Participants at SFU's 2014 Health Research Day include (clockwise from top) Elicia Maine, Brian Fisher, David Whitehurst, Lynne Quarmby, Mario Pinto, Joy Johnson, Rachel Altman and Michael Silverman


Conference puts health research under microscope

April 03, 2014

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

“The media plays a key role in helping to tell the story of health research,” says Joy Johnson.

“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.

 “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.”

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

Participants include:

  • Mario Pinto, current vice-president, research, who will provide an overview of health research at SFU.
  • Lynne Quarmby (Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry), named one of B.C.’s most influential women for science advocacy, who will present her research on pond scum (chlamydomonas) as a model organism for rare genetic diseases.
  • Rachel Altman (Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science) who will describe how statistical methods help predict the recurrence and survival rates for ovarian cancer patients.
  • Michael Silverman (Department of Biological Sciences) who will showcase his breakthrough research on the biological mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • David Whitehurst (Faculty of Health Sciences) who, as a health economist, will present 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 discuss the role of visual analytics in public health.
  • Elicia Maine (Beedie School of Business) who will discuss her research on the emergence of the nano-biotechnology 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.

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 include: SFU 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 the event.

For a Q&A with Joy Johnson on the importance of health research visit:

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