Midwifery program offers support in Nunavut during pandemic
As of mid-June, Nunavut remains coronavirus-free. Midwifery program director Kellie Thiessen [PhD/14] and instructors Fleur McEvoy [BN/99] and Susan Wintoniw [BN/03, MN/16] are providing care at the Rankin Inlet Birthing Centre on two- to three-week rotations so low-risk pregnant women can stay in the area to give birth, rather than travel and risk bringing the virus back.
“There are about six outlying communities being diverted to Rankin for care – communities where the majority of mothers would otherwise be going to Winnipeg or Iqaluit,” Thiessen said.
The UM team is able to deliver care through Ongomiizwin – Health Services, part of the Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.
Thiessen said the relationship with Nunavut will benefit both the territory and the UM midwifery program, which will admit its first six students in September 2021. In recognition of the need for Indigenous midwives, half of the program’s seats will be designated for Indigenous students.
“One of the goals of this program is to support families through culturally appropriate midwifery services close to home,” Thiessen said.
UM team steps up to treat dental emergencies
Nine professors from the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry and seven dentists from the community stepped forward to treat dental emergencies at Health Sciences Centre under a pandemic plan launched in April.
By using hospital operating rooms, the team was able to perform procedures such as tooth extractions, root canals and surgeries for oral trauma under the highest level of infection control.
The Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, Shared Health, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and the Manitoba Dental Association collaborated to establish the services.
All the dentists participated out of a sense of professional responsibility, despite the risk of COVID-19 exposure, said Dr. Trenna Reeve, associate dean (clinics) at the dental college. “They put themselves potentially in harm’s way … because it’s part of their professionalism and their duty to provide access to care.”
With dental offices having suspended routine care, and many dentists lacking the proper protective equipment to treat emergencies at the time, the UM-led service allowed all Manitoba dentists to make referrals to the hospital team. Payment and insurance coverage were handled as they are at dental offices.
“We’re providing an option in support of all Manitoba dentists,” Reeve said.
New scholarship honours influential figure in retail pharmacy
A scholarship has been established in honour of Lori Fasano [B.Sc.Pharm/82], a trailblazing alumna of the College of Pharmacy.
Fasano (née Poleschuk) grew up in Winnipeg and earned her bachelor of science in pharmacy at the University of Manitoba in 1982. Her 30-year career mirrored the growth of the retail pharmacy sector in Canada. She became a leading professional in the field, managing and consulting for companies including Safeway, Zellers, Sobeys and Loblaws.
Since 2013, Fasano has lived with a severe disability. She and her husband, UM alumnus Dave Fasano [BPE/82], have established the scholarship as a way of giving back to the university. It will celebrate Lori’s legacy and values and provide “ongoing recognition of what Lori achieved in her career,” Dave said.
The Lori Fasano Scholarship will be awarded annually to a student entering the second year of the PharmD program. In October 2019, Fasano and her family travelled from Mississauga, Ont. to Winnipeg to present the scholarship to its first recipient, Sabina Ozog.
“We are grateful to the Fasanos for establishing this scholarship that so appropriately honours Lori’s leadership in Canada’s community pharmacies,” said Dr. Lalitha Raman-Wilms, dean of the College of Pharmacy.
Indigenous-led partnerships show health benefits
A recent article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal by Indigenous Elders and Rady Faculty researchers says evidence is emerging that Indigenous-led health-care partnerships improve health outcomes for Indigenous Peoples.
Such partnerships are grounded in traditional Indigenous knowledge and healing practices, supported by Western biomedical knowledge as needed.
“Our understanding of wellness as Indigenous Peoples is that to be healthy, we need to be rooted in our identity, which is very spiritual and land-based,” said co-author Dr. Dave Courchene, Elder and founder of the Turtle Lodge Central House of Knowledge in Sagkeeng First Nation.
Indigenous-led partnerships are providing innovative models of interprofessional collaboration in community-based healing lodges, remote clinics and urban hospitals, the article says. They are being found to improve holistic health outcomes, as well as access to care, prevention uptake and adherence to care plans.
Co-author Dr. Andrew Hatala, assistant professor of community health sciences and researcher with the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, said the partnerships are empowering Indigenous communities to take the lead in their health care.
“It’s important to acknowledge and honour the leading role that Indigenous Elders, healers and Knowledge Keepers play,” Hatala said.
Respiratory therapy students licensed for duty amid COVID-19 crisis
As the global pandemic reached Manitoba in March, it raised the concern that a large number of patients would have to be placed on ventilators for breathing support.
“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of respiratory therapists in critical care,” said Denise Mackey, head of the respiratory therapy department in the College of Rehabilitation Sciences.
The expected surge in COVID-19 cases raised the possibility that students who were nearing completion of the three-year bachelor’s program in respiratory therapy might need to be pulled from their clinical placements in April to assist on the front lines.
That prompted the Manitoba Association of Registered Respiratory Therapists (MAART) to grant the third-year students temporary licences to practise.
With the number of serious cases remaining low, however, the students weren’t called upon and were able to stay in their placements. They are eligible to take the MARRT credentialing exam this summer to earn their full licences.
