MSFHR announces first partnered scholar awards

Left to right: Dr. Diane Finegood, MSFHR President & CEO; Dr. Sarah de Leeuw, MSFHR Scholar; Cathy Ulrich, Northern Health President & CEO

MSFHR is pleased to announce its first three partnered scholar awards, collaborations with the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health (NCCAH) in Prince George and the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation in Vancouver.

Scholar awards allow researchers to initiate an independent research career, build a leading research program, make significant contributions to their field of research and attract additional funding to advance knowledge on a range of critical health issues. Since 2001, MSFHR has made more than 300 of these awards.

“I’m thrilled we have created a way of working together to advance health research across the province,” says Dr. Diane Finegood, MSFHR president and CEO. “Thanks to the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health (NCCAH) and the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation, these three researchers will be able to find answers to health challenges facing our communities.”

NCCAH has partnered to fund Dr. Sarah de Leeuw, the first MSFHR scholar ever to be based in Northern BC. Dr. de Leeuw is an assistant professor in the Northern Medical Program at the University of Northern British Columbia and a research associate with the NCCAH. Her research seeks to address health inequalities lived by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in northern BC, as compared to people in urban areas in southern BC. She is examining how creative arts and the humanities can resolve health inequities and attend to social determinants of health, particularly as they manifest in specific geographies.

The second collaboration, negotiated with the help of the Providence Health Care Research Institute, enabled St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation to partner with MSFHR to fund two scholars, both affiliated with the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE); Drs Kora DeBeck and Art Poon. These awards build on a long tradition of MSFHR support for BC-CfE researchers, support that has put the BC-CfE at the forefront of a global effort to confront HIV/AIDS.

Dr. DeBeck is a research scientist at BC-CfE and in January will be an assistant professor in the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University. Her research focuses on evaluating and analyzing a number of interventions to determine how to decrease high-risk drug use, infectious diseases and other health harms among street-involved youth. It is hoped her research results will also provide critical guidance for effective prevention, addiction treatment, and health promotion services tailored to the needs of street-involved youth.

Dr. Poon is an associate research scientist (bioinformatics) at the BC-CfE and an assistant professor (partner) at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on developing new computational methods to reconstruct and understand the molecular evolution of HIV within and among patients. To help address the growing divide between the massive output of modern sequencing technologies and our ability to process and interpret these data, software from his research program will be released as a free resource to the basic and clinical research communities.

Drs. DeBeck, de Leeuw and Poon were chosen from the original group of applicants to MSFHR’s 2012 scholar competition. They join the other 23 awardees announced in June, bringing the total number of 2012 MSFHR scholars to 26.