CIHR-IPPH Announces Trailblazer Award Winners

The CIHR Institute of Population and Public Health (CIHR IPPH) Trailblazer Award supports early, mid and senior career researchers who continue to make exceptional contributions that promote population and public health for Canadians and citizens around the world through evidenced-based health policies as well as interventions.

CIHR-IPPH is pleased to announce the 2022 CIHR-IPPH Trailblazer Award Winners:

‘These awards recognize the contributions made by early, mid-career and senior population and public health researchers. Awardees have not only made exceptional contributions to public health research but are also recognized for their outstanding leadership, mentorship and innovative contributions to practice and policy.

I am incredibly pleased to share with you the winners of the 2022 CIHR-IPPH Trailblazer Awards and offer my congratulations to Amol Verma, Arjumand Siddiqi and Mark Tremblay for their inspiring work! As you can see from their profiles and videos below, these three researchers demonstrate the excellence and breadth of population and public health research in Canada.’

Steven J. Hoffman, Scientific Director, IPPH

Senior Career Researcher: Mark Tremblay

Mark Tremblay is a senior scientist with the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research (HALO) Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute and Professor of Pediatrics in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa. Mark’s research interests include a pediatric focus on exercise science, outdoor play and health, physical activity, fitness and health measurement, sedentary behaviour, health surveillance, and healthy active living knowledge translation and mobilization.

Transcript

Hi. My name is Mark Tremblay, and it is my honour and a privilege to accept the Senior Career Researcher Trailblazer Award in Population and Public Health Research. I am receiving this award while at my home in Kanata, Ontario. Today I live, work, play and pray on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe people. I thank them for their oversight and stewardship of the land, water and air of this territory and commit to working with them to preserve, protect and respect these sacred resources. For nearly 40 years my research has focused predominantly on the promotion of healthy active living behaviours of children and upstream prevention of obesity and related conditions.

My research with many students and colleagues has focused on movement behaviours: that is physical activity, sedentary behaviours, and sleep, as well as obesity trends in children demonstrating temporal increases in childhood obesity, decreases in habitual physical activity, increases in sedentary behaviors, and especially screen time and decreases in physical fitness. We have provided insight regarding geographic, demographic, and ethnic variation and inequities in these trends. And the critical importance of measurement methods and modalities.

For example, our research on Old Order Amish, Old Order Mennonite and Kenyan children has demonstrated that compared to children living in contemporary Canadian lifestyle, they are leaner, more active, less sedentary, and more physically fit and that self or parental reported data produced dramatically different results than device-based or directly measured data. Our comparative research around the world has exposed global deficiencies, variations and inequities and trends and unearth both normative behaviour and intervention successes that we have used to cross fertilize in other jurisdictions.

Our collective findings highlight the need for multi-level, multi-sectoral, early intervention strategies to encourage and support healthy lifestyle behaviours from a very young age with a particularly important role for the family. I summarize my research program as the Children's A-TEAM (Children's Activity Through Exchange and Measurement). Delivered through many large international initiatives, we use comparative approaches and international outreach, communications and advocacy, assessment, and surveillance as interventions to affect sustained and scalable change. I'm indebted to the many mentors, trainees, colleagues, stakeholders, and partners I have had the privilege of working with over my career. I've been fortunate to have a wife and four active healthy kids that supported my research and inspired me to walk the talk. Thank you very much for this honor and I hope we are able to connect without animation in three dimensions, with engagement of all of our senses, ideally in the great outdoors in the near future. Thank you.

Mid-Career Researcher: Arjumand Siddiqi

Arjumand Siddiqi is a Professor and Division Head of Epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLSPH) within the University of Toronto (UofT), where she holds the Canada Research Chair in Population Health Equity. Arjumand’s research program seeks understand how societal-level forces – particularly social policies and policy-related factors – have shaped health inequities. Her research focuses on the roles of income inequality and social policies, the methods and metrics that enable scientific inquiry on health inequities, and mechanisms related to public and political uptake of the evidence.

Transcript

Hi everyone. I'm Arjumand Siddiqi. I am a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and I am so proud and so honoured to be the 2021 Mid-Career Trailblazer Award winner.

