game they love as safely as possible.

Started by Queen's neuroscience student Allen Champagne (MSc'17), CESAP aims to empower athletes and their parents to improve player safety through education and behaviour modification.

Indspire Award winner embraces personal journey

University often offers young people more than just a degree. For Thomas Dymond, currently a first-year medical student at Queen’s, post-secondary education has been a journey of self-discovery.

“It wasn’t until I got to Memorial University for my undergraduate degree that I started getting to know about my culture. I jumped over that barrier of not being sure how I fit being an Aboriginal person in modern society,” says Mr. Dymond, who recently accepted an Indspire Award, the highest honour the Indigenous community bestows upon its achievers.

[Thomas Dymond]
Indspire recently recognized first-year medical student Thomas Dymond for his significant volunteer work and his advocacy for Indigenous students. 

Mr. Dymond is Mi’kmaq from the Bear River First Nation in Nova Scotia. He lived off reserve growing up and didn’t learn a lot about his Aboriginal culture from his mother and relatives.

“Even though my grandfather didn’t attend a residential school, the system definitely impacted the way he felt he should share knowledge with his children and grandchildren,” Mr. Dymond says. “Given his own background and the racism he experienced, my grandfather never really forced our family to self-identify.”

Despite having minimal affiliation with the culture, Mr. Dymond says he always felt an Aboriginal presence inside of him growing up. When he moved to Newfoundland to attend Memorial University, he started to get more in touch with his Aboriginal identity.

However, as someone with mixed ancestry – his father is white – Mr. Dymond felt he faced another barrier to expressing his Aboriginal identity.

“I wanted to get involved, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to be received. I worried about walking in and being the whitest looking person in the room. I thought about how I was going to be received by other Indigenous students in the room,” he says. “Once I overcame all of that, it just sparked something in me. I wanted to learn more, I wanted to do more, and I wanted to get involved more.”

[Thomas Dymond accepts the Indspire Award]
Thomas Dymond accepted his Indspire Award on March 24 from Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Carolyn Bennett, Canada's Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. (Photo courtesy of Indspire)

Mr. Dymond was elected the Aboriginal student representative on the Student’s Union at Memorial University, a position he held for three years. He advocated for Indigenous students on campus, and also got involved in national campaigns such as Sisters in Spirit, which raises awareness about violence against Aboriginal women and girls, and Education is a Right, which seeks to increase financial support for Indigenous post-secondary students.

Mr. Dymond also got involved with a number of initiatives across the university and in the local community. He co-founded the Wape’k Mui’n drum group and facilitated events such as sharing circles. He sat on the board of the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre for two years as the youth representative. As a member of the board, he voiced the needs and desires of Aboriginal youth in the community, which helped shape planning and policy within the friendship centre.

“I have gone from a level of trying to be educated and to learn more about my culture to this point where people turn to me for knowledge.”
-- Thomas Dymond 

Reflecting on his volunteer and community work, Mr. Dymond can’t pinpoint one activity that he is most proud of.

“I do things because I have a passion and I am driven to do them. Everything along that path has led me to where I am today. All of those experiences have made me who I am,” he says. “I find it interesting that I have gone from a level of trying to be educated and to learn more about my culture to this point where people turn to me for knowledge.”

New beginnings, new challenges

After years of contributing to the university and broader community in St. John’s, Mr. Dymond found himself navigating a new and unfamiliar environment last fall after arriving at Queen’s to pursue his medical degree. When he came to campus for his School of Medicine admission interview, he visited Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre and walked through the building on Barrie Street. Mr. Dymond said he received a warm welcome from the staff at FDASC, which made him feel comfortable going there.

Mr. Dymond admits that there was an adjustment period coming to Queen’s. It took him a while to get comfortable with the other medical students and the Aboriginal community on campus. Furthermore, the demands of medical school meant that he couldn’t attend as many events or get as involved as he had been at Memorial University.

Expanding access to Queen’s for Indigenous youth
The Faculty of Health Sciences has joined with the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science to expand the pool of qualified Indigenous applicants. Learn more about Ann Deer, Indigenous Access and Recruitment Coordinator, on the Queen’s Law website.
Improving access to Queen’s programs for Indigenous youth is one of the recommendations contained in the final report of the Queen’s Truth and Reconciliation Task Force. Read the full report and learn more about task force and its membership.

Over the past few months, though, Mr. Dymond feels he has come out of his shell, opening up about who he is and where he comes from.

“The more comfortable I’ve gotten with the people I am surrounded by now, the new community, the more I’ve been open and able to share my knowledge, understanding, and perspective on a lot of things,” he says. “And that’s really what it’s all about: I have a perspective as one person, and it’s nice that I am being heard.”

