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U of M researchers join $25M national SPOR network

April 26, 2016 — 

The University of Manitoba’s department of anesthesia is part of a $25-M national Chronic Pain Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) network funded by $12.45 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and matched by over $10 million from participating institutions and organizations from across Canada.

The funding will direct new research, train researchers and clinicians, increase access to care for those living with chronic pain and accelerate the translation of research findings into patient care and health-care policy.

Research at the U of M supported by the chronic pain SPOR grant will be led by Howard Intrater, associate professor in the department of anesthesia, and Renée El-Gabalawy, assistant professor in the departments of anesthesia and clinical health psychology. El-Gabalawy is also a co-investigator on the SPOR network grant. Intrater and El-Gabalawy will be responsible for carrying out all aspects of the national studies at U of M sites and for developing local studies that can be conducted at the national collaborating sites.

“The CIHR SPOR grant will provide substantial long-term funding for the department to engage in essential chronic pain research in both non-surgical and surgical patients,” says El-Gabalawy. “This national collaborative initiative is patient-centred, which will have individual and health care implications both regionally and nationally.”

El-Gabalawy’s research will include investigations of negative outcomes and service-related implications of co-occurring chronic pain and mental disorders; mental health risk factors of post-operative pain; and the development and effectiveness of non-pharmacological interventions for chronic pain reduction, particularly in light of the epidemic of opioid prescription abuse.

“The department of anesthesia was pleased to be able to leverage financial resources to the SPOR grant application,” says Eric Jacobsohn, professor and head of the department of anesthesia in the U of M’s College of Medicine. “This financial support, together with the joint recruitment of Dr. El-Gabalawy to both the departments of anesthesia and clinical health psychology, as well as our well-supported pain clinics, has now placed our departments in the forefront of pain research in Canada.”

Collaboration across departments will also create new opportunities to explore the relationship between mental health and chronic pain.

“Dr. El-Gabalawy, who is both a clinician and scientist in clinical psychology,  has a tremendous opportunity through the SPOR grant to address the complexities around psychological functioning and chronic pain,” says Lesley Graff, professor and head of the department of clinical health psychology in the U of M’s College of Medicine. “Anesthesia and clinical health psychology have had a longstanding partnership in providing clinical services to those with chronic pain. This grant will further enhance clinical research collaborations between our two departments for years to come, to the ultimate benefit of Manitobans and Canadians suffering with chronic pain.”

Chronic pain has immense costs for Canadian society. The CIHR SPOR grant will help enable Canada’s patients to work with researchers, their health care professionals and educators, and government policy-makers to increase access to the best possible care for people suffering with chronic pain.

The SPOR network is an initiative funded by the Government of Canada through CIHR to support research networks in chronic disease. These networks connect researchers, health professionals, policy-makers and patients across the country to improve the health of Canadians living with chronic diseases. The focus areas of the research include diabetes, chronic pain, child disability, gastrointestinal disorders, and chronic kidney disease. There is a strong University of Manitoba presence across these successful networks.

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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