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Ahead of Our Time 2023-2024 Annual Report New ideas. Incredible
technologies.
Groundbreaking
research.

WCHRI-supported research leaders aren’t waiting for the future; they are shaping it through innovative research, transformative interventions, and a steadfast commitment to improving the health and lives of women and children.

Messages from the directors

Sandra Davidge Women and Children’s
Health Research Institute

Since 2006 WCHRI has been committed to pushing the boundaries of knowledge and innovation in women’s and children’s health research by supporting more than 400 research leaders and their trainees.

Sandra Davidge Women and Children’s
Health Research Institute

Message from the Executive Director

Since 2006 WCHRI has been committed to pushing the boundaries of knowledge and innovation in women’s and children’s health research by supporting more than 400 research leaders and their trainees.

From bench to bedside to the community, WCHRI-supported researchers are not just observers of the present but architects of a healthier, more resilient tomorrow. Each discovery and insight is a step forward on the path of progress.

Our members are ahead of their time. Not only because they’re addressing current gaps in women’s and children’s health research, but because they’re envisioning and actively creating a future where the well-being of women and children is optimized.

By uniting cutting-edge technology and interdisciplinary collaboration, WCHRI and its dedicated researchers aim not only to understand the intricacies of health but also to shape a healthier future for women, children and communities as a whole.

From establishing a clear link between a wide range of lifestyle behaviour choices made by adolescents and their mental well-being to developing a long overdue treatment to prevent preterm birth, our annual report highlights passionately committed researchers who aren’t waiting for the future – they’re building it.

Thank you to our visionary founding partners who were – and continue to be – ahead of their time. Without the dedication and continued support of the University of Alberta, Alberta Health Services, Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation and Alberta Women’s Health Foundation, none of the progress you’ll read about would be possible.


Sandra Davidge, Executive Director

Women and Children’s Health Research Institute

Bill
Flanagan University of
Alberta

Bill
Flanagan University of
Alberta

Message from the University of Alberta

At the University of Alberta, we pride ourselves on making a positive impact in the community, across the province and around the world. We harness the power of education and innovative research to tackle global challenges and create a better, safer and healthier future.

WCHRI is a wonderful example of what can happen when we collaborate with like-minded individuals and organizations for the common good. In the last 17+ years, WCHRI has grown into a research powerhouse committed to the health and well-being of women and children.

More than 400 WCHRI members are spread across all three colleges and 14 faculties at the university. They explore a breadth of topics, from artificial intelligence and cutting-edge precision health initiatives to Indigenous and immigrant health, all with the goal of transforming women’s and children’s health.

As president of the University of Alberta, I have had the pleasure of meeting with many WCHRI researchers. I am so proud of their work, which makes a positive impact on the lives and futures of women and children. The advances made possible by WCHRI contribute to healthy families and communities on a truly global scale.


Bill Flanagan
President

University of Alberta

Athana
Mentzelopoulos Alberta Health
Services

Athana
Mentzelopoulos Alberta Health
Services

Message from Alberta Health Services

When Alberta Health Services, the University of Alberta, Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation and Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation teamed up almost 18 years ago to improve health outcomes for Alberta’s women and children by forming WCHRI, they were ahead of their time.

The partnership has enabled Alberta’s rich talent pool of innovative clinicians and researchers to push the boundaries of knowledge and make a difference to the people we serve.

The result? Alberta’s women, children, and their families have opportunities to participate in clinical research and benefit from innovative treatments no matter where they live, their stage of life or their health-care needs.

Research and innovation drive improvements in health care.

WCHRI researchers are helping parents remember hospital discharge instructions, supporting endometrial cancer survivors in staying healthy after treatment and finding new ways to deliver treatment to infants at risk of cerebral palsy.

These are just a few recent examples of how WCHRI researchers are generating evidence that informs how Alberta Health Services cares for its patients.

Asking questions and then collecting evidence to address those questions generates the specialized knowledge that leads to advancements in care. That’s good for Alberta, and good for Albertans.

Thanks to our scientists, researchers, physicians, pharmacists, nurses, nurse practitioners, allied health professionals and so many others, research discoveries are pushing the frontiers of knowledge and innovation.

Together, Alberta Health Services and WCHRI’s support of Alberta’s thriving research and innovation ecosystem is helping to create a healthier future, today.


