Health After 2020 Dialogue Sessions
Dialogue sessions are held as part of the Health After 2020 program, which enables researchers to engage in interdisciplinary and cross-institutional projects that support, challenge, and improve health producing systems. These collaborations are intended to respond to the broad effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and further our understanding of the determinants and experience of health and wellbeing.
Playing Together to Promote Early Childhood Outside in BC Early Learning and Child Care Centres
Thursday, December 7, 2023
Visit our Events page for more information and registration.
Dialogue sessions are also available on the UBC Health YouTube channel.
Hearing Indigenous Voices during the COVID-19 pandemic
This hybrid dialogue session provided an opportunity for Indigenous researchers and researcher-allies from British Columbia, the United States, and New Zealand who have worked with, and for, Indigenous communities during COVID-19 to present their findings and to interact with results of the Hearing Indigenous Voices survey. The survey was conducted by the Coronavirus Variants Rapid Response Network (CoVaRR-Net)’s Indigenous Engagement, Development and Research (CIEDAR) Pillar 7 to understand the experience of Indigenous peoples during COVID-19, identify their pandemic-related needs, and amplify exemplary responses witnessed within Indigenous communities.
The session highlighted the experiences and triumphs of Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island and around the world and included presentations and discussions about lessons learned on conducting research and Indigenous resilience during the pandemic.
The dialogue session was presented by CIEDAR and UBC Health, in partnership with UBC Sociology, UBC Indigenous Land-Based Health, Wellness, and Education Research Cluster, and CoVaRR-Net’s Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigeneity.
Dr. Kimberly R. Huyser is an enrolled Tribal member of the Navajo Nation and was raised on the Navajo reservation in Arizona, USA. As a sociologist and Dine woman, her work and research are focused on the lives and opportunities of Indigenous population. She perceives CIEDAR as a chance to amplify the voices of Indigenous people and gain a deeper understanding of their experiences throughout the pandemic.
Dr. Belone, a Diné from Naakaii Bito’ on the Navajo reservation, was recently promoted to full time professor at the University of New Mexico's College of Population Health. With 23 years of experience, Dr. Belone specializes in community-based participatory health research, where she addresses health disparities among southwestern tribal nations using an Indigenous paradigm.
Jordan Derkson is of white settler ancestry. Residing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Jordan has been actively engaged as a research assistant with CIEDAR for the past year. Jordan perceives his role within CIEDAR as a valuable opportunity to not only gain insights into Indigenous perspectives, voices, and experiences but also to contribute towards amplifying those voices through research. Jordan is committed to learning and utilizing his position to uplift Indigenous voices and foster greater understanding through his work with CIEDAR.
Mary Jessome grew up in South Western Ontario by the Six Nations of Grand River. They view CIEDAR as a distinctive opportunity to collaborate with individuals who believe in research's potential to amplify Indigenous voices. As the research manager for CIEDAR, Mary eagerly anticipates utilizing research as a means to share the stories and experiences of the various communities partnered with by the organization.
Dr. Sanchez-Youngman, a community-based participatory researcher, specializes in addressing Latino mental health disparities and health equity policy. With 20+ years of experience, she develops interventions to reduce social and health disparities among marginalized and racial/ethnic groups in the US. Her goal is to connect social science theories and methods with multi-level health intervention research.
Cherryl Smith is a Kaupapa Māori researcher researching the health needs and wellbeing of Māori. She completed a Post Doc on Māori grandparents raising mokopuna. She has completed more than 25 years in Kaupapa Māori research on Māori health and wellbeing and helped to establish one of the first independent Kaupapa Māori research institutes within Aotearoa.
Jasmine Sampson (Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa, Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāti Kuri) holds a PhD and a Master's in Māori and Pacific Development, and a Bachelors (Double Major) in Māori and Pacific Development and Psychology. She currently works as a researcher for Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa, focusing on the 'Tangata Whenua, Tangata Ora' project. This initiative prioritizes Māori health and well-being by emphasizing the connection between people, the environment, and ancestral lands. Additionally, Jasmine actively contributes to marae, whānau, hapū, and iwi communities.
Helena Rattray, a Kaipūtaiao Social Scientist at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited, is dedicated to promoting Māori health and wellbeing in Aotearoa, New Zealand. With expertise in kaupapa Māori research, Helena focuses on reviving and preserving Iwi and hapū knowledge, working closely with Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa to address crucial Iwi goals. Helena is also pursuing a PhD, exploring Māori responses to colonial incarceration, aiming to contribute to Māori decarceration. Through her work, Helena aims to foster connections and empower communities with sustainable solutions for positive change.
Felipe Contreras, a multifaceted multimedia producer, filmmaker, photographer, and podcaster, is dedicated to amplifying diverse voices and exploring the intricate connection between environmental and social justice. Equipped with a sociocultural anthropology degree from the University of Washington, Felipe's work is enriched by his profound comprehension of the cultural, historical, and social dynamics of the communities he collaborates with, as well as their ecological context.
