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Shining the spotlight on medical research in Niagara

Posted Nov 15th, 2018

Shining the spotlight on medical research in Niagara

Healthcare moves at the speed of innovation. Medical research is the engine that drives that innovation, resulting in new medicines, techniques, procedures and technology – all with the goal of improving our health.

The old adage “think global, act local” was embodied Nov. 14 at Niagara Health’s St. Catharines Site, which hosted the inaugural Niagara Health Research Day. 

“Research and academics are priorities at Niagara Health – part of our commitment to building a healthier Niagara,” said Niagara Health President Suzanne Johnston. “Through research and academics, we are raising the standard of care in the region.”

One special guest in particular underlined the importance of cancer research at Niagara Health. Former patient Lynne Dunham spoke to the value of having her treatment available in Niagara.

”It’s a stressful time. At that point in your treatment journey, you have no idea if it’s going to work,” she said of the clinical trial she was a part of to potentially improve her care. “You’re hoping. Everyone is being as positive as they can, but it is a stressful time. Research has improved conditions. There is hope now where there wasn’t hope previously.”

More than 100 researchers, students, academics and healthcare workers came to learn about medical research being done in Niagara and to hear the keynote address, delivered by Dr. Deborah Cook of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and McMaster University.

Research in the community

Dr. Cook discussed the importance of conducting research in a community hospital, outlining successful studies from community hospitals and her experiences working with colleagues locally who are leading the way.

“Research leads to improved care for our patients,” said Dr. Cook. “I was excited to hear more about the many initiatives underway here at Niagara Health that are focused on improving the outcomes of patients in this region, through research. Research helps to support the culture of inquiry in an institution. Seeking answers to everyday problems that our patients and their families face is a rewarding road to travel.”

As a community-based academic centre, Niagara Health has produced research in a wide array of areas. 

Five pillars of research at Niagara Health

Niagara Health’s Research Office is a hub for medical research being done in the region. The day covered the five pillars of research at Niagara Health.  

Research Office

Established in 2015, the Niagara Health Research Office has established a research coaching program for budding researchers, conducted seminars and established the Niagara Region Qualitative Research Interest Group. It has also established a process for all Niagara Health research activities, as well as partnerships to help facilitate researchers.

Critical Care

Critical care research led by Niagara Health includes a series on a legionella pneumonia case in Niagara, a study on sepsis and a series examining a necrotizing soft tissue case, resulting in several published journal articles. In addition, Niagara Health is a leader in the Canadian Community Intensive Care Unit Network and the Canadian Critical Care Trials Group. 

Emergency Medicine

After the program’s creation in 2017, the Emergency Medicine Researchers of Niagara have already seen treatment outcome successes with their research into difficult airway treatment, initial assessment physicians and infection care, among others.


Niagara Health is participating in multiple international research projects, each with the goal of improving patient outcomes related to heart disease. Enrolment in many of these projects is complete and results will start coming in soon, helping inform treatments at home and abroad.


As the only Canadian centre to be awarded American Society of Clinical Oncology Clinical Trials Participation Award, Niagara Health currently has 169 oncology patients participating in clinical trials. These clinical trials of novel treatments being conducted at Niagara Health may improve patient outcomes and change current treatments for cancer.

The next wave of Niagara Health research

Students and researchers were also given the opportunity to present their research in a poster competition, with an awards ceremony to cap off the day. The winners were:

  • Dr. Brian Findlay and Linda Illes, Research Achievement Award, for their contributions to the 30-year record of accomplishment of strong participation in clinical trials for Niagara Health’s Oncology Clinical Trials Program.
  • Dr. John Song, Lauren Habel, Michelle Lowry, Ann Van Vliet, Patty Welychka, Ruth Peters and Dr. Hala Hamed, Best Poster Award, for their poster “Improving Quality of Care for Total Hip Replacement Patients.”
  • Julie Blain, Richard Singh, Dr. Abhirami Hallock, Dr. Adrian Ishkanian, Brenda Luscombe, Dr. Janice Giesbrecht and Robert McClory, People’s Choice Poster Award for their poster “Enhancing Access to Care: An Early Experience Report of the Orthopedic Radiation Oncology Clinic at Niagara Health.”


Niagara Health System