Athana Mentzelopoulos
President and CEO

Alberta Health Services

Karen
Faulkner Stollery Children’s
Hospital Foundation

Karen
Faulkner Stollery Children’s
Hospital Foundation

Message from the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation

Award-winning researchers at WCHRI aren’t waiting for the future; they’re creating it by improving the health and well-being of children worldwide.

WCHRI researchers are leaders in new and exciting evidence-based treatments, breaking barriers in children’s health and enhancing care for Stollery families, giving every kid the best chance at a long and healthy life.

This year has been a commitment to discover new treatments, test new medicines and explore new methods that will lead to further breakthroughs in children’s health. Together, with our partners at the University of Alberta and Alberta Health Services, we’re helping shape the future, with WCHRI researchers at the forefront, pushing boundaries and exploring new possibilities in children’s health care.

As the primary funder of WCHRI, the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation and its more than 100,000 donors are proud to support the talented and forward-thinking researchers who are changing how children’s health care is thought about and delivered. Since 2006, more than $85.3 million in donor dollars have supported children’s health research across North America. This money directly supports trainees and 2,079 research projects related to children’s health.

From groundbreaking studies to impactful interventions, WCHRI efforts are focused on improving the lives of kids across Alberta and around the globe. As we look ahead, we’ll continue to support our partners to help keep them ahead of their time.

Congratulations on another groundbreaking year and here’s to building a better tomorrow for kids in backyards across northern Alberta and beyond.

If you’d like to learn more about our Foundation’s commitment to kids’ health tomorrow and today, please visit StolleryKids.com.


Karen Faulkner
Interim President & CEO

Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation

Sharlene Rutherford Alberta Women's
Health Foundation

Sharlene Rutherford Alberta Women's
Health Foundation

Message from the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation

Exactly where we need to be.

Our funding partnership in support of WCHRI serves to advance the health of women in profound and innovative ways. WCHRI members’ groundbreaking research equips women with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate their health journeys with confidence and resilience. What we are achieving in women’s health research today is well beyond commendable — it’s inspiring. Together, with our donors and partners, we are forging a path towards a future where no woman hears, “We just don’t know what this is.”

We’re not waiting for the future; we’re making it happen, together. Thank you to everyone at WCHRI. You’re well beyond changing the narrative; you’re writing a completely new story For Her and About Her. Many of these exciting chapters take place inside the Dale Sheard Centre for Solutions in Women’s Health, located at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women, as research both shapes and is shaped by excellence in clinical care and the experiences of patients. Moreover, these chapters come alive through the successes and, perhaps even more importantly, the failures, that ultimately lead to discoveries in labs across our city, our province, and through the important collaborations you forge in research, knowledge-sharing, and discovery across our country.

On behalf of the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation, I celebrate your dedication, passion and focus. We’re proud to support your work and share in your wins. We’re proud to coauthor the future of women’s health alongside you – and in doing so, improve health outcomes for the 2.2 million women and girls who call Alberta home.

We are ahead of our time. And that’s exactly where we need to be.


Sharlene Rutherford
President and CEO

Alberta Women’s Health Foundation

Did you know?

WCHRI is…

One of the few research institutes in the world dedicated to life course approaches to advance women’s, perinatal and children’s health.

One of the few centres in Canada that can conduct Phase 1 pediatric clinical trials.

Facilitating research in women’s health at the Dale Sheard Centre for Solutions in Women’s Health.

Finding new diagnoses and treatments for children with rare diseases through our Translational Genomics Hub.

A proud partner in providing evidence-based care at the Stollery Children’s Hospital and Lois Hole Hospital for Women — delivering novel treatments that improve health-care delivery.

Women & Children's Health Research Institute

WCHRI supports research excellence dedicated to improving the health and lives of women and children. WCHRI is the only research institute in Canada to focus on both women’s and children’s health, including perinatal health.

WCHRI was founded in 2006 as a partnership between the University of Alberta and Alberta Health Services, with core funding from the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation. Thanks to our funders’ generosity, WCHRI is able to support a broad range of research programs focused on improving health for women and children. Support is offered through research funding and expert research services. WCHRI also invests in the next generation of researchers through graduate and summer studentships, postdoctoral fellowships, and research presentation and travel grants.

