Connections >> October 2012

23 October 2012

Connections is MSFHR’s monthly e-newsletter. Each issue highlights the top MSFHR news from the past month and showcases the impact of research we’ve funded.

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In this issue:


Research with Impact

Research Roundup

MSFHR receives $48 million from BC government

On October 3, Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid announced a $48-million funding commitment to support the ongoing work of MSFHR. This funding commitment highlights the importance the provincial government places on health research and the role it plays in the health of British Columbians and the continuous improvement of our health care system.

Aubrey J. Tingle Prize presented to Dr. Bruce McManus

Dr. Bruce McManus, one of Canada’s pre‐eminent medical researchers, received MSFHR’s Aubrey J. Tingle Prize October 10 at a special presentation hosted by UBC’s Faculty of Medicine Island Medical Program, located at the University of Victoria.

MSFHR welcomes new board members

Following the September 14 annual general meeting, MSFHR is pleased to announce the appointment of three new members to its board of directors. Joining the board are Robin Ciceri (president, Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia), Jack Falk (former vice-president, finance and administration, University of Victoria), and Steven Kinsey (vice-president, Canada West operations, Cisco Canada).

Partnership opportunities available for 2013 trainee competition

MSFHR is looking for organizations that are interested in partnering with us on our 2013 trainee competition. If you’re a not-for-profit, foundation, or similar organization, this your opportunity to jointly fund a BC health research trainee award in your area of interest. To learn more visit the Partners section on our website or contact Samantha Rogers at

Research with Impact – Dr. Janet Werker

Language development in babies can be accelerated through treatment of maternal depression, according to a new UBC study led by Dr. Janet Werker (former chair of MSFHR’s Research Advisory Council).

The study, published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that babies born to mothers treated for depression during pregnancy with serotonin reuptake inhibitors were quicker to progress through a critical developmental stage in which they become attuned to sounds of language. This period typically ends around eight or nine months when babies begin to acquire their native language and lose the ability to discriminate between different languages.

The findings suggest this period can be delayed or accelerated, though the resulting impact on later language acquisition remains unclear. Werker emphasizes that the study shows the importance of environmental factors on infant development and the crucial need to treat maternal depression.

The study’s co-authors include Dr. Tim Oberlander (former member of the MSFHR-funded Child & Youth Developmental Trajectories Research Unit) and Dr. Whitney Weikum (2007 Research Trainee).

Globe and Mail article article

Research Roundup

  • Dr. Helen Tremlett
    Some multiple sclerosis (MS) patients can experience short-term improvements in disability without the aid of medication, according to a new study led by Dr. Helen Tremlett (2007 Scholar). The study, published recently in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal, examined data from nearly 3,000 MS patients in British Columbia and found that up to 30 percent experienced natural improvements in their condition. The findings suggest a need for further research to understand the biological mechanisms driving these improvements in order to identify potential drug targets.
  • Dr. Stephen Robinovitch
    A new Lancet study co-led by Dr. Stephen Robinovitch (2001 Scholar) and Dr. Fabio Feldman (2005 Research Trainee) finds falls in BC nursing homes are most commonly caused by incorrect weight shifting or tripping, rather than slipping, as commonly thought. By analyzing video footage of 227 falls, the researchers found the most common activities leading to falls are “forward walking, standing quietly, or sitting down.” The findings point to a need for risk assessment of the various activities engaged in by seniors, as well as improved prevention strategies. Falls are a significant health risk to individuals over the age of 65, accounting for 90 percent of hip and wrist fractures and 60 percent of head article
  • Dr. Michael Law
    A new paper by Dr. Michael Law (2011 Scholar) finds generic drug prices in Canada are significantly higher than international standards. Law compared the cost of frequently dispensed generic drugs in Ontario (which boasts the lowest prices among Canadian provinces) to the United States and New Zealand and found 90 percent of products were less expensive internationally. The findings suggest that by obtaining common generic drugs at internationally available prices, Ontario could reduce overall drug expenditures by nearly a quarter billion dollars.Globe and Mail article
    Toronto Star article