Supporting health through research and education.

Grant Recipients » 2019

The Manitoba Medical Service Foundation has been awarding Research Grants to researchers since 1971, and over $15.1 million has been donated to furthering this cause, with over $21.6 million provided in support of all awards.

Go to Previous Awards Annual Brochures to view previous year's awards. Contact the Administrative Assistant for information on awards prior to 2009.

Please Note: Institutional Costs are not eligible expenses for MMSF Grants and Awards funding.

Dr. Ramzi Helewa – Enhancing Communication and Reducing the Need for Repeat Endoscopy between Gastroenterologists and Surgeons, A Mixed Methods Analysis – $24,500

  • PhotoDr. Ramzi Helewa

Award icon$24,500

Repeat preoperative colonoscopy (visualizing the inside of the colon with a camera) is a common practice for patients undergoing elective colorectal surgery for large polyps and colorectal cancer.

Repeat colonoscopies are often unnecessary and can have a negative effect on patient care, since they delay time to treatment. They also negatively impact the health care system by increasing the wait times for accessing limited colonoscopy resources.

Physicians want to make clinical decisions based on evidence to ensure the best care for patients and responsible use of health care resources. The aim of this research is to determine repeat endoscopy rates and factors contributing to repeat preoperative colonoscopies in patients undergoing elective colorectal surgery in Manitoba.

We will use an innovative research approach. First, to determine the key factors leading to repeat endoscopy and the communication techniques between gastroenterologists and surgeons, we will conduct and analyze recorded interviews to uncover important common themes. Approximately 15 general surgeons and 15 gastroenterologists will be invited to participate.

Secondly, we will conduct a systematic chart review of one thousand patients who underwent elective colorectal surgery at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba. We will determine the key factors impacting the clinician’s decision for repeat preoperative endoscopy.

Determining the repeat endoscopy rate allows us to identify factors that can be targeted for improvement, minimize patient’s time commitment and stress, and improve the timeliness of care and resource utilization.

Our goal is to develop evidence-informed strategies to help improve the first colonoscopy, build high-performance working relationships between surgeons and gastroenterologists, and improve health care system efficiencies.

  • Dr. Ramzi Helewa – BSc (Science) University of Manitoba 2004; MD (Medicine) University of Manitoba 2008; BSc (Medicine) University of Manitoba 2008; MSC (Surgery) University of Manitoba 2012; FRCSC (General Surgery) University of Manitoba 2014; FRCSC (Colorectal Surgery) University of Manitoba 2016

    Assistant Professor, Surgery, University of Manitoba

Dylan MacKay – The Impact of Diet on Frailty and Chronic Kidney Disease Outcomes from The CanFIT Study – $31,000

  • PhotoDr. Dylan MacKay

Award icon$31,000

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is common in older adults. While the overall rate of CKD is around 13 per cent, it’s 25 per cent in people older than 65.

Those who are older and have CKD are more likely to be frail. Frailty is a grouping of features like tiredness, weakness, and slowness. People who have CKD have a diet that can be very limiting, which often leads them to not get enough calories and protein.

We think that a lack of energy and protein intake can increase the risk of bad outcomes in individuals with CKD, including frailty, falls, disability, hospitalization and death. It is also likely that certain eating patterns may increase the chance of becoming frail, while others may protect against frailty.

This project will measure what people are eating in an ongoing study. This study is currently taking place in four Canadian hospitals. At this point, researchers have measured health-related outcomes in almost 600 people. They are continuing to follow and measure the health of those individuals over the next few years.

In this project, we will measure what participants are eating and determine whether what they are eating is related to their health (including frailty). Results from this project will be used to inform future diet-related interventions to treat or prevent frailty in CKD, and they may lead to changes in dietary recommendations made to patients with CKD.

  • Dr. Dylan MacKay – BSc (Biochemistry/Nutrition) Memorial University 2006; MSc (Biochemistry) Memorial University 2008; PhD (Human Nutritional Sciences) University of Manitoba 2014

    Assistant Professor, Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba

    Adjunct Professor, Food and Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba

    Scientist, Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba

Lyle McKinnon – Role of IL2 Family Cytokines in the Female Genital Tract in Protection Against HIV Acquisition – $30,000

  • PhotoDr. Lyle McKinnon

Award icon$30,000

There is an urgent global need to improve HIV prevention, particularly for young women in sub-Saharan Africa who are highly susceptible to acquiring the virus, and in whom a large proportion of new infections occur.