Our membership is made up of over 400 leading researchers who are passionately committed to women and children’s health and well-being. WCHRI is proud to support the continued growth and success of their research work.

Our Mission

Foster the brightest minds to discover, innovate and ultimately transform the health of children and women through supporting research excellence.

Our Vision

Harness the power of research innovation for a healthy future for children and women.

Governance

  • Finance & operations sub-committee
  • Oversight board
    • Brenda Hemmelgarn
      Dean, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, U of A (Chair)
    • Verna Yiu
      (Brenda Hemmelgarn, Designate)
      Provost & Vice-President Academic, U of A
    • Aminah Robinson Fayek
      (Jason Acker, Designate)
      Vice President, Research & Innovation, U of A
    • Todd Alexander
      Interim Chair, Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, U of A
    • Jane Schulz
      Chair, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, U of A
    • Lawrence Richer
      Associate Dean, Research, College of Health Sciences,
      U of A
    • Tammy Hopper
      Dean, Rehabilitation Medicine,
      U of A
    • Hanne Ostergaard
      Director, Cancer Research Institute of Northern Alberta,
      U of A
    • Natalie McMurtry
      (Marc Leduc, Designate)
      Vice President, Provincial Clinical Excellence, AHS
    • Christine Westerlund
      Senior Operating Officer, Stollery Children’s Hospital, AHS
    • Janie Clink
       Senior Operating Officer, Royal Alexandra Hospital, Lois Hole Hospital for Women, AHS
    • Karen Faulkner
      Interim President & CEO, Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation
    • Delphine Brooker
      Board of Trustees representative, Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation
    • Sharlene Rutherford
      President & CEO, Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation
    • Dianne Balon
      Board of Directors representative, Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation
    • Ex-officio (non-voting members)
      Sandra Davidge
      Institute Executive Director
    • Tom Stelfox
      Deputy Dean, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, U of A
    • As of March 2024
  • Associate Director
    • Todd Alexander stepped down from his role as associate director of WCHRI on January 31, 2024, to assume the role of interim chair of the Department of Pediatrics.
    • Todd Alexander is a professor in the Department of Pediatrics, a pediatric nephrologist, Stollery Science Lab Distinguished Researcher, and Canada Research Chair in Renal Epithelial Transport Physiology. Since 2018, he has served as program director of the Kidney Research Scientist Core Education and National Training (KRESCENT) Program.
    • He completed his medical training at the University of Western Ontario in 1999, holds a PhD in cell biology from the University of Toronto, completed in 2007, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in renal physiology in 2008 at St. Radboud University, Netherlands.
    • Alexander has established a highly successful research program and been awarded more than $5 million in grant funding as a PI. Since 2006, he has published 91 journal articles and has 3,446 citations to date. He is also involved in clinical trials and is the site lead for a clinical trial for renal tubular acidosis—a condition that occurs when the kidneys fail to acidify the urine causing a person’s blood to remain too acidic.
    • He has made significant contributions to WCHRI over the last decade, from his roles on the Program Advisory Committee and Trainee Advisory Committee to his extensive involvement with peer-review—including his recent role as chair of an Innovation Grant Panel.
  • Executive director
    • Sandra Davidge
    • Sandra Davidge received her bachelor of science from the University of Massachusetts, master of science from Washington State University and PhD from the University of Vermont. She then continued her training as a postdoctoral fellow at the Magee Women’s Research Institute in Pittsburgh before moving to Edmonton with her husband and two children in 1996. She is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Alberta.
    • As a leader in pregnancy research, Davidge is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, as well as a former two-term Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Maternal and Perinatal Cardiovascular Health.
    • She has published over 250 scientific articles on her pioneering studies that are focused on understanding the causes on pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction, in order to develop new therapies to improve pregnancy outcomes.
    • Her work further explores strategies to prevent chronic cardiovascular diseases that can arise in children born from complicated pregnancies.
    • She has received international recognition for her innovative research as she mentors the next generation of scientists and clinician-scientists.
    • In 2012, Davidge was appointed executive director of WCHRI.
  • Scientific advisory committee
    • Stephanie A. Atkinson, PhD, DSc (honoris causa), FCAHS, FASN
