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Group photo of Dr. Marc Jeschke, HHS vice president of research and chief scientific officer; Tracey MacArthur, HHS president and CEO; Katie Porter, director of research administration; Lauren Gogo, XXX; and Andrea Lee, XXX. with blue balloons in the background.
The Hamilton Health Sciences research community celebrated research, innovation and collaboration at the annual HHS Research Building Bridges Symposium. Pictured from left to right: Dr. Marc Jeschke, HHS vice president of research and chief scientific officer; Tracey MacArthur, HHS president and CEO; Katie Porter, director of research administration; Lauren Gogo, manager of research contracts; and Andrea Lee, manager of research development and relations.

Celebrating leading-edge research and innovation

More than 360 members of the Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) research community gathered to celebrate research, innovation and collaboration on May 9 at the 2024 HHS Research Building Bridges Symposium.

This was the event’s second year, with the number of attendees almost doubling from last year. Participants ran the gamut from world-renowned HHS researchers to students intending to launch careers in the field.

“We’re a strong academic health sciences centre and research is an absolute cornerstone of what we do,” said HHS President and CEO Tracey MacArthur, who thanked audience members for the vital roles they play in discovering new, leading-edge treatments and cures for patients locally and globally.

Anissa Hilborn, the HHS Foundation’s CEO, shared the essential role that fundraising plays in helping to advance HHS research. “Our donors believe in the power of discovery to transform lives,” said Hilborn, adding that the HHS Foundation has contributed millions of dollars to HHS research and is “incredibly proud” to support research as a hospital priority.

“Research is not just about discovery. It’s about translating knowledge into tangible benefits for patients and communities,” said Hilborn.

Award-winning researchers

Two senior-level researchers received Exemplary Achievement Awards at the event: Dr. Sonia Anand and Dr. Katherine Morrison. Anand is a vascular medicine specialist at HHS and McMaster University. She’s a professor of medicine and epidemiology, director of the Chanchlani Research Centre focused on health equity research, and senior scientist at the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI).

Morrison is an HHS pediatric endocrinologist, a professor in McMaster’s Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Health Sciences, and co-director of the Centre for Metabolism, Obesity and Diabetes Research.

HHS Vice President of Research (VPR) Dr. Marc Jeschke presented VPR Awards of Excellence to HHS staff researcher Brenda Kowaleski and HHS physician-researcher Dr. Hira Mian. VPR Awards recognize exceptional contributions to HHS research by staff and researchers who foster a culture of excellence and innovation.

Kowaleski, a clinical manager, started her career in research as an oncology nurse and clinical trials coordinator and quickly moved on coordinate complex cancer trials. “She has devoted her entire career to oncology research and has defined herself not only as a leader here at HHS but nationally as well,” said Jeschke.

Mian, an HHS hematologist, was recognized as a rising star researcher. “She is doing research that’s changing how we practice, and has carved a path that is national and international in scope, engaging patients and families, foundations and colleagues,” said Jeschke. “It is clear that she embodies the model of a rising star researcher in all aspects.”

Poster competition winners were Yujin Suk, Dr. Derek Stouth and Fadi Khalaf in the research translation, innovation and entrepreneurship category, and Dr. Jordan Edwards, Sarah Wellman-Earl and Srishti Sharma in the cohort/clinical study category.

Sharing their knowledge

Keynote speaker Dr. Jack Hirsh, member of the Order of Canada and Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, shared what it takes to become successful researcher, with highlights from his long and distinguished career in thrombosis research.

HHS patient Barbara Dolanjski shared what inspired her to become a “patient researcher.” The four-time sepsis survivor joined an HHS patient advisory group to help advocate for patients and families in improving and transforming health care. Through her personal experiences as a patient, she co-designed a student research study aimed at improving sepsis education for patients and families.

Keynote speaker Chris Albinson shared insights on innovation and commercialization from a business perspective. He is president and CEO of Communitech, a Waterloo-based public-private innovation hub that supports a community of more than 1,600 companies — from startups to scale-ups to large global players.

“Canada’s brand is trust,” Albinson told the crowd. “And there’s something really interesting happening, where we’re increasingly being the place where trust is built right into technology, and that becomes our superpower.”

Additional breakout session presentations included speakers from the joint HHS and McMaster institutes PHRIEscarpment Cancer Research Institute (ECRI); and Thrombosis & Atherosclerosis Research Institute (TaARI); as well as the Offord Centre for Child Studies which is affiliated with HHS’ McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) and McMaster University; and Geras Centre for Aging Research, a centre at HHS that’s affiliated with McMaster University.

Session 1: Cohort and Clinical Studies

  • Dr. Hira Mian spoke about successes and challenges in multiple myeloma clinical trials, and her research focusing on older adults with multiple myeloma.
  • Dr. Terry Bennett, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at MCH’s Child and Youth Mental Health Program, shared her Making the Race Fair program, focusing on translating findings from observational cohort studies and psychological clinical trials to enhance developmental-ecological models of child and family mental health care.
  • Dr. Davide Matino, an assistant professor of Medicine in the division of hematology and thromboembolism at McMaster, presented on the opportunities and challenges of clinical research in hemophilia and rare bleeding disorders.
  • Dr. Sandra Ofori, an HHS general cardiologist and perioperative medicine specialist, shared information on remote automated monitoring technology.

Session 2: Translational research, where discoveries in the lab lead to treatments that prolong and save lives. 

  • Dr. Jeff Weitz shared his career in thrombosis. Weitz is an HHS physician, a professor at McMaster and executive director of TaARI.
  • Dr. Jonathan Bramson is a McMaster professor and vice dean of research for the Faculty of Health Sciences. Bramson’s lab focuses on developing methods to direct cancer patients’ immune systems to attack their tumors, using synthetic biology methods. He talked about his experiences in biotechnology.
  • Dr. Michael Chong is a PHRI investigator and assistant director of the Clinical Research Laboratory and Biobank (CRLB) – Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology Laboratory (GMCL). His main disease areas of interests are stroke, delirium and brain health, and he presented on the faults in our cells – novel DNA-based biomarkers for aging research.
  • Dr. Julie Nguyen is an HHS physician in the division of gynecologic oncology at HHS Juravinski Hospial and Cancer Centre. Her clinical research focuses on the impact of frailty and aging on perioperative outcomes and completion of chemotherapy in gynecologic oncology. She presented on frailty assessment in gynecological oncology.

Session 3: Research innovation and commercialization

  • Dr. Gui Paré is director of CRLB – GMCL and deputy director of TaARI. Paré presented on mining data for translational gold – research in the age of omics, the field of study in biological sciences ending with –omics.
  • Dr. Jon Barrett, an HHS obstetrician and world-leading expert in high-risk pregnanciesdiscussed wearable technology in women’s health, involving technology built into undergarments that continually monitor patients.
  • Dr. George Ioannidis, deputy director of Geras, presented on the Fit-Frailty app that is helping researchers and health-care providers measure frailty in older adults.
  • Dr. Jeff Pernica, an infectious disease pediatrician at MCH, discussed improving child health with novel diagnostics.

HHS Research looks forward to sharing more in the summer edition of the Research Spotlight newsletter, and in October for HHS Research Awareness Month.