Respiratory therapist Kaitlin King [BMRRT/12], a graduate of the UM program who has returned to the college as an instructor, also works at St. Boniface Hospital. Describing respiratory therapy as an “often unknown, but very much front-line profession,” King demonstrated the use of a ventilator in a video for UM Today.
Early-career pharmacy researcher wins CIHR award
Jillian Stobart [B.Sc.(Hons.)/06, PhD/12], assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy, has received a CIHR Early Career Investigator Award in Circulatory and Respiratory Health.
The three-year, $345,000 award will assist Stobart in studying pericyte cells – vascular cells that wrap around blood vessels in the brain. The scientist will investigate the role these cells play in regulating brain blood flow as we age.
“My hope is that we’ll have some really interesting results to characterize these cells and come up with a new angle to better understand cognitive decline and the reduction of blood flow with aging,” Stobart said.
The university recently invested in a new microscopic tool that Stobart will be using. “My research is taking advantage of some novel and exciting microscope techniques and new animal models that will allow us to really pinpoint these pericyte cells,” she said.
Stobart said existing drugs may hold promise for maintaining brain blood flow to reduce cognitive decline and dementia.
“There are already drugs available that are used for cardiovascular treatments, and I’m hopeful that my research will show that those drugs are possibly also beneficial for blood flow in the brain.”
Faculty members revamp exams in response to pandemic
The physical therapy department of the College of Rehabilitation Sciences got creative this spring to ensure that students completed their clinical exams and were able to graduate.
Clinical exams are normally held at the Clinical Learning and Simulation Facility, a Bannatyne campus lab that mimics a hospital ward. Students move through clinical scenarios and demonstrate their skills as they interact with standardized patients (actors portraying patients).
With the COVID-19 pandemic making it impossible to use the simulation facility or hire standardized patients, the department had only days to devise an alternate approach.
Faculty members jumped into new roles as actors, camera operators and editors. They produced video scenarios for students to view online. The students evaluated whether proper physiotherapy practices were demonstrated in the videos.
“Normally, we’re focused on how to perform a technique correctly, whether it’s mobilizing a joint or helping someone transfer into a wheelchair,” said graduating student Lisa Haydey. “But this required us to visually recognize correct or incorrect techniques and then translate that into words.”
Haydey expressed gratitude to faculty members for their team effort to deliver the clinical exams. “I was really amazed at how quickly they adapted,” she said.
Hall of Fame honours palliative care researcher
Harvey Max Chochinov [MD/83, PhD/98], a distinguished professor of psychiatry who is a world leader in the field of palliative care, will be inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in September 2020.
“I am humbled and honoured by this extraordinary recognition. I hope it serves to focus attention on the critical importance and benefits of palliative care,” the professor said.
Chochinov’s research has informed worldwide debate about euthanasia and assisted suicide. He has authored more than 250 publications exploring end-of-life care, particularly addressing the psychosocial and spiritual impacts of terminal illness. He and his team developed Dignity Therapy to assist dying patients with reflecting on their lives.
Chochinov founded the Manitoba Palliative Care Research Unit at CancerCare Manitoba. He co-founded the Canadian Virtual Hospice, which provides information and support to more than 1.6 million online visitors per year.
After taking his medical training and psychiatric residency at UM, Chochinov completed a fellowship in psychiatric oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, then earned his doctorate at UM. He is a senior scientist at the Research Institute of Oncology and Hematology, a joint institute of CancerCare Manitoba and UM.
Researcher develops tool to assess kids’ tooth decay
A professor in the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry has developed Canada’s first screening tool designed for non-oral health professionals to evaluate the risk of tooth decay in children under six.
The Canadian Caries Risk Assessment Tool was created by Bob Schroth [DMD/96, M.Sc./03, PhD/11], professor of preventive dental science, oral biology, community health sciences and pediatrics/child health.
“Poor oral health and caries (tooth decay) in children are epidemic in some populations,” said Schroth, who is also a researcher with the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba.
The screening tool will help professionals such as doctors, dieticians and social workers assess the presence or risk of decay in a child’s baby teeth. It guides the professional through questions for the child’s parent or caregiver, such as: Are the child’s teeth cleaned at least twice daily?
If the child’s risk score is high, the tool directs the professional to apply fluoride varnish, refer the child to a dentist and provide additional oral-care recommendations to the parent or caregiver.
Schroth was asked to develop the tool by the Public Health Agency of Canada. He is now conducting a pilot study to validate its use.
Nursing researcher documents youth anxiety
What’s it like to be a youth with an anxiety disorder? Roberta Woodgate [BN/89, MN/93, PhD/01], professor in the College of Nursing and researcher with the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, says her findings show that physical, mental, emotional and social pain permeate daily life for young people with this kind of illness.
Woodgate recently had an article, “The Lived Experience of Anxiety and the Many Facets of Pain: A Qualitative, Arts-Based Approach,” published in the Canadian Journal of Pain.
The professor, who holds a Canada Research Chair in child and family engagement in health research and healthcare, encourages study participants to give voice to their lived experience of anxiety. She uses arts-based methods to report these perspectives and feelings.