Danielle Wray was born and raised as an uninvited and grateful guest on the unceded, ancestral territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil Waututh First Nations on the Pacific Northwest of Turtle Island. Her ancestors are Scottish and Norwegian. Danielle is a student and creative that is captivated by the power of stories to disrupt, uproot, nourish, and heal. Her love for story has led her over the past decade as an actor, theatre director, playwright, artistic director, spoken word poet, and now, as a co-host and producer of the ReStory podcast.
Visual Storytelling of Māori Land-Based Healing During COVID-19
Māori partners Cherryl Smith, Jasmine Sampson (Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa, Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāti Kuri), and Helena Rattray shared a video project during the dialogue session.
The video project launched on February 14, 2023 at the Rising Before Dawn – Indigenous Learnings Through the Pandemic workshop, which saw Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa descendants speak about maintaining wellbeing during COVID-19. The project was funded through Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga COVID-19 response funding and managed by Te Atawhai o Te Ao in conjunction with the Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa research team.
Hoki atu ki tōu maunga kia purea ai e koe ki ngā hau o Tāwhirimātea – Return to your mountain to be cleansed by the winds of Tāwhirimātea.
An important traditional way of healing and grounding ourselves in times of crisis is to return to our mountains, our rivers, our land to replenish ourselves as Māori. During COVID-19, we were cut off from accessing this particular healing/grounding practice. However, out of that struggle emerged creative and innovative ways of thinking about and reconnecting to our land, to our marae, to our mountains whilst maintaining our physical distance. The goal of this research is to explore the question: In what new and creative ways did descendants of Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa return to their mountains? How did they retain their sense of mana whenua and connectedness to the healing aspects of te taiao (the environment) through a global pandemic?
(Re)story Podcast is the storytelling of resilience and thrivance by Indigenous Peoples in Canada, the United States, and New Zealand. The podcast series is a unique opportunity that shares the experiences and stories of Indigenous Peoples in their own words in (re)storying the pandemic. In a time marked by isolation, we witnessed so many Indigenous communities who have been (re)storying their connection to land, to community, and to self. We’re taking time to elevate stories of Indigenous thrivance, resistance, and love that happened over the past three years.
The (Re)Story Podcast is a CIEDAR project. Hosts: Carly Morrisseau and Danielle Wray. Executive Producers: Katie Collins, Tamara Chavez, Kimberly Huyser, Michelle Johnson-Jennings. Supported by the Coronavirus Variants Rapid Response Network (CoVaRR-Net), funded by Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) (FRN# 175622).
To share information about Hearing Indigenous Voices During the COVID-19 Pandemic, download the summary.
Branches of the same tree: Using linked administrative health data to reduce illicit drug poisoning and improve the health of people released from incarceration
Incarceration is a major source of social and health inequities in Canada and globally. Persons who interact with the criminal legal system are at exceptionally high-risk of illicit drug poisoning. In response to this major challenge have been efforts to promote evidence-based decision making through use of linked administrative health data in BC and globally. In BC, these efforts have included the establishment of the Peer (Persons with Lived Experience) Advisory Group at the BC Centre for Disease Control that co-leads analyses using the BC Provincial Overdose Cohort.
In this dialogue session, hear from BC and Australia-based researchers and people with lived experience of incarceration who are using administrative health data to understand the impact of incarceration on illicit drug poisoning and other substance use related harms and vice versa.
Viewers will learn about:
- the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on incarcerated populations in BC, Canada, and Australia;
- how the illicit drug poisoning crisis intersects with the criminal legal system and with other health and welfare systems;
- the role of peer support and peer-run services in reducing recidivism, improving health, and preventing overdose; and
- best practices for engaging people with lived experience in research that uses administrative health data.
Sara Cadeau (she/her/they/them) is a student of the energetic arts, with a focus on the reclamation of women’s medicine and leadership bundles. Sara’s ancestors include both Anishnaabe and Ashkenazi (from Russia and Poland). Being able to reconnect with family on her mother's side has helped her learn that they are registered to Garden River Ojibway First Nation in Ontario.
For nearly 20 years, Sara has been sober and abstinent and on the red road ceremonial path. She is a transformational space holder, specializing in finding balance between counterpoints, utilizing softness and strength when needed while working through sometimes uncomfortable places and topics. Sara’s energy has been described as that of a uniterand weaver, a soothing balm on wounds visceral and situational as well as intergenerational, systemic and deeply personal.
A busy decade and a half in her one-on-one healing practice, working predominantly with Indigenous nations, informs her current work. This includes extensive leadership work in fundraising and mobilization of community, organizing and hosting grassroots rallies (including with Idle No More), hosting femme and them’s moon circle gatherings, and becoming a cherished auntie to many. Her soft spot is walking with youth in leadership as well as women and queer folks who are finding their voices and power.
