On June 8, Professor Jane Heffernan from the Department of Mathematics & Statistics presented at a Parliamentary Health Research Caucus luncheon entitled Game Changers in Health Research and Health Innovation. She was one of three Canadian health researchers and innovators invited to the event to share their research with parliamentarians and special guests. The luncheon was organized by Research Canada at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa.
Heffernan presented on the topic of modeling immunity, focusing particularly on COVID-19. She introduced the audience to the variables that need to be considered when trying to quantify immunity in individuals (i.e., the immune system) from vaccination and infection, and immunity in populations (i.e., herd immunity), including considerations of behaviour (e.g., social distancing and mask wearing), and public health programming (e.g., school closures and working remotely).
Heffernan is an international leader in infectious disease modelling, tackling important questions related to the spread of diseases and public health strategies. At York University, she leads the Modelling Infection and Immunity Lab and is the communications director for the Centre for Disease Modelling. Her research program centers on understanding the spread and persistence of infectious diseases in hosts and in populations, with a focus on studies of immunity and behaviour change. Her expertise includes mathematical models of disease (including COVID-19, HIV, HCV, HSV, TB and influenza), and forecasting health care demand (e.g., ward and ICU hospital beds).
Heffernan also works closely with modelling groups in Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Science’s COVID Modelling Task Force.
The Parliamentary Health Research Caucus is a non-partisan, educational forum where parliamentarians have an opportunity to meet Canadian health researchers and innovators and learn more about the social and economic benefits of Canadian health research. Research Canada is a national, voluntary organization whose members are dedicated to advancing health research in Canada; members are drawn from the academic, private and voluntary sectors.