Health research receives boost

Jul 10, 2003, vol. 27, no. 6
By Carol Thorbes

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Simon Fraser University's institute for health research and education (IHRE) has crossed its first hurdle to helping SFU become a world-renowned centre for health research.

It has secured an annual $300,000 infrastructure grant for 2.75 years from the Michael Smith foundation for health research (MSFHR), a province-based health research funding agency.

The money will enable the IHRE to develop a home base, possibly a faculty of health, for SFU's 130 researchers involved in more than $9 million worth of health-related research.

“SFU already has a strong health research capacity which spans the full spectrum from bench to community,” notes IHRE director David MacLean (above).

“That capacity is not recognized externally as well as it should be because it exists in unconventional configurations, spread over many disciplines in different faculties.”

The MSFHR grant will help to finance the creation of initiatives that interconnect health researchers under two themes - biomedical interactions and health research, and population and public health.

“This will help lay the groundwork for helping SFU achieve a capacity and visibility in health research that will rival the visibility traditionally accorded health professional schools,” explains MacLean.

A former family doctor, MacLean has taught and researched at a university with a medical school.

He says SFU's approach to health studies will be cutting edge.

“Not only do medical schools require a huge financial and human investment, but B.C. already has one,” reasons MacLean. What B.C. doesn't have is an academic facility that fosters collaborative research on a variety of health determinants, linking social sciences and humanities to basic biomedical, which can impact clinical outcomes. Given our interdisciplinary setting, this is a natural niche for us.”

Under the biomedical stream, SFU and external researchers will collaborate on studying genes and biomolecular interactions, and develop diagnostic, monitoring and drug delivery devices with molecular sensors.

Under the population and public health theme, a new centre will interconnect health researchers in the social sciences and humanities.

It will foster their exchange of knowledge with community organizations, government policymakers and regional health authorities.

A proposed new population and public health graduate program will produce researchers skilled in health research methods and information analysis.

The MSFHR grant will help improve health-related databases, and enable the hiring of technical, community liaison and grant facilitation support personnel.

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