Sara was honoured to be hand chosen by Elaine Alec (Syilx and Secwepemc Nations) to be in the first cohort of Elaine’s Cultivating Safe Spaces course to become a certified trainer. She is currently enrolled in SFU’s Community Capacity Building program and has been busy developing her emotional regulation and resiliency workshop series. Sara's healing course The Reclamation of Women Bundles will be launching soon.
Amanda Slaunwhite is Assistant Professor in the School of Population and Public Health in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia and Senior Scientist at the BC Centre for Disease Control. Amanda has expertise in overdose, substance use, addiction, and mental health, with eight years of experience working with administrative health data in BC and the US on topics related to overdose, substance use, and mental health. She leads a program of research that uses administrative health data and community-based participatory methods in the areas of peer support, substance use, and community reintegration after release from provincial and federal correctional institutions. Amanda is the scientific lead of the BC Provincial Overdose Cohort, a collection of linked administrative data, including data from BC Emergency Health Services and BC Coroner's Service, on fatal and non-fatal overdose events in BC since 2015. She is also the co-principal investigator of the UBC Research Excellence Cluster in Transformative Health and Justice.
Stuart Kinner is Professor of Health Equity at Curtin University, Head of the Justice Health Unit at University of Melbourne and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and Adjunct Professor in the Griffith Criminology Institute. For the past two decades, Stuart’s research has focussed on health services and health outcomes for people who come into contact with the criminal justice system. He is experienced in multi-sectoral data linkage, cohort studies, randomized trials, and other rigorous evaluation methodologies, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses. During his career, Stuart has published more than 300 publications, including 199 peer-reviewed papers, and attracted more than $29 million in research and evaluation funding. He chairs Australia’s National Youth Justice Health Advisory Group and serves on both the WHO Health in Prisons Programme Steering Group and the Worldwide Prison Health Research and Engagement Network Steering Committee.
Mo Korchinski is the Executive Director of Unlocking the Gates Services Society and has a long history of involvement with community-based participatory research. She is an advocate for people involved in the criminal justice system and continues to push for change at a policy-level and increased supports for her community.
Heather Palis holds a PhD in Population and Public Health (Epidemiology and Biostatistics) and is a postdoctoral fellow at UBC in the Department of Psychiatry in the Faculty of Medicine and at the BC Centre for Disease Control. Heather’s research interests include polysubstance use and pharmacological treatments for opioid and stimulant use disorder. Her postdoctoral research examines the impact of recent interventions introduced in response to the illicit drug toxicity crisis in British Columbia (e.g. expanded opioid agonist treatment, prescribed safer supply) on overdose risk among people with histories of incarceration.
Sofia Bartlett is Adjunct Professor in the School of Population and Public Health in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC, Senior Scientist for Sexually Transmitted and Blood-Borne Infections (STIBBIs) at the BC Centre for Disease Control, and Co-Director of the Canadian Collaboration for Prison Health and Education. Sofia’s research interests are related to the overlap and co-occurrence of infectious diseases (including STIBBIs, SARS-CoV-2, and tuberculosis) with substance use and incarceration. She is interested in ways that community-based and participatory methods can be applied to research utilising integrated administrative data to inform public health policy and programming, while also advancing the rights and the health of marginalized people.
Post-COVID-19 pandemic long-term care delivery system
The COVID-19 pandemic posed various problems for residents in long-term care (LTC) facilities. According to the Public Health Act, LTC staff in BC should work in only one facility instead of multiple locations to mitigate the risk of cross-communication known as the main source of infection. This reduces the availability of staffs in LTC. Once COVID-19 is detected in staff or residents, self-isolation of contacts means staffing shortages are exacerbated. In many facilities, there is no reserve of care staff and no contingency if a significant proportion of staff are not working due to illness, isolation, or other factors. In order to address these challenges, this research was aimed at designing analytical frameworks for the purpose of staff assignment, waitlist management, and evaluation of healthcare policy in LTC facilities.
- Amir Ardestani-Jaafari, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Management, UBC Okanagan
Amir Ardestani-Jaafari is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Management at UBC Okanagan. His research interests are in the interface of healthcare and decision-making under uncertainty. He teaches operations management and project management courses. Since he joined UBC Okanagan in 2020, he has been awarded more than $500,000 in grants (including the NSERC discovery grant and SSHRC PEG, SSHRC PDG, and SSHRC IDG grants) as the principal applicant or co-applicant.
- Babak Mohamadpour Tosarkani, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering, Faculty of Applied Science, UBC Okanagan
Babak Mohamadpour Tosarkani is Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering at UBC Okanagan. His research focuses on healthcare operations and supply chain Mmnagement. He has been involved in developing new algorithms for transportation and healthcare logistics planning and risk management based on multi-criteria decision-making methods.
