2020 UBC Health Award Recipients

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Health Innovation Funding Investment (HIFI) Awards

The Health Innovation Funding Investment (HIFI) Awards enable health researchers to undertake innovative activities that have the potential to create change. HIFI catalyzes cross-faculty and cross-campus collaboration at UBC's Vancouver and Okanagan campuses. Grants valued between $10,000 and $25,000 are awarded to develop, undertake, or translate innovative health-related research.    


Allies in health: Social support for health behaviours and combating loneliness in the face of COVID-19
HIFI AWARD: $19,800
  • Dr. Christiane Hoppmann, Professor, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts
  • Dr. Jennifer Jakobi, Professor, School of Health and Exercise Sciences, Faculty of Health and Social Development
  • Dr. Maureen Ashe, Associate Professor, Department of Family Practice, Faculty of Medicine
  • Dr. Ken Madden, Associate Professor, Division of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine
  • Dr. Rachel Murphy, Assistant Professor, School of Population and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine
  • Dr. Wolfgang Linden, Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts
Application of virtual reality to treat vaginismus: Fear of sexual activity
HIFI AWARD: $25,000
  • Dr. Lori Brotto, Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Faculty of Medicine
  • Dr. Alan Kingstone, Professor, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts
  • Dr. Melanie Altas, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Gynaecology & Obstetrics, Faculty of Medicine
  • Natalie Brown, MA student, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts
Can we blame the COVID-19 overdose surge on emergency income supports? Empirical evidence to support social policy planning
HIFI AWARD: $24,527
  • Dr. Lindsey Richardson, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts; Research Scientist, BC Centre on Substance Use
  • Dr. Jane Buxton, Professor, School of Population and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine; Medical Lead, Harm Reduction, BC Centre for Disease Control
  • Dr. David Green, Professor, Vancouver School of Economics, Faculty of Arts
  • Dr. Lianping Ti, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine; Research Scientist and Health Administrative Data Lead, BC Centre on Substance Use
  • Dr. Amanda Slaunwhite, Adjunct Professor, School of Population and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine; Senior Scientist, BC Centre for Disease Control
  • Dr. Heather Palis, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Population and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and BC Centre for Disease Control
  • Allison Laing, PhD student, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts
Creating a calmer NICU: Pilot testing a robot for optimizing brain development in preterm infants in the NICU
HIFI AWARD: $24,859
  • Dr. Liisa Holsti, Associate Professor, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Medicine
  • Dr. Manon Ranger, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, Faculty of Applied Science
  • Dr. Guy Dumont, Professor, Department of Electrical and Computing Engineering, Faculty of Applied Science
  • Dr. Kevin Golovin, Assistant Professor, Mechanical School of Engineering, Faculty of Applied Science
  • Shahbaz Askari, PhD student, Department of Electrical and Computing Engineering, Faculty of Applied Science
Indigenous Elder-led app to support parents’ two-eyed seeing for parenting
HIFI AWARD: $17,000
  • Dr. Wendy Hall, Professor Emeritus, School of Nursing, Faculty of Applied Science
  • Dr. Patti Janssen, Professor, School of Population and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine
  • Gloria Mellesmoen, PhD student, Department of Linguistics, Faculty of Arts
Smartphone- and nanotechnology-enabled platform for deployable extracellular vesicle and virus detection
HIFI AWARD: $25,000
  • Dr. Russ Algar, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science
  • Dr. Karla Williams, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences
John McNeill Excellence in Health Research Mentorship Award

This prestigious award, in honour of Dean Emeritus John McNeill who joined the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences in 1971, recognizes faculty members at any stage in their academic career, in any of UBC’s health-related disciplines, who have formally been identified as mentors and who exemplify a deep commitment to fostering the professional and personal development of faculty colleagues, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows in the early stages of their academic career.    


Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose is the recipient of the 2020 John McNeil Excellence in Health Research Mentorship Award for her outstanding achievements as a health research mentor and the impact her mentorship has had on her trainees. 

Dr. Liu-Ambrose is a professor in the Department of Physical Therapy  and Co-Director of the UBC Centre for Hip Health, both in the Faculty of Medicine. Her research in healthy aging has made significant contributions to improving the health of older adults by shaping practice and advancing knowledge in the areas of brain health and mobility in aging. Dr. Liu-Ambrose has mentored numerous undergraduates, research graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, clinicians in training, research associates, and faculty members—many of whom garnered funding and continued in their careers to become successful and recognized experts in health research and clinical communities at multiple levels. She encourages and inspires colleagues and students to reach their full potential through tailored mentorship that fosters critical thinking, scholarly rigor, outstanding communication skills, and academic integrity.

