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Jane Philpott - Discovering the ground-breaking research happening in FHS

Discovering the ground-breaking research happening in FHS

Thanks to discovery science, we have reason to believe 2021 will be a better year. It took a pandemic for some to realize how much we should value the people and places dedicated to health research. 

We are on the edge of our seats waiting for the arrival of a vaccine, which should begin to ease the spread of SARS-CoV2, the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic. There would have been no vaccines were it not for women and men who have spent years hovering over microscopes: testing hypotheses, wading through data, brainstorming with colleagues, writing grant proposal after grant proposal, never giving up in their efforts to understand basic sciences and build new knowledge to improve health outcomes.

There’s never been a better time to celebrate science and discovery. Here at Queen’s, I have met some of the best scientific minds in the world. They are not household names like Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie, or Frederick Banting. But they could be some day. That’s why I’ve made research expansion one of my top priorities for the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS). I’ve spent the last five months getting to know FHS researchers, their centres and their projects. I’m impressed by what I’ve learned.

Whether you are a newcomer like me, or someone who has been here for years, you would be delighted to learn more about the great research that takes place across Queen’s FHS. 

One of the first things I did as the new Dean was to bring together the Dean’s Action Table on Research (DAT-R). Over the past five months its working groups have been working away at setting priorities, establishing benchmarks, as well as studying the needs for infrastructure, recruitment, communication, and funding. 

Here’s what I learned

FHS Research Priorities - cancer, neurosciences, translational medicine, global health, health systems, health data and artificial intelligence

Several themes of research strength have emerged. In some cases, these are areas where Queen’s FHS has a long history of research activity, such as cancer, neurosciences, and translational medicine. We also identified some themes of emerging research impact, including global health, health systems, health data and artificial intelligence

To cite one example of the longstanding reach of our research, one could point to the work of the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG). Based here at Queen’s, it involves more than 2,000 Canadian investigators who have run over 500 cancer trials in more than 40 countries. If you or your loved ones have ever benefitted from new cancer therapies, there’s a strong likelihood that the CCTG was actively involved in studying that treatment. 

To imagine the new areas of strength that lie ahead, one could listen to the enthusiasm of the many researchers who see the potential for linking health data and using artificial intelligence and machine learning to support clinical care and improve our understanding of health and disease. 

Our strong relationships with and proximity to the Kingston General Health Research Institute, Kingston Health Sciences Centre and Providence Care set the stage for some of the best health sciences research in the country. The opportunities for innovation are immense. I have also noticed the strong interprofessional and interdisciplinary nature of the research teams in the FHS; working across departments, across schools; across the university; across the country and around the world. 

Indeed, one of the brightest opportunities for impact lies with dozens of FHS researchers who work in the field of global health. Whether it be the numerous partnerships and studies conducted in the field of global oncology; or the development of international programs that increase access to community-based rehabilitation, it is clear that global health is a field of accelerating strength for FHS research.

What the future holds

FHS is embarking on a strategic planning process in 2021. Not everyone loves strategic planning. But I am determined to ensure that this exercise will be engaging and pragmatic. Developing a strategic approach to further define key research priorities and enhance our research capacity and impact will be an important part of it.

Here at Queen’s, we will continue to see the broad impact of FHS research. Several years ago, the Department of Medicine and the Translational Institute of Medicine (TIME) adopted a platform, Uniweb, that facilitates networking, collaboration, sharing equipment, and building profiles. Having seen its value in facilitating collaboration across research projects and groups, the Office of the Vice-Principal of Research has now adopted the platform for use across campus.  It is a fantastic example of our ability to identify opportunities for efficiencies and take the lead on implementing new technologies that will further build our research community.  

And with a vaccine and eased restrictions on the horizon, stay tuned for some fun opportunities to network and communicate. Starting in the spring, I will be hosting an event series called the “Dean’s Cinq à Sept for Research” featuring some of our finest researchers sharing their work to inform the community, inspire the audience, and hopefully generate support to do even more. 

As we celebrate the New Year ahead, and reflect on the importance of health research, I would love to hear how you like to be involved, so that together we can expand FHS research and promote health for all. Please share your thoughts by commenting below. 

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