- Pooya Pourrez, M.Sc. student, School of Engineering, Faculty of Applied Science, UBC Okanagan
Substance use among international students from Punjab in BC’s Lower Mainland: A mixed methods study
The session included an overview of mental health and substance use among newcomers to Canada, including international students. This provided context for a prospective, observational, mixed methods study that is examining substance use initiators, patterns, and sequelae among Punjabi international students in BC's Lower Mainland, as well as the lived experience of those who specifically use toxic opioids. A panel of community members discussed the needs of and challenges faced by international students from Punjab and the necessary services and interventions that are needed to support Punjabi international students who use substances.
The research team hopes the conversation will influence clinical service design and policy in order to provide more evidence informed, tailored care to what appears to be a vulnerable substance using population in a worsening toxic drug supply crisis.
Speakers and Research Team
Dr. Nitasha Puri is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC and Medical Lead at the Roshni Clinic in Fraser Health. Her research interests broadly centre on substance use among racialized populations, healing and recovery, and health equity. As an addition medicine physician originally trained in family medicine, she is involved in teaching addiction medicine fellows and leading an innovative culturally tailored outpatient addiction service for people of South Asian ancestry living with substance use disorder.
As founder of the non-profit youth-led organization Students Overcoming Substance Use Disorder and Addictions (SOUDA) Society of Canada, Gurkirat Singh Nijjar is responsible for bringing life-saving resources to the community. Team SOUDA offers education, resources, naloxone training, and conversation in four languages to help break the stigma and encourage harm reduction strategies. Since 2019, Gurkirat has led his team of volunteers to set up opioid overdose response and prevention booths at community events, places of worship, and parks. He has also worked to improve pedestrian road safety in Surrey through a road safety campaign and has made time to volunteer with the Chimo Community Services crisis line program, along with volunteering in the community kitchen of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara and the food bank. He is also a Fraser Health wellness ambassador and serves as a community outreach director at One Voice Canada. Gurkirat is currently a third-year BSc Chemistry student at UBC.
Dupinder Kaur Saran (Jaswal) is a registered nurse with 24 years of varied nursing experience and has a passion for community service and advocacy. She founded Nurse On the Go Home and Healthcare Services and One Voice Canada Foundation, which helps support, create awareness, and advocate for international students. She is also a trustee and vice-chair at the Surrey libraries and a director with a few non-profit organizations. Dupinder devotes her time volunteering in the community with youth, women, seniors, and those in need.
Kulpreet Singh is founder of the South Asian Mental Health Alliance (SAMHAA), a non-profit network dedicated to mental health awareness, acceptance, support, and empowerment. SAMHAA was created to provide a safe forum where members of the South Asian community can come together to create awareness of mental health issues, fight stigma and misinformation, and bridge the gap between the community and mental health resource providers.
Harleen Dhami graduated with a Bachelor of Science from UBC. She previously did research work at Stigma and Resilience Amongst Vulnerable Youth. She is passionate about community-based research, knowledge translation, and creation of culturally sensitive resources. In her free time, she loves to spend time outdoors running or doing yoga.
State-level responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in India: Learnings from Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu
India has been strongly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond the vast direct and indirect health impacts, there have major societal and economic disruptions across the country, particularly during the devastating second wave from April to June 2021. Given India’s political structure, understanding and comparing the ways in which state governments responded and performed during the pandemic will provide important insights into multi-sectoral decision-making and governance. Such research could elucidate key learnings for states and the union government in order to improve the response to future health emergencies, as well as strengthening the health system more broadly.
This interactive dialogue session presented the results of a comparative research project on state-level responses to COVID-19 in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra and put them into a global context. Researchers from UBC and India shared findings on the role of institutions, organizations, governance, and politics in state government responses to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021. The research team engaged participants in a discussion about how these findings relate to global conversations on strengthening public health systems and decision-making for future emergencies.
This dialogue session was co-presented by UBC Health and the Centre for India and South Asia Research.
Veena Sriram is an Assistant Professor with a joint appointment in the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs in the Faculty of Arts and the School of Population and Public Health in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC. Her research sits at the intersection of global health, social science, and public policy, and her interests are in understanding power and politics in health policy processes in low- and middle-income countries. She draws upon theory and methodologies from the social sciences in conducting her research and has a particular focus on qualitative approaches. Her work has been published in interdisciplinary journals, such as Social Science and Medicine, BMJ Global Health, and Health Policy and Planning.
Veena has a particular focus on health workforce policy and health sector governance. She has conducted extensive research at the national and state level in India, exploring a range of health policy and system questions, including medical specialization, health workforce policy development, the functioning of national health authorities, and emergency care systems. She has also contributed to expanding the application of theory and concepts to study power in health policy and systems research. Veena also writes regularly on contemporary issues in global health policy in forums, such as International Health Policies, and is actively involved with Health Systems Global and Emerging Voices for Global Health.
Veena has been awarded fellowships from the American Institute of Indian Studies and the US Fulbright Program. She has led the design and execution of qualitative research funded by the US National Institutes of Health (Fogarty International Center and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality), the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She has also consulted for the World Health Organization.
