Canadian military honours the dedication of Dr. Alice Aiken
Over the last six months, it has been nothing short of thrilling to watch the hard work and dedication of the team behind the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) come to fruition. Under the leadership of its Director, Dr. Alice Aiken, we’ve seen the number of it’s university partnerships grow to 37, and, incredibly, generous grants and donations from the federal government, True Patriot Love, and General Dynamics have come rolling in – over 21 million dollars worth since November.
Hosted here at Queen’s, and in partnership with the Royal Military College, CIMVHR aims to maximize the health and well-being of Canadian military personnel, Veterans, and their families through world-class research resulting in evidence-informed practices, policies and programs. Key partnerships with universities coast-to-coast and secure financial footing are fundamental requirements for CIMVHR to fulfill its mission. In the formative years of the organization, the CIMVHR team worked diligently towards these results. Amidst the exciting declarations of new partnerships and funding agreements, there has been another announcement that was particularly humbling, one that reminded us all of the true purpose of CIMVHR. It was the moment when the Minister of National Defence appointed Alice Aiken as an Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel.
This past Friday, the Commanding Officer and the Sergeant-Major of 33 Canadian Forces Health Services Centre of Kingston, held a ceremony and dinner celebrating the installation of Dr. Aiken as the First Unit Honorary Commander. The appointment is a testament to her leadership in military and Veteran health research, and her unique ability to enact change, bettering the lives of those who serve and have served.
In hindsight, it’s easy to connect the dots and see why Alice Aiken has such a passion for this particular area of research – she is, after all, a Veteran herself. First enrolling in the Naval Reserve in 1984, Alice was in the first training class of Maritime Surface officers that included women in a combat role. During the Gulf War, she worked for the Navy at the Maritime Command Headquarters in Halifax. In 1991, Alice was accepted into Dalhousie University’s Physiotherapy Program, yet remained with the CAF as a part of the Regular Force. She graduated in 1994 and was posted to the Base Hospital at CFB Kingston, where she served as a physiotherapist until she released from the CAF in 1998. Upon her release, Alice joined us at Queen’s University, managing the physiotherapy clinic while pursuing her Masters and PhD in Rehabilitation Science part-time. In 2006, we were fortunate to have her join our faculty.
Just three years later, Alice joined a team, including the new Surgeon General at the time, Commodore Hans Jung, the Royal Military College, and Veterans Affairs Canada, to start CIMVHR. Since then, CIMVHR has grown to host the largest annual conference on military, Veteran and family health in Canada, the first on-line, open-access journal, the Journal for Military Veteran and Family Health (JMVFH), dedicated solely to this population, and has become the hub for academic research related to these groups in Canada. The organization also now serves as the Canadian link for international organizations with similar mandates.
Alice will be the first to say that the overall success of CIMVHR is thanks to her devoted team, and that each announcement over the last year is a testament to their hard work. That is all true, however, the organization could not have filled such a huge void in Canadian research without its dynamic and persuasive leader at the helm, and I have no doubt her wonderful team would agree with that.
We are so fortunate to have Alice here at Queen’s as a professor, mentor, researcher, and colleague. Please join me in thanking Alice, for her dedication to CIMVHR and the health of those who protect us, in the comments below.
I would like to thank Emma Woodman for her assistance in writing this blog.