An interview with Jennifer Ferris

December 09, 2022

Welcome Jennifer Ferris to the Gerontology Research Centre! As a Health System Impact Postdoctoral Fellow, Jenn will be researching chronic disease multimorbidity at the GRC in partnerships with the BCCDC. 

Tell us about yourself.

I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Gerontology Research Centre funded through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Health Systems Impact Fellowship (HSIF). My background is in Neuroscience and Rehabilitation Sciences. My doctoral research used Magnetic Resonance Imaging to develop markers of brain health in aging and after stroke. This led to my interest in supporting healthy aging, which is what has brought me to the GRC.

What current research are you working on?

At the GRC, I am working on projects related to chronic disease multimorbidity. Multimorbidity means when a person has two or more chronic diseases. Multimorbidity becomes more and more common as we age, and it’s a major challenge because it negatively impacts health and increases the complexity of patient care. My research is being conducted in partnership with the BCCDC. We are analyzing the prevalence of multimorbidity across the province of BC and working to identify clusters of diseases that tend to occur together. I also will be working with data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study of Aging to probe into how multimorbidity impacts healthy aging.

What brought you to Simon Fraser University and the GRC?

My PhD research focused on how damage to the vascular system impacts brain health and aging. Our health as we get older, or how well we recover after a stroke, can be deeply impacted by diseases co-morbidities. As I came to the end of my PhD, I wanted to find opportunities to take my research skills to a sphere that could impact health policy. The HSIF is a unique opportunity to do research embedded with a health systems partner; and the BCCDC is an amazing partner to do work on chronic disease prevalence in BC. Dr. Andrew Wister was a perfect fit for me as my HSIF co-supervisor and given his deep expertise in chronic disease multimorbidity, and importantly in multimorbidity resilience.

What inspired you to study aging/gerontology?

I have always been drawn to research in older adult populations because this is an area where you can have a lot of impact to improve quality of life. When I think about healthy aging, I always think of my grandfather who I like to say was a “super-ager”. Because my grandfather was blessed with good health in his older years, he had so many adventures that he never had before he was retired. He took up hiking, he went travelling, he learned everything he could about computers. My grandfather inspired me to ask questions about what influences trajectories of health as we age, and how can we support our health as we get older.

What interests do you have outside of your research?

I am an enthusiastic trail runner and skier, and I like to spend as much time as I can outdoors in the mountains. I also love surfing when I have the chance. Other than my active pursuits, I like going to the farmers market, cooking with my husband, and reading great fiction.

What are your goals for your time at the GRC?

During my time at the GRC, I would like to soak up as much knowledge and training as I can. Being at the GRC and surrounded by a diverse group of experts in aging is very exciting and I am looking forward to establishing new collaborations. More broadly, the goal of our project is to develop actionable information that can be used by various stakeholders across the province in their healthcare planning around multimorbidity.

Celebrating 40 years