I do research on health inequalities. And I think one of the really noteworthy and important things about this award and this recognition is that it's really a recognition of how important work on health inequalities is and what we see in present day is not only the presence of health inequalities, as we've seen for as long as we've been measuring them, but we see them growing. We see them widening and so we see the health differential between the most advantaged and the most disadvantaged becoming increasingly worse. And this is despite decades of public health work on these issues. And that really signifies that something is going on that deserves our attention, that whatever we've been doing and the ways that we've been thinking about these issues have been insufficient, and that the action that we've been taking has been insufficient. And so, my work really hopes to probe those kinds of ideas, and to try to understand what are the most fundamental and the most structural ways that we can make change in order to improve the lives and the health of those in the most disadvantaged groups.

So, this award in my mind is really an award about recognizing the importance of justice as the central element in public health work. I hope that I'm able to contribute to the many people doing work in this area, inside and outside of academia, and those sorts of very thoughtful work that's been happening.

Thanks so much.

Early-Career Researcher: Amol Verma

Amol Verma is a Scientist at Unity Health Toronto’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, practises General Internal Medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital and is an Assistant Professor in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation within the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto (U of T). Amol’s interdisciplinary work aims to improve population health by enhancing Canada’s digital research infrastructure for research and by improving hospital care to meet the evolving needs of the Canadian adult population particularly health outcomes for older adults living with multiple chronic illnesses.

Transcript

My name is Dr. Amol Verma. I'm a Clinician-Scientist at Unity Health Toronto’s Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute and I'm also a physician in General Internal Medicine at St. Michael's Hospital. I'm very grateful and honoured to have been selected for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research-Institute of Population and Public Health Early Career Trailblazer Award. I'm delighted to accept this award on behalf of my fantastic research teams at Gemini and the data science and advanced analytics unit at St. Michael's Hospital in Unity Health Toronto.

My research is focused on harnessing the power of big data, advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence to improve hospital care. I am particularly focused on improving the care and health outcomes for older adults. This work is the product of the amazing teams that I'm fortunate to work with and the wonderful institutions that have supported. St. Michael's Hospital is a Canadian leader in data and analytics, and it's embarking on an ambitious initiative to combine technological excellence with the very best aspects of humanistic healthcare. This campaign is called Human-care and it's aiming to reinvent patient care experiences and it typifies my team and my colleagues’ approach to research. Taking advantage of advances in computing and artificial intelligence requires huge volumes of data. That's why my colleagues and I co-founded Gemini, which has become Canada's largest hospital data sharing network for research. Gemini collects clinical and administrative data from electronic records. Our innovative data platform holds billions of data points for more than 1.2 million hospitalizations at 30 hospitals across all regions of Ontario. We have a team of 30 full-time staff who are working tirelessly to make the data available to a community of more than 100 scientists and students. Together, we are innovating and uncovering insights to improve health and healthcare. One of the most important ways we use Gemini data is to provide individual physicians and participating hospitals with detailed information about the quality of care that they provide to their patients. These quality reports are being delivered to more than 600 physicians across all 30 hospitals as part of a provincial Quality Improvement Network in partnership with Ontario Health. Our aim is to help clinical teams find ways to improve care so that patients can be confident that they are receiving high-quality care, no matter which hospital they go to, all across our province. Studying COVID-19 has been a major part of our research at Gemini over the last two years.

We've been using data to shed light on this new and initially very mysterious illness. Another focus of my research is on developing artificial intelligence solutions to improve healthcare. Among these tools is something we call CHARTwatch: a hospital early warning system. As many as one in 10 patients who are hospitalized, end up deteriorating in hospitals such that they need critical care, intensive care, or may even die in hospital. It's very difficult for doctors and nurses to know in advance which of their patients are going to deteriorate. CHARTwatch is trying to solve this problem. It uses data from the hospital's electronic medical record to provide an updated hourly alert to clinicians about which of their patients may deteriorate so that they can know in advance and try to respond proactively. We showed that the tool improves clinical judgment by 15%. And we launched the tool in the fall of 2020. It has since helped us care for nearly 5000 patients and our preliminary data suggest that it may be helping save lives. Let me once again express my gratitude for this award. I'm very grateful of course to my family, my close colleagues who co-lead these initiatives. Dr. Fahad Razak, who is the co-founder and co-lead of Gemini. Professor Muhammad Mamdani, Chloe Pou-Prom, who are helping co-lead the CHARTwatch implementation. As we can see in movements like Human-care, there is an incredible opportunity to use new computing technologies to improve clinical care, improve population health. It's essential that we keep our focus on the most important aspects of care: on providing people with compassionate, high quality health care, even as we become more technologically equipped and advanced. Thank you so much for the award.

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