Peter Berman is a health economist with almost 50 years of experience in research, policy analysis and development, and training and education in global health. He is Professor at the School of Population and Public Health in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC, where he was also Director from 2019-21. He is affiliated as Adjunct Professor at the Public Health Foundation of India and as advisor to the China National Health Development Research Center for healthcare financing and health accounts. He was Adjunct Professor in Global Health at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University, where he was on faculty as Professor until 2019 and the founding faculty director of Harvard Chan’s Doctor of Public Health degree.
Peter’s current research at UBC focuses on key factors affecting government decision-making in response to public health crises and has been closely engaged in health systems research in Ethiopia since 2012. He has led and/or participated in major field programs in all regions of the developing world.
Peter is the editor-in-chief of the book series World Scientific Series in Global Health Economics and Public Policy and author/editor of six books on global health economics and policy, more than 60 academic papers in his field, and numerous other working papers and reports. He is also co-author of Getting Health Reform Right: A Guide to Improving Performance and Equity, co-author/editor of Tracking Resources for Primary Health Care: A Framework and Practices in Low- and Middle-Income Countries, co-editor of the Guide to the Production of National Health Accounts, and co-editor of Paying for India’s Health Care.
Girija Vaidyanathan is a career civil servant who joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1981. She has wide experience in implementation and financing of schemes in the development sector, having spent nearly 15 years in the health, nutrition, and environment sector in various leadership positions.
In her early posting as Project Coordinator at the World Bank-funded Tamil Nadu Integrated Nutrition Project, she was exposed to the field level implementation of health and nutrition programs as well as evaluation and monitoring techniques. During her years in the finance department, she was responsible for the financing of health, education, and other social sector schemes.
She was posted as Mission Director, National Rural Health Mission and Commissioner, Maternal and Child Health of the state of Tamil Nadu in India in 2008. During the three years that she held the post, she was directly involved in various programs to improve maternal health and reduce the maternal and infant mortality rates in the state. Her important contributions during this period include setting up of neonatal intensive care units in all districts as well as introduction of various skill-building initiatives for nurses and doctors. During this period, the state was recognized as the top performer among the better off states in health sector achievement.
Girija was responsible for policy formulation in the health sector as Health Secretary, first during 2001, when she played an important role in the design and sanction of the Tamil Nadu Health Systems Project. During her second stint as Health Secretary, she continued to pursue her passion for health system strengthening and reform, working towards system improvement in various functional areas such as maternal and child health, TB control, public funded insurance, data systems, and food and drug safety.
After leaving the health department, she was associated with the implementation of the state’s mother and child tracking system and has been instrumental in linking the same with the civil registration system, which has played an important role in increased antenatal registration and improved delivery of public services.
Girija continues to work with the initiatives of the state toward provision of universal health coverage, which include the strengthening of diagnostic services and setting up of health and wellness centres at the Health Sub Centre and Primary Health Centre level.
Sarthak Gaurav is an Associate Professor in Economics in the Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management at the Indian Institute of Technology (ITT) Bombay. He is an affiliated faculty at the Ashank Desai Centre for Policy Studies and Nutrition Group and co-founded the Behavioural Lab and Geospatial Information Science and Engineering Hub, where he leads the Data for Policy and Health GIS initiative.
Sarthak has been researching risk and vulnerability of agricultural households in Vidarbha and Gujarat since 2008 as part of his PhD. His postdoctoral research at the London School of Economics and the Centre de Sciences Humaines in New Delhi was on a Palanpur longitudinal village study.
His forthcoming co-authored book, Accidental Gamblers: Risk and Vulnerability in Vidarbha Cotton, documents his primary research over the past 14 years.
About the Research Project
Engaging patients before and after childbirth from all walks of life in health research
A multidisciplinary and cross-institutional research team is developing a strategy to foster diversity in patient engagement in the perinatal period. The strategy will outline the best ways to identify and engage diverse patient representatives in pregnancy and postpartum to improve our understanding of their health and health concerns.
This dialogue session provides an opportunity to present the draft strategy and gather feedback from health partners. Learnings from this session will be incorporated into the patient engagement strategy and shared with all interested parties for future adaptation and use. This workshop may support future research projects achieve greater patient engagement from historically underrepresented populations.
The research team welcomes a broad audience of patients, researchers, healthcare providers, and health system decision-makers. The team is particularly keen to include those with lived experience of pregnancy as well as researchers, clinicians, and decision-makers in the field of maternal and child health.
Speakers and Research Team
Marianne Vidler is Assistant Professor in the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC. Dr. Vidler is an obstetric health researcher and leads a research team aimed at developing, testing, and introducing new knowledge that will reduce the unacceptable maternal, perinatal, family, societal, and global impacts of pregnancy complications. She aims to build sustainable, equitable partnerships across individuals and institutions.
