media release

Conference puts health research under microscope

April 03, 2014

Joy Johnson, 604.822.7435,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,
Sandy Loi, health sciences communications assistant,


Link to Joy Johnson Q&A on media:

As Simon Fraser University’s health science researchers prepare to strut their accomplishments at the faculty’s third biennial SFU Health Research Day on April 10, SFU’s incoming vice-president, research has some advice.

“The media plays a key role in helping to tell the story of health research. I've heard some people complain that the media tends to focus on new commercial products and new discoveries in the basic sciences. There is a tendency to focus on these types of stories because they are compelling,” says Joy Johnson.

“The challenge for us is to learn how to talk about the contributions of all of our health research and help the public understand its importance. In other words, I don't think that there's a problem with the media focusing on the wrong issues, rather we need to learn how to be more compelling in the way that we share research findings.”

SFU researchers will demonstrate their pitching skills to their colleagues, potential collaborators and funders at the one-day conference, which is open to the media and runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Mowafaghian Theatre, Blusson Hall, SFU’s Burnaby campus:

  • Mario Pinto, current vice-president, research will provide overview of health research at SFU
  • Lynne Quarmby (Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry), named as one of BC’s most influential women for the advocacy of science, who will be presenting her research on pond scum (chlamydomonas) as a model organism for rare genetic diseases
  • Rachel Altman (Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science) who will be describing how statistical methods help predict the recurrence and survival rates for ovarian cancer patients
  • Michael Silverman (Department of Biological Sciences) who will be showcasing his breakthrough research on the biological mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease
  • David Whitehurst (Faculty of Health Sciences) who, as a health economist, will be presenting his research on the challenges of measuring costs and benefits in allocating healthcare resources
  • Brian Fisher (School of Interactive Arts and Technology) who, as a celebrated “Visualization Pioneer”, will be discussing visual analytics in public health
  • Elicia Maine (Beedie School of Business) who will be discussing her research on the emergence of the nanobiotechnology industry

The event aims to bring together faculty, graduate students, research staff and external partners to share news and findings in a changing health research environment.

Johnson will speak about navigating the health research funding landscape in Canada. A panel chaired by Diane Finegood, an SFU scientist and president of the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR), will moderate a panel discussion about working with external partners.

Susan Chunick, director of research and evaluation at the Fraser Health Authority, will tackle the topic of pitching potential research collaborations.

Other conference presenters are: SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences Dean John O’Neil, Faculty of Science Associate Dean, Research Peter Ruben and Genomics and Network Analysis Lab Director Peter Chow-White.

The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research is co-sponsoring SFU’s Health Research Day.

Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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