R. Paul Kerston Community Educator Award

Named after long-time community educator, R. Paul Kerston, this annual award was established in 2014 to honour outstanding community educators who have made a difference to student learning in health and human service programs at UBC. 


Mandy Young received the 2020 R. Paul Kerston Community Educator Award for making an outstanding contribution to student learning. As a UBC Health Mentor for six years, Mandy provides students with a unique opportunity to learn through her lived experience as a caregiver of a child with a rare genetic disorder and autism and instills in them the importance of patient-centred care. She has mentored seven cohorts of students from eight programs, including Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Genetic Counselling, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Pharmacy, and Speech-Language Pathology. Mandy also co-developed an interprofessional workshop about caregiver experiences as well as workshops about health advocacy, attended by more than 400 students in a range of health disciplines. Her passion and work with students have been vital to their growth as members of the health field.

Professor Jessie Gordon MacCarthy Memorial Scholarship

Established through an endowment in memory of the late Jessie Gordon MacCarthy, long-term contributor to the development of the Health Sciences at UBC, this scholarship recognizes an outstanding student in the final year of any pre-licensure health science program who best combines academic excellence, demonstrated interest, and leadership in the field of community health.    


Navjit Moore, fourth year student in the Doctor of Pharmacy program in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, is the recipient of the 2020 Professor Jessie Gordon MacCarthy Memorial Scholarship. Navjit has established and led support groups for people living with chronic conditions, provided emotional support and facilitated communication for hospital patients, and helped long-term care residents maintain their cognitive capabilities by engaging them in mental and social activities. Navjit works towards ensuring the most vulnerable groups are well-supported and have access to appropriate resources. Navjit’s commitment to early advocacy for healthy habits and proactive approaches to disease and illness is commendable.

ImpactBC Scholarships in Health Care Research and Development

Established in 2016 through an endowment by ImpactBC, these scholarships recognize outstanding students in a UBC health discipline who have completed a research or development project focusing on patient/client involvement in health care decision-making or in health professional education.


Five outstanding students received the ImpactBC Scholarships in 2020.    

Gabriel Dix, second year student in the Master of Science in Health and Exercise Sciences program in the Faculty of Health and Social Development at UBC Okanagan, was recognized for research on the effects of non-pharmacological interventions on various health-related outcomes in individuals with a spinal cord injury. Gabriel’s project uses an integrated knowledge translation approach, which includes patient engagement throughout the research process, from inception to dissemination. This research on the link between non-pharmacological strategies and immune function aims to enhance the quality of life for people with spinal cord injury and may have significant physiological, psychological, and financial implications. 

Emily Giroux, first year student in the Doctor of Philosophy in Kinesiology program in the Faculty of Health and Social Development at UBC Okanagan, was recognized for a development project aimed at ensuring people with spinal cord injury were meaningfully engaged in decisions regarding their healthcare needs. Conducted for a spinal cord injury organization, Emily’s project assessed client agreement with the organization’s proposed strategies for addressing specific healthcare areas. Using the findings, the organization adjusted its plans for research, implementation, and service provision in ways that reflected the perspectives and priorities of clients and best supported their needs.

Deana Kanagasingam, fourth year student in the Doctor of Philosophy in Kinesiology program in the Faculty of Education, was recognized for research on the impact of social justice practices on patients’ quality of care. Deana’s project explores obesity treatment and how social justice is understood, enacted, and experienced in clinical interventions related to weight. Seeking to raise awareness about equitable and fair healthcare from the perspectives of both patients and practitioners, Deana will use research findings to conduct a capacity-building workshop for health students. The workshop will equip them with clinical skills consistent with a social justice and patient-centred paradigm, which will ultimately enhance patient-clinician communication and health outcomes.

Arwa Nemir, second year student in the Master of Science program in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, was recognized for research on patient participation in the workplace-based assessment of pharmacy learners. Arwa’s study is the first of its kind in Canada that provides patients with a space to voice their perceptions of pharmacy trainees, with the intent of improving care delivery as well as learner training as a holistic healthcare practitioner. The results of this research will contribute to the enhancement of existing competency-based assessment modalities that will better train future health professionals and prepare them for the evolving landscape of healthcare. 

Nevena Rebic, first year student in the Doctor of Philosophy program in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, was recognized for research exploring how female patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) form decisions about having children, pregnancy, and medication use. Nevena developed a dynamic, multidimensional women-centered framework and demonstrated that a patient-centred approach to care supports female patients with RA in making informed reproductive and medication choices that align with their individual desires, needs, and values. The research has implications for advancing patient care improvement and engagement through the creation of a standard of perinatal rheumatology care for supporting planned pregnancies among female patients with RA and other rheumatic diseases.