Dr. Quantrilla Ard is a passionate behavioral scientist and public health professional. She uses her social media platforms to engage, educate, and inform others on her doctoral research. Dr. Ard is a champion of reproductive justice and health disparities and is involved as a women’s health CBO board member and patient family partner. She has been a guest on several podcasts and writes on the topics of Black maternal and infant health and mortality. In addition, she provides expert opinion on these topics in various print and online media outlets. Read more about the work she is involved in on her The PhD Mamma website.
Janny Xue Chen Ke is Clinical Instructor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics in the Faculty of Medicine, UBC. She is also an anesthesiologist at St. Paul's Hospital and a member of the Providence Health Care anesthesia perioperative medicine specialty group. Dr. Ke graduated from Harvard University with a Master of Science in Epidemiology in 2021. She has expertise in advanced statistical analysis and machine learning research of population datasets.
Justine Dol is a Post-Doctoral Fellow with Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis and the Mothering Transitions Research Lab based at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. Her research focuses on the postpartum transition for mothers and using mHealth technology to improve maternal and newborn outcomes.
About the Research Project
Exploring barriers and facilitators to health equity: A public dialogue to advance research agendas related to opioid prescribing for pain conditions
The ongoing opioid crisis continues to inflict serious harms on thousands of British Columbians. Some harms are due to inappropriate initiation of opioid analgesics in primary care which contributes to the development of prescription opioid addiction and opioid use disorder (OUD) in up to a quarter of all individuals started on opioid analgesics.
An evidence-based opioid-sparing approach to pain management can minimize this risk. The resurging COVID-19 pandemic further exposes the existing inequities in the system of care for people with or at risk of developing prescription OUD. Access to opioid-sparing pain management in primary care should be freely accessible to all patients suffering from pain, regardless of their gender, race, or socio-economic status. The inequities that hinder their access to these therapies have not been fully understood.
This open dialogue session will focus on equity-oriented opioid-sparing pain management in primary care.
Rita McCracken is Assistant Professor and Scientific Director, Innovation Support Unit in the Department of Family Practice in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC and a family physician. Dr. McCracken’s research aims to change patterns of prescribing and de-prescribing in order to better patient outcomes. She also has an interest in equity-oriented opioid-sparing pain management in primary care. Her other research work involves studying the family doctor shortage in BC.
Colleen Varcoe is Professor in the School of Nursing in the Faculty of Applied Science at UBC. Dr. Varcoe’s research is focused on interventions for women who have experienced intersecting forms of violence and interventions for organizations to support equity-oriented care. She is a leader in implementing and studying equity-promoting healthcare, including trauma- and violence-informed approaches, cultural safety, and harm reduction.
Fred Cameron is the acting Operations Director and Harm Reduction Manager with SOLID Outreach Society. After a lifelong battle with addiction, Fred entered the world of recovery in 2015. In his early struggles, he realized that if he embraced it, his experience could be used to help others. Fred has extensive experience as a community researcher with the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research and as member of the BC Support Unit Patient Council.
Shawna Narayan is Research Analyst in the Department of Family Practice in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC. She is dedicated to addressing inequalities in healthcare and education. As part of the REDONNA study team, she contributes to crucial research that aims to the improve safety of opioid prescribing in primary care. She also has an interest in improving cultural responsiveness of mental healthcare and medical education on opioid-sparing pain management.
About the Research Project
Home-based virtual reality therapeutics for mental health care: Opportunities and challenges
Virtual reality (VR) is rapidly emerging as an effective tool to treat and assess mental health concerns. VR—which creates interactive, immersive, and naturalistic settings—has been shown to improve symptoms, promote functional recovery, and accurately assess real-world capabilities across a range of psychiatric disorders. The future will no doubt see VR incorporated into clinical care.
This, however, raises the question of whether we can ensure equitable access to VR therapies. Most existing VR programs require users to travel to a specialized site and use a complex interface. This prevents many from accessing VR, especially in the evolving post-COVID world. To ensure that all who can benefit from these tools can access them, developing effective and easy-to-use home-based VR tools is a pressing need.
UBC’s Department of Psychiatry is collaborating with the National Research Council Canada to develop a new VR platform for assessing and improving cognition in depression (bWell-D). An emerging goal of this collaboration is to advance the effective home-based administration of bWell-D and other VR mental health therapies. In this dialogue session, the research team will discuss their experiences developing bWell-D, the current landscape of home-based VR mental health tools, and future directions for home-based VR therapy.
Trisha Chakrabarty is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Health Professional Investigator, and consultant psychiatrist at the Mood Disorders Centre of Excellence at UBC Hospital. Her research interest is in cognitive functioning in mood disorders, with a focus on the etiology, contributors, and functional implications of cognitive dysfunction in mood disorders. Dr. Chakrabarty is involved in research to develop novel therapeutic strategies to address mood related cognitive deficits and is currently principal investigator on a collaborative initiative with the National Research Council Canada to develop a virtual reality cognitive remediation program for use in individuals with mood disorders.