We have shown previously that the concentration of small messenger proteins call cytokines, which play a critical role in immune responses, are highly predictive of the risk of HIV infection in young women when found in the female genital tract.

Most of the cytokines implicated are involved in inflammation, an important part of normal host defense that is exploited by HIV to gain entry into the body.

We carried out a large study of nearly 800 women sampled and assessed for new HIV infection over time, and we identified cytokines associated with decreased rates of HIV acquisition. These cytokines (called IL-2 and IL-15) may play a protective role against HIV at the site of virus exposure.

This proposal will investigate some of the potential reasons these cytokines may be protective, and why a related cytokine called soluble IL2-receptor appears to be associated with increased HIV acquisition risk.

Potential mechanisms include how these cytokines determine the balance of regulatory lymphocytes (which can reduce inflammation) and effector lymphocytes (which can promote inflammation) in the mucosa. A better understanding of the immune system in the body’s surfaces, where virus exposure occurs, may help to design better-rationale HIV prevention options for young women globally.

  • Dr. Lyle McKinnon – BSc (Biology) University of Winnipeg 2001; PhD (Medical Microbiology) University of Manitoba 2009; Postdoctoral Fellowship (HIV Immunology) University of Toronto 2013

    Assistant Professor, Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, University of Manitoba

    Senior Scientists (honorary), Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA)

    Visiting Lecturer, Department of Pathology, University of Nairobi

    Visiting Scientists, JC Wilt Infectious Diseases Research Centre, Public Health Agency of Canada

Paul McLaren – Genetic Regulation of the Vaginal Immune and Microbial Environment and Its Impact on HIV Susceptibility – $31,850

  • PhotoDr. Paul McLaren

Award icon$31,850

The aim of this project is to identify the human genetic and environmental factors that regulate inflammation and healthy bacteria in the female reproductive tract (FRT).

Studies in women at high risk for HIV infection have shown that elevated levels of inflammation (a key component of the immune response) and loss of healthy bacteria (dysbiosis) in the FRT can increase the risk of HIV.

Although the mechanisms to explain why some people have comparatively high levels of inflammation or dysbiosis are not fully understood, one likely contributor is their genetic background.

Studies of healthy populations have demonstrated that the immune response in the bloodstream is genetically controlled. However, it is still unknown if the same is true in distinct parts of the body (such as the FRT) and how these genetic factors might impact HIV susceptibility.

Similarly, what factors regulate vaginal dysbiosis and why some people are more likely to develop it than others is not understood. Through this project, we will investigate how human genetic variation shapes inflammation and dysbiosis in the FRT.

These findings could potentially lead to development of novel immune therapies by identifying key processes involved in HIV acquisition and in screening populations to identify individuals with high genetic risk of inflammation for targeted interventions. With greater than 75,000 HIV-infected Canadians and more than 2,000 new infections each year, improved understanding of HIV transmission and how to prevent it are crucial to ending this major public health concern.

  • Dr. Paul McLaren – BSc Hons. (Microbiology/Genetics) University of Manitoba 1999; PhD (Microbiology / Genetics) University of Manitoba 2008

    Adjunct Professor Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, University of Manitoba

    Research Scientist, National Lab for HIV Genetics, Public Health Agency of Canada

Marcus C. Ng – Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation in SUper REfractory STatus EPilepticus (SURESTEP): Pilot Study of a Novel Therapy in a Medical Emergency – $32,000

  • PhotoDr. Marcus C. Ng

Award icon$32,000

An epileptic seizure will strike one in 10 people at some point in their lifetime. Seizures do not discriminate based on gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or creed. When a seizure does not stop – even in the face of a medically induced coma – this is the emergency of super refractory status epilepticus (SRSE).

In spite of medications and high powered intravenous sedatives, more than 50 per cent of SRSE patients die and over 75 per cent of SRSE survivors are left with severe functional disability. As a result, the medical field is crying out for a novel treatment against SRSE.

