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One of the projects will focus on on the delivery of technology for older Canadians with complex health needs and their caregivers.

Health research projects receive $31M in federal funding

March 31, 2022 — 

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) on March 31 announced a six-year $31.1 million investment to provide new training and development opportunities for early career researchers and trainees.

Thirteen interdisciplinary teams across Canada will receive approximately $2.4 million each in funding through a new initiative called the Health Research Training Platform. Researchers will receive training and development opportunities to build Canada’s research capacity in several areas, including women’s health, dementia, kidney disease, diabetes and the mental health of LGBTQ/2S populations.

Participants will conduct research while receiving extensive mentorship and training that goes beyond what standard research training programs usually offer, including diverse and inclusive research, such as respecting Indigenous Ways of Knowing, sex- and gender-based considerations in research and recognizing unconscious bias.

“At CIHR, we care deeply about strengthening Canadian health research capacity, and we cannot do this without enhancing training and career support for the next generation of health researchers,” stated CIHR president Dr. Michael Strong.

Faculty members from the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences are playing roles in two of the projects funded through the new initiative.

Dr. Amine Choukou, assistant professor of occupational therapy at the College of Rehabilitation Sciences, is the prairie lead of a national platform that is focused on the delivery of technology for older Canadians with complex health needs and their caregivers.

Led by Alex Mihailidis at the University of Toronto, the Early Professionals, Inspired Careers in AgeTech (EPIC-AT) platform will provide one-year fellowships to at least 127 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and early career researchers at Canadian institutions from 2022-2027.

The platform is an extension of the EPIC training program at AGE-WELL, a Canadian network focused on improving the quality of life for older adults and caregivers through technology. That program has educated and supported over 1,000 trainees at various levels since 2015, including Choukou when he was a postdoctoral fellow at Laval University.

“EPIC-AT will provide mentorship and support to both early career researchers and trainees working on technology for aging well,” Choukou said.

Participants will be equipped to develop, implement and evaluate digital technology solutions across areas such as information and communication technologies, telemedicine, artificial intelligence, sensors, smart environments, robotics and wearables.

“These solutions will help older Canadians age safely, independently and with dignity in the setting of their choice,” Choukou said.

Dr. Richard Keijzer, Thorlakson Chair in Surgical Research and director of research for the surgery department of the Max Rady College of Medicine, is part of a project being led by Dr. Susan Samuel at the University of Calgary that brings together 16 Canadian pediatric academic health centres, affiliated universities, research groups and networks focused on child health

The team is developing a national training and mentoring platform called Empowering Next generation Researchers In perinatal and Child Health (ENRICH). The platform will offer dedicated training, personalized mentorship, and experiential opportunities for Canadian research trainees and early career researchers focused on improving the health and well-being of mothers, fathers, infants, children, youth and families.

“We brought together multiple groups for a total of 193 collaborators – including 11 from the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences – who are all going to work on this together transnationally,” said Keijzer, who is also a researcher with the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba.

He noted there will be different levels of training for approximately 30 to 40 trainees each year, as well as a learning management system that can be accessed by anyone interested.

“We really wanted to make this available to anyone in child health,” Keijzer said.

Both platforms will also emphasize recruitment and training of undergraduates and PhD trainees from underrepresented minorities.

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

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