Elena Hernandez is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. She is currently researching end-users’ opinions regarding a virtual reality intervention for psychiatric care, which involves interviewing clinicians and patients and analysing the data through qualitative methods. She obtained her PhD in Psychology at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom in March 2020, where she investigated the factors that affect the delivery of cognitive behavioral therapies and how cultural differences influence the psychotherapeutic process. Dr. Hernandez also holds a Master of Science in Clinical Research and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Her main research interests include user experiences about mental health interventions, evidence-based psychotherapies, and cross-cultural psychology.
Nushi Choudhury is a researcher and biomedical engineer at the National Research Council Canada and leads the Cognitive Health Technologies team, which has been focused on developing bWell, an interactive and immersive virtual reality (VR) platform to deliver cognitive tasks for assessment and rehabilitation. Her research focus is on advancing long-term collaborative research agreements with multiple clinical sites across Canada, including The Hospital for Sick Children, the University of British Columbia, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal. With these sites, Ms. Choudhury aims to adapt and customize bWell for therapeutic use, to improve its clinical relevance, and validate the use of VR programs in trials with varied clinical populations. She believes that VR can be used to better understand the complex processes underlying human behaviour and that enabling the accessible use of VR as a digital therapeutic has the potential to address the current, worldwide gap in mental healthcare resources.
Mark Hewko is a researcher with the Medical Device Research Centre at the National Research Council Canada. During the early part of his 25+ year career with the Council, he has applied his biomedical engineering knowledge in the fields of spectroscopic imaging of human tissue recovery post-injury, oral and dental health, and intravascular imaging. His current research is focused on cognitive health rehabilitation with the cognitive care team and their virtual reality-based bWell platform. The projects follow a similar evolution from the lab-bench development to clinical collaboration through to industry knowledge transfer and often commercial success.
About the Research Project
Lost in translation: Why studying sex/gender differences is not enough to move the dial on women’s health
Health inequities abound across many sociodemographic groups, including those based on sex and gender. Sex/gender differences exist in disease etiology, manifestation, progression, and treatment. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have mandated the inclusion of sex in clinical trials and research; however, whether these mandates and initiatives will improve women’s health is a matter of debate.
Female-specific experiences greatly influence health, but studies on female-specific experiences are scarce. Studying sex differences exclusively will not address how female-specific experiences can impact health, which begs the question of whether NIH’s sex as a biological variable and CIHR’s sex and gender-based analysis go far enough. Women’s health is not just influenced by biology but also includes how gendered experiences influence health outcomes. Studying different experiences among females will lead to new treatments for them but may also give us clues for new pathways to investigate across sexes and genders.
In order to be better prepared for current and future health crises, such as COVID-19, there needs to be more research on women’s health. This dialogue session will outline why science needs to define and value women’s health by demonstrating that it is a distinct field of research.
Liisa Galea is Professor in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts, UBC; Health Advisor to the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, UBC; and Scientific Advisor, Women’s Health Research Institute. She leads the Women’s Health Research Cluster (350 members). Dr. Galea is a world-renowned expert in sex hormone influences on brain and behaviour in both health and disease states, with a focus on stress-related psychiatric disorders and dementia.
She is a Distinguished University Scholar and has won the NSERC Discovery Accelerator Award twice and the Vancouver YWCA Women of Distinction Award. She is a Fellow at the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society and the Kavli Foundation. She has outstanding metrics (H index=75, >170 papers, >19000 citations).
Dr. Galea is the chief editor of Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology (IF8.606), the President-elect of Organization for the Study of Sex Differences and co-Vice-President of the Canadian Organization for Sex and Gender Research. She serves on advisory boards provincially (UBC [Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, Institute of Mental Health, UBC Health], BC Support Unit), nationally (CIHR University Delegates Advisory Committee), and internationally (Steroids and Nervous System [Italy], Alzheimer’s Association [US]. Dr. Galea has also served on editorial boards (Hormones and Behavior, Endocrinology, Psychoneuroendocrinology, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Neuroscience, eNeuro) and peer review panels (NIH, Wellcome Trust, CIHR, Brain Canada, NSERC).
Gillian Einstein is the Wilfred and Joyce Posluns Chair in Women’s Brain Health and Aging; Professor in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts and Science at the University of Toronto; and Guest Professor, Gender and Health, Linköping University, Sweden.
Dr. Einstein is an Adjunct Scientist at Women’s College Research Institute and at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto. She is a board member of the International Gender Medicine Society, Chair of the Canadian Institutes of Health’s Institute of Gender and Health Advisory Board, and Founder and President of the Canadian Organization of Gender and Sex Research. She is Lead of the Women, Sex, Gender, and Dementia cross-cutting program of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration and Aging.
Dr. Einstein’s current research is on the effects of early life ovarian removal on women’s memory, brains, and long-term risk of Alzheimer’s disease with the overarching question: How do both sex and gender mediate women’s brain health?