Having the opportunity to share that perspective with Aboriginal youth is what excites him the most about the Indspire Award. As part of the honour, Mr. Dymond will visit several different cities across Canada and deliver his message to other Indigenous youth: “stay in school and you can achieve anything you put your mind to.”

“If you had asked me five years ago, I never thought I would have been here. It’s amazing where I have come from and how I got here, and I am excited to share that with other Indigenous youth and let them know they can do what they want in life.”

Visit the Indspire website to learn more about Mr. Dymond and the awards. 

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.

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.

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.

A hip honour

The Tragically Hip recognized by the Canadian Cancer Trials Group for supporting brain cancer research.

  • Gord Sinclair and Rob Baker of The Tragically Hip unveil a plaque honouring the band as Janet Dancey, Director of the Canadian Cancer Trials Group, and Lynne Hudson, President and CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society, look on. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
    Gord Sinclair and Rob Baker of The Tragically Hip unveil a plaque honouring the band as Janet Dancey, Director of the Canadian Cancer Trials Group, and Lynne Hudson, President and CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society, look on. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • Richard Reznick, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, speaks with Gord Sinclair and Rob Baker of The Tragically Hip at Tuesday's event to unveil a plaque honouring the band's efforts to raise funds for cancer research. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
    Richard Reznick, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, speaks with Gord Sinclair and Rob Baker of The Tragically Hip at Tuesday's event to unveil a plaque honouring the band's efforts to raise funds for cancer research. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • Chris O'Callaghan, Senior Investigator, Canadian Cancer Trials Group, talks about some of the research that is being done thanks to support from donors, including The Tragically Hip.  (Photo by Bernard Clark)
    Chris O'Callaghan, Senior Investigator, Canadian Cancer Trials Group, talks about some of the research that is being done thanks to support from donors, including The Tragically Hip. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • Gord Sinclair of The Tragically Hip speaks during Tuesday's event at the Canadian Cancer Trials Group office, where a plaque was unveiled in honour of the band's fundraising efforts. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
    Gord Sinclair of The Tragically Hip speaks during Tuesday's event at the Canadian Cancer Trials Group office, where a plaque was unveiled in honour of the band's fundraising efforts. (Photo by Bernard Clark)

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) recognized Kingston hometown heroes The Tragically Hip for their support of brain cancer research. A commemorative plaque was presented to the band on Tuesday in honour of their support for cancer clinical trials at the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG).

CCTG, housed at Queen’s University in Kingston, is supported by a core grant from the Canadian Cancer Society.

Since the announcement last year that The Hip’s frontman Gord Downie has glioblastoma (an aggressive form of brain cancer), many Canadians have shown their support through donations to CCS.

“The Canadian Cancer Society is very grateful to The Tragically Hip and their generous fans for this donation of $400,000 for brain cancer research,” says Lynne Hudson, CCS president and CEO. “Clinical trials offer hope for people with cancer and provide an opportunity for researchers to find better treatments for others in the future. CCS is proud to be able to support clinical trials at CCTG across the country through donations from the public.”

Clinical trials can help patients directly. For example, in collaboration with colleagues in Europe, CCTG conducted a trial to see if a chemotherapy drug called temozolomide along with radiation following surgery for glioblastoma could improve survival. The trial showed positive results, and this combination therapy is what Downie received at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.

Every day about 25 Canadians are diagnosed with some form of brain tumour. Glioblastoma is an aggressive disease and is the most common primary brain cancer in adults. Unfortunately, most adults with a diagnosis of glioblastoma survive only one to two years after diagnosis.

“This is a great example of the Faculty of Health Sciences’ vision in action: to ask questions, seek answers, advance care and inspire change,” says Richard Reznick, Dean of Health Sciences. “Queen’s is proud to serve as host to CCTG’s cutting edge research; it is humbling to have this research happening right in our own backyard.”

“As researchers, our greatest achievement is to see patients with cancer benefit from treatments that were proven effective by the work we do at CCTG,” says Janet Dancey, the group’s director. “Building on past international research successes, CCTG is looking at future clinical trials using promising treatments, including viral therapies and drugs to stimulate the immune system.”

Donations to the Canadian Cancer Society for brain cancer research allow researchers to make real and significant progress against this disease. 

Up against the clock

Graduate students shine in final round of Queen’s 3MT competition.

The pressure was on as 11 graduate students took to the stage in the Dupuis Hall Auditorium to compete in the final round of the Queen’s Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition on Thursday, March 30.

Using only one static slide and no props, the students had to present their research to a panel of non-specialist judges.

Neuroscience master's candidate Victoria Donovan delivered a presentation on how the brain responds to trauma. Ms. Donovan won the overall and People's Choice awards and will move on to represent Queen's at the Ontario 3MT.

