Research Awards and Chairs


Abdelrahman, Khaled
Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research – Health Professional Investigator Award
The contribution of metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) to impaired control of brain blood flow in Alzheimer’s disease
July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2028

Alzheimer’s disease is a major crisis and a huge burden on healthcare system. It causes a decrease in memory and affects women more than men. The memory decline in Alzheimer’s is linked to poor blood supply to the brain. The causes for poor supply are unknown but it starves brain cells of essential materials leading to improper function. I will study how a molecule present in the cells of the brain called metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) contributes to the poor blood supply to the brain and the development of Alzheimer’s symptoms. My group at UBC is interested in mGluR5 because it attaches to the “toxic molecules” commonly found in Alzheimer’s brain. I will use mice sick with Alzheimer’s and samples from Alzheimer’s patients to study how the attachment of the “toxic molecules” to mGluR5 can lead to the short supply of blood to the brain and memory loss. I will also study if the role of mGluR5 in Alzheimer’s is different between males and females. In addition, I will test if the drugs that act on mGluR5 can help Alzheimer’s patients by correcting blood supply to the brain and improving memory. I also will work with patient and community partners to help interpret and communicate my findings and guide future work.

Ambasta, Anshula
Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research – Health Professional Investigator Award
Re-purposing the ordering of ‘routine’ laboratory tests in hospitalized medical patients (RePORT)
April 1, 2023 – March 31, 2028

Blood tests can help diagnose diseases and monitor health status. However, overuse of blood testing, particularly in hospitals, leads to patient discomfort, loss of sleep, contributes to blood loss leading to blood transfusions, and wastes health care dollars. We previously developed and tested a multi-part healthcare provider (HCP) engagement strategy to safely reduce overuse of six target laboratory tests that make up 40 percent of costs on laboratory testing in hospitalized medical patients. In collaboration with a Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC), we have co-designed a patient engagement strategy that includes an infographic, video and website. Our team, made up of clinicians, researchers, patient partners and policy makers, proposes to launch the HCP and patient engagement strategies across 16 hospitals in British Columbia and 14 hospitals in Alberta in a cluster randomized stepped-wedge design. We will evaluate the impact of this strategy on number of laboratory tests done, patient experience, patient safety, costs and HCP experience, using administrative data systems and patient and HCP interviews. We will work with the PFAC to design implementation evaluation, particularly of the patient engagement strategy.

Thompson, Wade
Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research – Health Professional Investigator Award
Making medications fit for older adults:  advancing the science and implementation of deprescribing guidelines
April 1, 2023 – March 31, 2028

As people age, they can end up taking many medications. Certain medications might have made sense when they were started. But as people get older, some medications may no longer be needed, or may be unsafe. It makes sense to consider stopping such medications. It can be tough for prescribers and patients to decide when and how to stop a medication. From 2014 to 2017, we developed guidelines and resources to help patients and prescribers make decisions about stopping medications. Our guidelines and resources are used in Canada and across the world. However, guidelines and resources need to be up to date with the most current evidence. There also needs to be ongoing strategies to ensure guidelines are used in the real world. This project, led from UBC Vancouver, will first survey patients and prescribers to assess needs and priorities for guidelines on stopping medications. We will then update our guidelines based on needs and current evidence. Finally, we will design knowledge translation materials together with patients and prescribers (called “co-design”), and spread the word about our updated resources. We strive to help patients/prescribers decide when and how to stop medications and improve well-being of older adults.


Flexman, Alana
Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research – Health Professional Investigator Award
Perioperative stroke screening and outcomes in high-risk surgical patients
January 1, 2022 – December 31, 2026

Up to two percent of patients will experience a stroke during or after surgery and these patients have a high chance of disability and death. Currently, we don’t understand clearly how to prevent, detect, and treat stroke after surgery. Although risk factors have been identified including older age and cardiac surgery, high risk surgical patients are not usually identified and strokes can be missed, leading to fewer treatment options and more complications. My previous pilot study showed that anesthesia and surgery can limit the accuracy of standard screening tools for stroke. We urgently needed a screening tool and protocol specifically for surgical patients. We also don’t understand well how patients recover after perioperative stroke, such as which patients survive, and whether they can stay in their homes. Building on our prior research, this multiphase study aims to: (1) Understanding which patients do poorly after perioperative stroke and whether those factors can be changed; (2) Compare mortality and other complications after stroke between those who had recent surgery and those who did not; and (3) Identify a useful perioperative stroke screening tool to quickly and accurately detect stroke after surgery.