M. Natasha Rajah received her Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Toronto in 2003 and did her post-doctoral training at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California at Berkeley. She was hired as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychiatry, McGill University in 2005. Dr. Rajah is currently a tenured Full Professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at McGill University.
She has been the recipient of numerous awards and honours, including the CIHR New Investigator Award, the Haile T. Debas Prize for her leadership in equity, diversity, and inclusion, and the Women in Cognitive Science Canada’s Mentorship Prize.
She is Editor-in-Chief at Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition, Associate Editor for Psychological Science, and Senior Editor at Brain Research. In 2020, she was named CIHR Chair for Sex and Gender Research in Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addiction. Dr. Rajah’s research examines sex and gender effects in brain aging and cognitive function, with a focus on women’s brain health at midlife.
Research Team Members
- Romina Garcia de Leon, MSc student, Neuroscience Program, Faculty of Medicine, UBC
- Bonnie Lee, PhD student, Neuroscience Program, Faculty of Medicine, UBC
About the Research Project
Looking back and moving forward: Supporting health after 2020
Great moments in history often spur equally great changes in society. We will likely look back on 2020 as one of these great moments. The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on a number of existing societal issues, accelerated the pace of change in others, and created some new ones, too. For example, concerns about the quality and safety of long-term care services are not new, but they certainly became more apparent to a far larger number of people during 2020. The speed and starkness of changes such as this—but far beyond this as well—create an opportunity and motivation to reassess our understanding of health. Perhaps more importantly, it is an opportunity to reduce inequities in who has access to and who uses and benefits from the resources that promote health and wellbeing. The Health After 2020 series is UBC Health’s contribution to making sure we seize this opportunity.
About the Speakers
Kim McGrail is Director of Research for UBC Health; Professor in the School of Population and Public Health and the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research at UBC; and Scientific Director of Population Data BC and the SPOR Canadian Data Platform.
Her research interests are quantitative policy evaluation, aging and the use and cost of health services, and the ethical and technical aspects of the development and operation of large linked data systems. Her research is conducted in collaboration with policy and decision makers, clinicians, and the public.
Kim is a founding member of the International Population Data Linkage Network and founding Deputy Editor of the International Journal of Population Data Science. She was the 2009-10 Commonwealth Fund Harkness Associate in Health Care Policy and Practice, a 2016 recipient of the Cortlandt JG Mackenzie Prize for Excellence in Teaching, and 2017 recipient of a UBC award for Excellence in Clinical or Applied Research. She holds a PhD in Health Care and Epidemiology from UBC, and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Michigan.
As Director of Research for UBC Health, Dr. McGrail works to initiate and support collaborations among academic and clinical faculty and other stakeholders on relevant translational health research issues, and in partnership with UBC academic leaders and stakeholders, engage them in aligning the use of health data in translational research and in the application of knowledge to health systems.
Jeffrey Morgan is a Vanier Scholar and PhD student in the School of Population and Public Health at UBC. He is affiliated with the BC Centre on Substance Use, Centre for Health Services and Policy Research, and Community-Based Research Centre. His research uses community-based and participatory approaches that meaningfully involve community members and patient partners at every step of the research process, particularly on projects that advance health equity for people who use substances and sexual minority people. Jeffrey’s PhD research seeks to validate and utilize health administrative data in the context of substance use in order to better understand our system of addiction care.
Arjumand Siddiqi is a social epidemiologist and Professor and Division Head of Epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, where she holds the Canada Research Chair in Population Health Equity. She also holds cross appointments in Public Policy and Sociology at the University of Toronto, as well as an adjunct appointment at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.
Her research centres on understanding why health inequalities are so pervasive and persistent, and what can be done about this, with an emphasis on the role of societal conditions (policy, politics, economy, and so on). In recent years, she has focused on (a) evaluating of the impact of specific social policies on population health and health inequalities, (b) examining the causes of contemporary trends in population health and health inequalities (e.g., the recent, unusual decline in life expectancy in the liberal welfare states; the widening of racial and socioeconomic health inequalities in many societies; the social distribution of the COVID-19 pandemic), and (c) reflections on concepts and methods used in health inequalities research.
Arjumand also engages with governmental and non-governmental entities, including the Government of Ontario, the Government of Canada, and the World Health Organization.
Michael Stepner is Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Toronto. His research examines the relationship between health and economic inequality, with a focus on how public policy can improve the health and financial security of low-income populations. He also serves as the network leader for Health Trends and Inequalities research at the NBER Center for Aging and Health Research, and as a guest editor for the COVID-19 special issue for the Canadian Public Policy journal. Michael received his PhD from MIT in 2019, and his dissertation research was awarded the top dissertation award from the National Academy of Social Insurance.
McGrail, K., Morgan, J., & Siddiqi, A. (2022). Looking back and moving forward: Addressing health inequities after COVID-19. The Lancet Regional Health-Americas, 9, 100232.