This study (SURESTEP) tests whether transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is effective against SRSE. tDCS has been shown as well-tolerated, safe, and effective against other types of epilepsy, but it has never been studied in SRSE. We propose applying tDCS in the safe and controlled environment of the intensive care unit (ICU) while SRSE patients undergo real-time monitoring of their brainwave activity during medically induced coma.

If SURESTEP shows that tDCS can slow down or stop continuous ongoing seizure in SRSE, then medically induced comas may be lifted in patients who otherwise endure prolonged and complicated ICU stays. These hospitalizations are incredibly expensive; for example, a recent single two-month ICU stay cost over $800,000 alone. It follows that tDCS offers not only individual health benefits, but also the prospect of alleviating a significant burden on our health care system.

  • Dr. Marcus C. Ng – BMSc (Medical Science) University of Alberta 2003; MD (STIR) (Medicine) University of Alberta 2007; FRCPC (Neurology) Memorial University 2012; CSCN (EEG) (Epilepsy) Harvard University 2014

    Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine/Neurology, University of Manitoba

    Adjunct Professor, Biomedical Engineering, University of Manitoba

Joanne Parsons – An Unconventional Classroom: The Effect of Mandatory Hours in the School Weight Room on Student Participation in Resistance Training Activities – $23,000

  • PhotoDr. Joanne Parsons

Award icon$23,000

Losing muscle mass and strength can lead to frailty, and a higher risk of disease and injury, so it is important to build up muscle tissue when young.

Activities like bodyweight exercises (e.g. push-ups) or lifting weights are very effective. However, participation rates are low, especially among girls and women.

In an effort to get more young people interested in muscle-building activities, a local school requires that Grade 11 and 12 students complete six hours of supervised exercise in the weight room as part of their physical education classes.

This is a new, unique program, so the effects have not been studied. The purpose of this project is to see if students who have to complete a minimum number of weight room hours choose to spend additional time doing resistance training, and whether time spent in those activities is different between the sexes. We will also compare results to a school which does not have required weight room use.

We will use students’ physical activity logs to collect this information. Building muscle when young is important for everyone, as a lack of strength is related to disease, injury, and even an increased risk of dying.

This study will tell us if making resistance training a requirement results in students choosing that activity more often, and it will lead to more studies to see whether youth who had mandatory weight room hours are more likely to participate in resistance training, maintain muscle mass, and experience good health as they age.

  • Dr. Joanne Parsons – BSc (Zoology) Brandon University 1995; BMR(PT) (Physiotherapy) University of Manitoba 2003; MSc (Kinesiology) University of Manitoba 2009; PhD (Applied Health Sciences) University of Manitoba 2010

    Assistant Professor, Physical Therapy, College of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Manitoba

Jamie Penner RN – Exploring Family Caregiver Ambivalence Towards Self-Care Behaviours – $20,000 (MMSF $10,000 / WF $10,000)

  • PhotoJamie Penner, RN

Award icon$20,000

Families play an important role in the care of people with cancer at home. While rewarding, the demands of caregiving can have a negative impact on family caregivers’ (FCs) wellbeing. To protect their health and continue to provide care, FCs’ self-care is essential.

Previous work involved the development of a physical activity intervention as one way to address the self-care needs of FCs. FCs in this study found the intervention appropriate and useful, and they were able to engage in their physical activity plans.

However, findings also revealed that some FCs had mixed feelings about taking time to engage in self-care. This ambivalence may be influenced by FCs’ perceptions of how supportive patients are about FCs’ self-care. Therefore, patients’ perspectives of FCs’ engagement in self-care and the ways in which they communicate with FCs about self-care needs to be examined.

Twenty patients with cancer and their FCs will be invited to participate in interviews to share their perspectives about FC engagement in self-care behaviours, as well as describe their thoughts regarding having discussions about self-care.

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to explore the way that patient-FC dynamics influence FCs’ self-care behaviours. Findings will help to inform future work aimed at enhancing communication between patients and FCs and encouraging patients to give FCs “permission” to engage in self-care. As FCs are kept healthier, they will provide care at home for longer periods and reduce their risk of becoming patients themselves, thus reducing health care costs over the long term.