Hackett, Tillie-Louise
Canada Research Chair – Tier 1
Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Pathobiology and Therapeutics
December 1, 2021 – November 30, 2028

In Canada, over 5.8 million people have asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – diseases for which there is no cure – that make it challenging every day to breathe. Dr. Tillie Hackett’s research uses ultra-resolution imaging to identify lung disease at its earliest stages that cannot be detected using current clinical tests, to define the cellular and molecular alterations responsible for the disease pathobiology. This research will enable a better understanding of how these lung diseases develop, providing new approaches for prediction and diagnosis, resulting in new treatments to improve the lives of asthma and COPD patients.

Wiens, Matthew
Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research – Scholar Award
Smart Discharges to improve post-discharge survival following admission for infection
July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2026

My research program focuses on understanding and predicting vulnerability of mothers, infants, and children after discharge from hospital, and using this knowledge to develop programs that improve post-discharge outcomes. In our Smart Discharges program, healthcare workers use our data-driven, individualized risk prediction score to identify children at high risk of death or complications after discharge from a hospital following treatment for suspected or proven sepsis infection. This score is used to guide the intensity of a counseling and down-referral program that links the participant to a community-level health provider for monitoring and treatment of their recovery during the post-discharge period.

My research team works primarily in Uganda, though we are now beginning to apply a “reverse innovation” approach to a Canadian context, where pediatric post-discharge morbidity remains an important component in child-health research, policy and practice.


Gorges, Matthias
Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research – Scholar Award
Optimizing Post-procedural Pain Trajectories Through Patient-oriented Research and Artificial Intelligence
July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2025

Our goal is to use smartphones and artificial intelligence to improve pain management for children having surgery. This is needed because many children still have a lot of pain even a year after surgery. The pain affects their daily life, and might cause them to return to hospital. A child’s pain is affected by many things, like their biological sex, anxiety, coping skills, pain level, and type of surgery. Importantly, some of these can be altered.
We will design a tool to share pain risk data with families and doctors and test these tools in children coming to hospital for spine, tonsil or dental surgery. We hope that using these tools (pain prediction models) will improve the child’s individual care. Identifying children at high pain risk will allow us to intervene before their surgery. This will lead to quicker recovery, less time in hospital, and less chance of addiction to painkillers (opioids).


Griesdale, Donald
Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research – Health Professional Investigator Award
Cerebral Oximetry to assess Cerebral autoregulation in Hypoxemic Ischemic Brain Injury (COnCEpT – HIBI)
July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2023

There are 40,000 patients who suffer a cardiac arrest in Canada each year. When the heart stops beating from a cardiac arrest, blood flow to the brain stops which can lead to large strokes, called ischemic brain injury. Only a small percentage of people who develop ischemic brain injury survive with normal brain function.
The overall goal of this research is to improve the neurologic outcomes of critically ill patients who have suffered a severe brain injury after cardiac arrest by determining how to personalize blood pressure targets for individual patients to ensure adequate cerebral blood flow (CBF). CBF in the first few millimetres of brain tissue can be measured non-invasively by near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), using sensors applied to the forehead. I have previously demonstrated that we can use the NIRS to determine the patient-specific blood pressure, but it is unclear if maintaining this individualized blood pressure leads to better outcomes.
The objective is to determine the association between the amount of time spent at the patients individualized blood pressure threshold, and neurologic outcomes at 6-months. The results of this study will be used to design a large interventional study of individualized blood pressure management and neurologic outcomes.


Hackett, Tillie-Louise
Canadian Institutes of Health Research – New Investigator Award
Molecular determinants of small airway obstruction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
February 1, 2015 – January 31, 2021

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major cause of mortality and attributes to increased health care costs in Canada due to its prevalence and a lack of disease-modifying therapies. COPD is characterized by irreversible lung function decline that is caused by destruction of lung elastic tissue and obstruction of the small airways, which allow airflow in and out of the lungs. In COPD, these lesions are produced in response to repetitive inhalational injury inflicted by smoke exposure but the mechanisms are unknown. The goal of this research is to identify the molecular determinants of small airway lesions in COPD and test if they are potential modifiable targets for COPD.

Hackett, Tillie-Louise
Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research – Scholar Award
Molecular determinants of small airway obstruction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
February 1, 2015 – January 31, 2021

Dr. Hackett’s research program is focused on understanding the disruption of normal repair processes within the epithelial-mesenchymal trophic unit (EMTU) of the lung and how this propagates inflammation and tissue remodeling in patients with obstructive lung disease.
Dr. Hackett’s laboratory uses an innovative and targeted approach to isolate cells from donor lungs guided by Computed Tomography imaging. This resource, The Human Lung Cell Repository, aims to provide highly characterized cells representative of a variety of lung disease states and healthy individuals for use in clinical bio-assays of disease.
The goal of this research program is to further understand the airway microenvironment to determine therapeutic targets to prevent the initiation and perpetuation of pathological processes which contribute to obstructive airway diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.