      Professor, Department of Pediatrics
      Associate Member, Department of Biochemistry & Biomedical Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University
      Special Professional Staff, McMaster Children’s Hospital
    • Annette Majnemer, OT, PhD, FCAHS
      Vice Dean, Education, Faculty of Medicine
      Professor, School of Physical & Occupational Therapy, McGill University
      Director, CHILD-BRIGHT Network
    • Patrick McGrath, OC, PhD, FRSC, FCAHS
      Professor, Department of Psychology, Dalhousie University
      Former Vice President Research, Innovation and Knowledge Translation for the IWK Health Centre and the Nova Scotia Health Authority
    • Charles Nelson, PhD
      Director of Research, Developmental Medicine Center, Boston Children’s Hospital
      Professor of Pediatrics and Neuroscience and Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
      Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education
      Richard David Scott Chair in Pediatric Developmental Medicine Research, Boston Children’s Hospital
    • Paula Rochon, MD, MPH, FCAHS
      VP Research, Women’s College Hospital (WCH)
      Professor, Department of Medicine and Institute of Health Policy, Management & Evaluation, University of Toronto
      RTO/ERO Chair in Geriatric Medicine
    • As of March 2024
  • WCHRI operations
    • Michelle Bailleux
      Director, Research Grants
    • Katie Buchanan
      Program and Governance Lead
    • Louanne Campbell
      Director, Operations
    • Bethan Kingsley
      Research Associate
    • Laura Reyes Martinez
      Clinical Research Program Lead, Women’s Health
    • Dory Sample
      Clinical Research Director
    • Breanne Sampson
      Director, Stewardship, Communications & Marketing
    • Tanya Voth
      Program Director
    • Rick Watts
      Team Lead, Data Coordinating Centre
    • Maryna Yaskina
      Senior Biostatistician
    • As of March 2024
  • Program advisory committee
    • Amit Bhavsar
      Associate Professor, Medical Microbiology & Immunology, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
    • Stephane Bourque
      Associate Professor, Anaesthesiology, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
    • Sandra Davidge
      Executive Director, WCHRI
    • Matt Hicks
      Associate Professor
      Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
    • Cheng Han Lee
      Sawin-Baldwin Chair in Ovarian Cancer
      Associate Professor
      Lab Medicine, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
    • Piush Mandhane
      Professor
      Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
    • Stephanie Montesanti
      Associate Professor
      School of Public Health
    • Colleen Norris
      Cavarzan Chair in Mature Women’s Health
      Professor, Faculty of Nursing
    • Jacqueline Pei
      Associate Professor
      Educational Psychology, Faculty of Education
    • Lesley Pritchard
      Assistant Professor
      Physical Therapy, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine
    • Yifeng Wei
      Assistant Professor
      Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
    • As of March 2024
  • Trainee advisory committee
    • Alexa Thompson (chair)
      PhD candidate,
      Laboratory Medicine & Pathology, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
    • Ehsan Misaghi (delegate chair)
      MD/PhD candidate,
      Medical Genetics, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
    • Oluwadamilare (Dammy) Akingbade
      Postdoctoral fellow
      Faculty of Nursing
    • Taiye Alawiye
      Masters student
      School of Public Health
    • Kazette Chan
      Masters student
      Medical Genetics, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
    • Shannon Cornelson
      Undergraduate student
      Faculty of Native Studies
    • Haley Frerichs
      Medical student
      Obstetrics & Gynecology, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
    • Jasmine Gill
      Medical student
      Obstetrics & Gynecology, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
    • Vannesa Joly
      PhD student
      Education Psychology, Faculty of Education
    • Ibrahim Khodabocus
      PhD Student
      Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
    • Robert Mcweeny
      PhD Student
      Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
    • Aida Mohammadabadi
      Masters Student
      School of Dentistry, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
    • Jaqueline Munhoz
      PhD student
      Nutrition, Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences
    • Mary Olukotun
      PhD candidate
      Faculty of Nursing
    • Erin Tichenor
      Masters student
      Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine
    • Keatton Tiernan
      Masters student
      School of Public Health
    • As of March 2024

Research Stories

Evaluating the effectiveness of delivering medications to the lungs of children

Researchers use their engineering expertise to assess nebulizers

To protect children from complications, doctors must diagnose and treat asthma as soon as possible. One medical test doctors use is called a bronchoprovocation test.

