Recipients of Investigator Awards further research excellence (2017)

Congratulations to this year’s recipients of the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute Investigator Awards.

Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute strives to support and promote excellence in health research. The annual VCHRI Investigator Awards are an opportunity to recognize the efforts of health investigators through peer-reviewed salary support awards. The awards enable investigators to reduce their clinical practice commitments and build their research capacity to expand the possibilities of improving health research. They are supported by VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation and TD Grants in Medical Excellence. 

The 2017 VCHRI Investigator Awards recipients are:  

  • Dr. Fidel Vila-Rodriguez, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, UBC; Director, Non-Invasive Neurostimulation Therapies Laboratory and Schizophrenia Program; Consultant Psychiatrist, Mood Disorders Clinic, UBC
  • Dr. Alina Gerrie, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology, Faculty of Medicine; Hematologist, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program of BC; Medical Oncologist, BC Cancer Agency
  • Dr. John Staples, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, UBC; Attending Physician, St Paul’s Hospital

Can concurrent rTMS and fMRI lead to improved interventions of treatment-resistant depression?

Fidel Vila-Rodriguez
Award: Clinician Scientist
Study Title: Neuroimaging signatures of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation response in treatment-resistant depression

Major depressive disorder (MDD) impairs the functioning of approximately 121 million people worldwide and places a huge burden on the Canadian health care system. Despite the availability of evidence-based treatments, 20-40% of depressed patients are resistant to antidepressant and psychotherapeutic interventions and suffer from treatment-resistant depression (TRD).

“Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) shows promising results in treatment of TRD,” explains Dr. Fidel Vila-Rodriguez. “However, finding biomarkers is critical to understand which patients would benefit from rTMS treatment and those who would not.” This study aims to improve the prescription of rTMS through a cutting-edge technique involving concurrent/interleaved session of rTMS and functional MRI (fMRI). This technique allows for the simultaneous stimulation of the human brain while acquiring fMRI imaging, allowing for increased understanding of the effects of rTMS on brain function and potential biomarkers for its successful treatment of TRD.

“This study is the first of its kind worldwide and positions Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia at the cutting-edge of scientific discovery in this area,” says Vila-Rodriguez.

Can a supervised exercise program improve quality of life for alloHSCT patients?

Alina Gerrie
Award: TD Grants in Medical Excellence - Mentored Clinician Scientist
Study Title: Evaluating the effects on quality of life of a partially supervised exercise program following allogeneic stem cell transplantation

Recent advances in allogeneic hematoietic stem cell transplantation (alloHSCT) have led to improved survival rates for patients being treated for diseases including leukemia, lymphoma, and bone marrow failure syndromes. However, alloHSCT remains associated with complications that impact quality of life, including bone loss, high fatigue levels, psycho-social stress and more. Recent studies suggest that these side effects can be modified by physical activity. This study will investigate whether a partially supervised progressive exercise intervention for alloHSCT patients results in improved health-related quality of life.

"I see first-hand the difficulties patients have after a bone marrow transplant in terms of getting back to their usual state of health, particularly with respect to energy level, physical and emotional strength,” says Dr. Alina Gerrie. “Exercise can have a profound impact on physical and emotional well-being, as well as quality of life, and therefore it is important that patients have the opportunity to safely incorporate exercise into their daily routine early in the post-transplant period.  We anticipate this study will improve the quality of life, heart health, mobility and strength of patients after bone marrow transplant, allowing a faster and healthier recovery.  We hope this study will lead to implementing this exercise program as part of the regular care of bone marrow transplant patients in British Columbia."

Dr. Gerrie is the recipient of a TD Grant in Medical Excellence facilitated by VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.

Can an emergency visit for syncope determine risk of a subsequent motor vehicle crash?

John A. Staples
Award: Mentored Clinician Scientist
Study Title: Syncope and the subsequent risk of motor vehicle crash: a population-based analysis

Each year, syncope–a temporary loss of consciousness caused by a drop in blood pressure–results in 20,000 visits to BC emergency departments (ED). Syncope recurrence while driving is potentially fatal for the driver and other road users, but there is a lack of evidence-based recommendations on driving guidelines for post-syncope patients.

This study will examine if the risk of a motor vehicle crash is heightened after an ED visit for syncope, identify sub-groups of syncope patients at highest risk for a motor vehicle crash, and inform post-syncope driving regulations worldwide.

"The best treatment for trauma is to prevent it from happening,” explains Dr. John A. Staples. “We hope our study's results will help to keep British Columbians safe and healthy for years to come.”


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