“Queen’s 3MT is a much-anticipated annual event on campus,” says Brenda Brouwer, Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies. “Our students put in hours of preparation for their three minutes in front of the judges. The competition helps students hone communication skills – such as making their research accessible and it’s a great way to celebrate the innovative and thought-provoking research our graduate students are conducting across campus.”

A panel of judges, consisting of Principal Daniel Woolf, Chancellor Jim Leech, communications consultant Robert A Wood, CBC reporter JC Kenny, and Denise Cumming, CEO of the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation, graded the competitors on clarity, audience engagement and presentation skills. A long-time supporter of the 3MT competition, CKWS Television host Bill Welychka served as the emcee for the event.

“I have promoted the event on CKWS-TV the past two years and it seems like the coolest thing ever,” said Mr. Welychka. “I love that 3MT combines distilling a complicated subject down to a three minute verbal presentation with dramatic elements, public speaking and engaging the audience. Not an easy undertaking to say the least.”

Victoria Donovan, a master's candidate in neuroscience was named winner and people's choice for her presentation, Lie low, stay alive. Her research is looking at the evolutionary response to traumatic brain injury. Early results provide evidence that high brain shutdown is an evolved reply to trauma – providing clues as to future treatments.

“I've been at Queen's for six and a half years now and have enjoyed every minute of it,” she says. “I’m thrilled to have the chance to represent the university at the provincial championship.”

Ms. Donovan will move on to represent Queen’s at the Ontario 3MT finals on April 12 in Waterloo. The national 3MT winner will be decided through an online vote on videos of the regional champions, conducted on the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies website.

“Competing in the 3MT was one of the highlights of my Masters studies,” says Anastasia Savrova, MSc’17, winner of the 2016 Queen’s 3MT competition. “It was encouraging to hear people were so excited about my research, and this experience has really pushed me to pursue more opportunities where I can get the public more involved in academic research.”

For more information on the Queen’s 3MT competition, or to see video of the finalists' presentations, please visit the website.

Researchers reach out globally

Queen's University researchers awarded $449,000 for Queen Elizabeth Scholars Network for Equity in Maternal Child Health.

Queen's in the World

Four global health researchers at Queen’s University and Kingston General Hospital Research Institute are aiming to change the lives of some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations, particularly mothers and children.

Co-leaders Heather Aldersey (School of Rehabilitation Therapy), Susan Bartels (Emergency Medicine), Colleen Davison (Public Health Sciences), and Eva Purkey (Family Medicine) have been awarded $449,000 from the Queen Elizabeth II Scholars Program (QES) to establish the Queen Elizabeth Scholars Network for Equity in Maternal and Child Health.

Working together as part of the Queen Elizabeth Scholars Network for Equity in Maternal and Child Health are (l to r): Eva Purkey, Colleen Davison, Heather Aldersey, and Susan Bartels.

“Inequities in maternal and child health outcomes and access exist globally for certain groups, including those impacted by armed conflict, remote populations, displaced people, and people with disabilities. Unfortunately, these groups are rarely prioritized in research or policy,” says Dr. Aldersey.

The QES project is the first initiative of ARCH – a research collaborative for global health equity that is being established by the four researchers. ARCH will leverage their extensive experience working with partners in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Canadian North, looking at the impacts of war, poverty, natural disasters, and preventable diseases on families and communities.

“The network is demonstrative of research that has the potential to have a tangible impact on people’s lives,” says Dr. John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “Importantly, it is also reflective of the fact that many of our scholars are building research capacity for real-world issues in both Canada and abroad.”

The funds will support the research, learning, and advocacy skills of 15 PhD students, post-doctoral fellows, or early career researchers from low- and middle-income countries as well as Canadian trainees in a series of international exchanges. These new scholars will also take part in a common, multi-country study looking at the factors that contribute to maternal and child health inequities.

“We hope to support and inspire global health researchers and to contribute to the evolution of Queen’s as a global health research leader,” says Dr. Davison.

Maternal and child mortality and morbidity is still high in many parts of the world and among particular subgroups, even within Canada. Internationally, it is estimated that six million children die every year before reaching the age of five. The maternal death rate in low- and middle-income countries is still 14 times higher than in developed regions.

“These are preventable outcomes, brought on by such factors as income disparities, lack of access to good quality services, and discrimination based on race, gender, and social class,” says Dr. Bartels.

“Our aim is to equip the next generation of maternal and child health researchers with the skills and knowledge to advocate for these vulnerable populations,” says Dr. Purkey.

The QES is managed through a unique partnership of Universities Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation, Community Foundations of Canada, and Canadian universities. The QES is made possible with financial support from International Development Research Centre and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.


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