New device effective in measuring children’s heart rhythms

New study tests smartphone-enabled device in children and teens

As a pediatric cardiologist at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, Carolina Escudero often sees patients complaining of heart palpitations.

Ketone therapy may protect fetal growth in low-iron mothers

New research offers an elegant solution to a complex problem

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder worldwide and, in many cases, iron supplements can easily treat and cure it.

Recruiting superhero cancer patients to defeat pain

Stollery joins national trial of pain reporting app for adolescent oncology patients

While cancer is more common in older people, each year in Alberta, about 237 young people are diagnosed with cancer.

Long overdue: Developing a treatment to prevent preterm birth

By halting the process that triggers contractions, Kelycia Leimert hopes to ensure more babies are born at term

Babies born too soon are vulnerable to a host of health problems, including asthma, vision problems, hearing loss or development delays. Some don’t survive past childhood.

Survivors share their stories of forced or coerced contraception

Project raises awareness of reproductive violence against Indigenous women

Linda is one of a large number of Indigenous women in Canada who cannot conceive because they were sterilized without their informed consent through the medical system.

Understanding the energy needs of ovarian cancer patients

New research aims to reduce muscle loss by creating nutritional recommendations

Ovarian cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting women and one of the most fatal, with a five-year survival rate of just 45 per cent. It’s also associated with muscle loss, which worsens a patient’s prognosis.

Lifestyle choices in adolescence linked to poor mental health

U of A study examined behaviour of almost 25,000 Canadian students

A research team establishes a clear link between a wide range of lifestyle behaviour choices made by adolescents and their mental well-being.

Highlights

WCHRI researchers Michael Khoury and Carolina Escudero spoke about their work to promote the Corus Radiothon to raise funds for the Stollery Children’s Hospital.

WCHRI media exposure for our members’ work ensures that the public is aware of the value of women’s and children’s health research and the investment that our Foundations have made. WCHRI was mentioned in 156 media stories throughout the year.

Seven WCHRI researchers and staff attended the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation Ambassadors Reception, an event for Foundation supporters to celebrate 21 years of impact in children’s health.

We helped celebrate the 30th anniversary of National Child Day in Canada by participating in an event hosted by Maskwacis Integrated Family Services.

We celebrated the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation by attending the Snowflake Gala in support of leading-edge programs, equipment, research and training at the Hospital.

Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation representatives visited the WCHRI lab space and had a “behind the scenes” tour of Todd Alexander’s program of research.

We celebrated the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation by attending the Harvest Celebration. The annual event raises critical funds for the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.

After three years of virtual Research Day events, WCHRI was pleased to welcome back over 450 members, partners and collaborators to an in-person format on October 18, 2023!

Several WCHRI staff and women’s health researchers helped recognize and celebrate the contributions of Dale Sheard and the research centre named in her honour.

We received four prestigious awards for our 2021-22 Annual Report: Curious Minds, including an IABC Best of the Best Award, representing the very best entries seen across the globe.

WCHRI partnered on a Canada-first research initiative – One Child Every Child – which has a vision for all Canadian children to be the healthiest, most empowered and thriving in the world.

Eight WCHRI researchers and staff attended the Edmonton Elks Women’s Dinner raising funds for ovarian cancer research and supporting Cheng-Han Lee as the Sawin-Baldwin Chair in Ovarian Cancer.

Financials

Statement of Operations For the year ended March 31, 2024.

Revenue

The revenue percentages reflect the approximate ratio of researchers who align with children’s health compared to women’s health

  • Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation*
    $6,213,637
  • Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation*
    $1,847,259
  • Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, U of A and Other
    $439,327
  • Cost Recovery
    $1,850,419
  • Total Revenue
    $10,350,642

* Includes transfers from closed projects & other donations

Expenditures

Percentages only include research categories covered by the Memorandum of Understanding

  • Research Grants
    $2,174,374
  • Research Catalysts
    $1,659,212
  • Research Platforms
    $2,868,843
  • Donor Designated Initiatives
    $2,329,244
  • Administrative Support
    $880,254
  • Total Expenditures
    $9,911,927
  • Invoiced Not Spent
    Carry-forward to next fiscal year
    $438,715
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