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New partnership embeds York researchers at Southlake Hospital

New partnership embeds York researchers at Southlake Hospital

A new research initiative involving a partnership between York University and Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket will see feature leading scientists from the University serving as embedded researchers at the hospital.

York Professors Chris Ardern, Imogen Coe, Paul Ritvo and Lauren Sergio will work on site for one to two days a week with hospital clinicians to foster research collaborations and knowledge exchange, and engage in joint knowledge mobilization efforts.

The partnership will realize important benefits to the research communities at both institutions and for the general public, says York Professor Michael Siu (right), associate vice-president research, science & technology, who led the effort to develop the partnership with Southlake Regional Health Centre.

"The embedded York researchers are senior scientists who will explore and cultivate research collaborations between York University and Southlake researchers and clinicians," says Siu. "They will act as 'matchmakers' and brokers and will bring York University's research expertise and knowledge to Southlake to facilitate collaboration.

"The partnership will broaden the research capacity for both York researchers and the Southlake clinicians," says Siu. "York University does not have a Faculty of Medicine or a teaching hospital. As a result, University researchers do not have the patient access they would like to have. By working with Southlake, the University is enhancing a collaboration that would benefit both parties."

The embedded University scientists bring to Southlake Regional Health Centre their recognized expertise in biomedical and health research. Southlake is the only community-based hospital in Ontario to offer six regional tertiary programs, including child and adolescent mental health, maternal and child, cardiac and cancer care.

"We anticipate this to be an outstanding opportunity for both Southlake and York University," says Patrick Clifford, director of research at Southlake.

"Serving some 1.5 million people through our regional programs and providing tertiary level care in many areas, the depth and breadth of programs and services, and the unexplored opportunities for reasearch collaboration between Southlake and York University are endless," says Clifford.

"Southlake is interested in strengthening its research in terms of breadth and depth and in fact, Southlake is developing a research institute with a plan to become a teaching hospital with an official affiliation with a Canadian university," says Siu.

York University is a preferred candidate for this kind of partnership with Southlake, says Siu, because the two institutions have shared goals and visions, and a willingness to work together.

The partnership offers exceptional training and educational opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students working in the research teams, says Siu.

In addition, the opportunity presented by the collaboration between the two institutions is consistent with the goal of integrating teaching and research with the world outside the University that was articulated in York's recent white paper.

More about the York-Southlake embedded researchers

Chris Ardern (left) is a professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science in York's Faculty of Health. His current research interests include the epidemiology of physical activity, obesity and cardiometabolic risk. His most recent work has focused on the use of risk algorithms, behavioural profiling and trajectory modelling approaches to identify high-risk subgroups for the development of the metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease mortality. Arden is currently investigating the role of geospatial analysis to improve the surveillance of cardiovascular disease in York Region, and is a co-investigator on the Pre-diabetes Detection & Physical Activity Intervention and Delivery (PRE-PAID) program, a six-month trial of culturally-preferred physical activity. Ardern will be embedded in Southlake's chronic disease portfolio.

In her research, Imogen Coe (right) works on a family of proteins known as nucleoside transporters. These transporters play significant roles in a number of clinical settings because they transport drugs used in cancer and are targets of drugs used in some cardiac care settings. Despite their clinical relevance, Coe, who is a professor of biology in York's Faculty of Science & Engineering, says researchers know very little about how these transporters work and how they differ in terms of their distribution, activity and regulation in individual patients. Using a molecular diagnostics approach, Coe and her team will work with Southlake clinicians from both the cardiac care and oncology portfolios to investigate the transporter profiles in individual patients and correlate these profiles with drug treatments and outcomes. The ultimate goal of this work is to contribute to the efforts to develop more personalized approaches to the treatment of disease.

Paul Ritvo (left) is a behavioural scientist who will serve as the research adviser, physical and mental health liaison and special projects scientist. A professor in York’s Faculty of Health, Ritvo’s research interests focus on electronic health interventions that employ cell phones, smartphones and online programs to change health behaviours in diabetics, HIV-positive individuals and individuals with mental health difficulties. Ritvo will work with Southlake clinicians to extend current intervention studies that use Blackberry smartphones and innovative software applications to help patients reduce health risks by way of healthy exercise, diet and improved medication adherence.

Lauren Sergio (right) is a neuroscientist working in York University's Sherman Health Science Research Centre. Her current research projects examine the effects of age, sex, neurological disease and past head injuries (of athletes versus non-athletes) on the brain's control of complex movement. In her role with Southlake Regional Health Centre, Sergio will be an embedded researcher in the chronic disease, emergency medicine and surgical portfolios. She works with a wide range of adult populations, including professional hockey players and Alzheimer's disease patients. Her findings have implications for neurological disease diagnosis and rehabilitation and for understanding the fundamental brain mechanisms for movement control. She is using cognitive-motor integration research to test if new instrumentation developed in her laboratory can differentiate between types of dementia. She is also researching the long-term effects of concussion in young athletes. Sergio is a member of the Centre for Vision Research.

The embedded researcher program at Southlake Regional Health Centre is an example of the collaboration between the Faculty of Science & Engineering and the Faculty of Health at York University and is part of an ongoing commitment by the Faculties' deans to work together.

For more information on York University's partnerships with regional hospitals, see YFileApril 17, 2009 and  April 21, 2009.

By Jenny Pitt-Clark, YFile editor.

Republished courtesy of YFile – York University’s daily e-bulletin.