She has created a series of videos, for example, in which actors speak the words of study participants as animation depicts their struggles. “Anxiety feels like a black sludge, and you’re sinking,” one participant says.
The COVID-19 crisis is producing anxiety in many people, Woodgate says, and it’s possible that will foster greater understanding of chronic anxiety.
“The pandemic could help others glimpse what living with an anxiety disorder is like,” she says. “And perhaps that will make us more empathetic to this condition.”
Scientists pull together to collect equipment for health-care workers
A microbiologist from the Fort Garry campus and a medical microbiologist from the Bannatyne campus teamed up in March to collect gear for health-care workers in the COVID-19 fight.
“This has been a great cross-campus initiative,” said microbiologist Dr. Aleeza Gerstein, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Science.
“People from vastly different backgrounds at the university … have come together to get things done,” said Dr. Jason Kindrachuk, assistant professor of medical microbiology and Canada Research Chair in the molecular pathogenesis of emerging and re-emerging viruses.
The two scientists put out a call to UM laboratory researchers. Donations on the Fort Garry campus included about 135 boxes of nitrile gloves, 10 boxes of vinyl gloves, 200 dust masks, a few boxes of N95 masks, and several hundred aprons and gowns.
On the Bannatyne campus, gowns, safety glasses, face shields and chemicals were donated. The Rady Faculty of Health Sciences also collected supplies for donation or loan to health agencies, including medical equipment such as infusion pumps and oximeters.
Gerstein has a COVID-19 page on her lab website listing equipment that health agencies have requested.
Quilt honours missing, murdered community members
A commemorative beaded quilt that honours missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls was unveiled in January at the entrance to the Neil John Maclean Health Sciences Library on the Bannatyne campus.
The quilt was donated to the university by Deborah Young [BSW/94, MSW/00], former UM executive lead for Indigenous achievement. Young’s late mother, residential school survivor Bette Morriseau [BA(Adv)/83, BSW/85], created the textile artwork from 50 squares beaded by participants at a community “bead-in.”
“A single bead on its own remains unfinished, but when many beads are brought together, it tells a powerful story of resistance and resilience only made possible by community voice and action,” Young said.
Catherine Cook [MD/87, M.Sc./03], UM vice-president Indigenous, said the quilt serves as “a reminder of the unfinished stories of Indigenous women and girls who are no longer with us.”
Brian Postl [MD/76], dean of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, said the quilt will help the faculty move forward with Indigenous communities in a spirit of reconciliation and collaboration.
“Displaying this on our campus will reinforce with our students, faculty, staff and community the importance of continuing to acknowledge the harms and the shame of Canada’s past,” Postl said.
New platform to transform access to health data
Manitoba’s extensive collection of clinical health data will be integrated into a cohesive, readily accessible, province-wide data platform called MindSet.
It was announced in February that the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Province of Manitoba will each invest $600,000 per year over four years, for a total of $4.8 million, to support the project.
MindSet (short for Manitoba Integrated Data Set) will enhance real-time access to the data that health-care providers need to make informed decisions when caring for patients. It received funding support through Canada’s Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR).
Three physicians from the department of internal medicine are leading the project. Each is doing research using data from the new platform. Dr. Ryan Zarychanski [B.Sc./95, B.Sc.Med./00], a hematologist, will focus on reducing the need for blood transfusions during major non-cardiac surgeries.
Paul Komenda [B.Sc./97, B.Sc.Med./01, MD/01], a nephrologist, will look at enhancing the use of home kidney dialysis by rural patients. Marshall Pitz [B.Sc./98, B.Sc.Med./02, MD/02], a medical oncologist, aims to improve the navigation of newly diagnosed cancer patients through the health-care system, particularly in rural and northern Manitoba.
“MindSet … will transform how patients and providers access, and are informed by, health data,” Zarychanski said at the platform announcement.
UM tops world for highly cited papers in antibiotics
An analysis of the 100 most-cited papers in the field of antibiotics and antimicrobials shows that UM has more contributions than any other educational institution in the world.
The study, published in the journal Antibiotics, found that UM professors were linked to five of the 100 most-cited papers of all time in the field.
“There has been a high level of excellence at the University of Manitoba for a very long time,” said Dr. Anand Kumar, professor of internal medicine, medical microbiology/infectious diseases and pharmacology/therapeutics.
An influential 2006 paper by Kumar, demonstrating that the faster a patient with septic shock is treated with antibiotics, the better their survival, ranks seventh on the Top 100 list.
The 33rd-most cited paper was authored in 2001 by UM faculty, including Dr. Nick Anthonisen. It showed the benefits of giving antibiotics to patients with exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Dr. Eric Bow, professor of internal medicine, co-authored two papers on the list, ranked 49th and 58th. Both are guidelines for using antimicrobial agents in cancer patients with neutropenia (a low level of a type of white blood cell).
A 1981 paper by former UM professor Dr. Marc Gurwith was the first to describe antibiotic-associated clostridium difficile colitis, a serious cause of hospital-acquired diarrhea. That paper ranks 73rd for citations.