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.
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.