People in profile: Izzie Fortuna

Meet Izzie–Carrying on the family tradition of providing excellent health care.

Q: What is your role in health research?
I work as a research assistant with the Vancouver Spine Research Program. The Spine Research Program runs a variety of studies on traumatic spine injuries, degenerative spine conditions and spine oncology. Currently, I’m the coordinator for the Rick Hansen Spinal Cord Injury Registry (RHSCIR) study for Vancouver General Hospital and GF Strong. There are 30 study sites across Canada collecting clinical information and participant-reported outcomes to build a national registry of individuals who have had a spinal cord injury, to help advance spinal cord injury research and care.

Q: What is your research area of interest, and what led you to that interest?
I’m personally interested in public health, and specifically how social determinants can impact well-being. As an undergrad at the University of British Columbia (UBC), I got to take courses that broadened my perspective on the different systemic factors that impact health. Working in research and meeting participants from all over BC has also shown me how aspects like social support and accessibility, in addition to medical care, can influence an individual’s recovery. 

Q: What’s the best part about your research job?
The RHSCIR study continues to follow participants after they are discharged from acute and rehabilitation care and to the community, so it’s nice being able to check in with participants and see how their recovery journey is going. I’m also always excited to hear about how findings from the registry have been implemented into tangible ways to improve care for individuals who have had a spinal cord injury. 

Q: What does your average day at work look like?
 On an average day you can find me working with study participants in the Spine Clinic at the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre. If I’m not meeting with participants or conducting follow-ups over the phone, I’m working on data entry and management, or reviewing ethics applications and study protocols. 

Q: How do you unwind at the end of the day?
I love cooking, baking and trying out new restaurants! I also like to unwind by going on long walks, whether it be outside around the seawall or inside through the aisles at Costco.

Q: Who inspires you?
My parents are both physicians–my mom currently works in vaccine research and my dad is in public health. They’ve shown me how there are so many different ways to have a positive impact on someone’s health, and the importance of community care. They also regularly send me photos of themselves cooking or going on walks as a reminder of the importance of self-care.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?
I would visit my parents in Thailand and my extended family (and cat) in the Philippines! This past December was my first time spending the holidays away from my family, and I definitely missed the privilege I had in the past years to travel home. 

Q: What are you listening to lately?
I’m currently listening to Ologies by Alie Ward–it’s a comedic science podcast where experts talk about a variety of topics from bread baking to sleep. One of my favourite episodes is Condorology, which is all about condors and vultures, with Dr. Jonathan C. Hall. 


Isabelle (Izzie) Fortuna has a Bachelor of Science in Behavioural Neuroscience with a minor in Health and Society from UBC. She is a research assistant with the Vancouver Spine Research Program at VGH. She is is originally from the Philippines.


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