People in profile: Karina Villaluna

Meet Karina—a jill of all trades who loves connecting with patients. 
Photo above: Karina along with Zoe O’Neill, Halina Deptuck and Lauren Quong participated in the Fall Classic 10K Run representing the Vancouver Stroke Program Research Roadrunners group.


Q: What is your role in health research?
I am the research coordinator and program manager at the Vancouver Stroke Program Research Office. As research coordinator, I assess stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA) patients to take part in our research studies. I also ensure the studies are conducted in accordance with ethics guidelines and applicable regulations. As the research program manager, I am responsible for training new research staff, guiding current staff in the safe and ethical implementation of research studies, and managing the financial and contractual aspects of the studies. 

Q: What does your average day look like?
 I rarely have an average day! My tasks vary day-to-day since I collaborate with many different clinical and research staff on many projects. I often think of myself as a ‘jill-of-all-trades.’ I’m frequently consulted on an array of clinical and research topics. A day might comprise routine research follow-up with participants in the clinic as well as the occasional late-night enrolment of patients in the ER. In between enrolments and follow-ups, my day is divided between participant education sessions, academic rounds, monitoring visits and committee meetings or teleconferences. 

Q: What is your favourite part of your job?
The best part of my work is the connection we develop with patients and their families participating in our research program. A few of our studies have long follow-up schedules lasting five to seven years. Over this time, we develop a close relationship with our patients. I love hearing their stories and learning all about their families, particularly their grandchildren!

Q: Who inspires you?
My seven-year-old daughter Mackenzie is my biggest inspiration. She is a happy kid who is full of energy and always has a bucket-load of questions and jokes for me. She makes me work hard at being a good role model. I’m also very lucky to be surrounded by family, friends, colleagues and my dragon boat teammates. The hard work and dedication in their personal and professional lives have been truly inspiring to me.

Q: How do you unwind at the end of the day?
During dragon boat season, I paddle twice a week at False Creek with my women’s recreational team, ‘Raise a Little Swell.’ If I’m not paddling, I run or attend a fitness class. Outside of physical activity, I unwind by reading science-fiction novels, listening to The Moth podcast or baking with my daughter.


Karina Villaluna holds a bachelor of science in School of Nursing from the University of British Columbia, a Clinical Research Professional Certification from the Society of Clinical Research Associates and a Neuroscience Nursing Speciality Certification from the Canadian Nurses Association. She is the PI for the Vancouver site of the TEC4Home Stroke study. Originally from the Philippines, Karina has lived in the Lower Mainland for the past 20 years. 


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