  • Jamie Penner RN – BSc (Physical Education) University of Manitoba 1997; BN (Nursing) University of Manitoba 2002; MN (Nursing) University of Manitoba 2009

    Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, University of Manitoba

    Research Affiliate, Centre on Aging, University of Manitoba

    Research Affiliate, Riverview Health Centre

Ashish Shah – Novel Methods for Selecting Appropriate Patients Undergoing Trans-Catheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI): A Pilot Project – $30,000

  • PhotoDr. Ashish Shah

Award icon$30,000

The aortic valve connects the pumping chamber (left ventricle) to the aorta, supplying blood to the body. In the healthy person, the heart pumps three to five liters per minute at rest, increasing to eight to 15 liters per minute with exercise.

Narrowing of the aortic valve (aortic stenosis) is the most common valve disease. The normal aortic valve should be the size of a toonie. When the aortic valve narrows down to the size of a dime with increasing age, it obstructs blood flow to the body, resulting in shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness or even death.

In current day practice, as we are unable to calculate cardiac output, we rely on alternative markers measured on ultrasound assessment of the valve. We commonly see discrepancies between various parameters, raising concerns with the precise assessment of aortic valve disease, and as a result patient selection.

Until advancement of minimally invasive aortic valve replacement for surgically unfit/high-risk patients has demonstrated promising results, surgical valve replacement is the only option. The number of these procedures is increasing rapidly. This novel valve technology is very expensive and associated with serious complications. Despite successful valve replacement through a minimally invasive approach, nearly 30 per cent of patients die within 12 months, raising concern with our patient selection process.

It is crucial that we identify patients who may or may not benefit after minimally invasive aortic valve replacement. In this pilot project, we wish to assess non-invasively obtained hemodynamic parameters and non-targeted biomarker assessment in patients undergoing aortic valve replacement to identify outcome-associated markers.

  • Dr. Ashish Shah – MBBS (Graduate Medical School) Gujarat University 1996; MD (Internal Medicine) Gujarat University 1999; MRCP (Medicine) Royal College of Physicians 2004; MD (Cardiovascular Medicine) King's College London 2009

    Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine, University of Manitoba

    Interventional Cardiologist, St. Boniface Hospital

Rusty Souleymanov – HIV Prevention, Health Care and Social Program Access among Marginalized Gay, Bisexual, Two-Spirit, and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men in Manitoba – $30,000 (MMSF $15,000 / WF $15,000)

  • PhotoDr. Rusty Souleymanov

Award icon$30,000

In Manitoba, HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact on gay, bisexual, queer, Two-Spirit, and other men who have sex with men (hereafter referred to as MSM).

However, very little is known about the sexual health and other health-related practices of marginalized MSM in Manitoba, including their access to HIV prevention and other health promotion and care services.

The proposed study seeks to examine the sexual and other health-related practices and behaviours of marginalized MSM in Manitoba. We’re particular focusing on how social oppressions affect their health and wellbeing and the ways in which they access and experience HIV prevention and care, as well as other health services and social programs.

Quantitative data (an online survey) will be collected first, followed by qualitative data collection (focus groups and sharing circles). The online survey will gather data on the demographics, health and health-related practices, sexual behaviours, perception of HIV risk, and use of HIV prevention and health care among a sample of sexually active MSM (n= 500) in Manitoba.

Participants will then be selected for interviews (n=50) to contextualize the findings from the survey. Findings from this study will offer a more nuanced understanding of the barriers and facilitators to health care access and utilization among diverse groups of MSM in Manitoba. They will also be used to develop culturally sensitive health care services and HIV-prevention messaging, campaigns, and interventions for this population.

  • Dr. Rusty Souleymanov – BSc Hons. (Psychology) University of Toronto 2009; MSW (Social Work) University of Toronto 2012; PhD Collaborative Program (Public Health Policy) University of Toronto 2018; PhD (Social Work) University of Toronto 2018

    Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba

Michael Yamashita – Characterizing Thoracic Aortic Disease in Manitoba: Prevalence and Follow-up – $25,000

  • PhotoDr. Michael Yamashita

Award icon$25,000

Thoracic aortic disease (TAD) is a condition where the largest blood vessel in the body, the aorta, gets big enough to the point it could tear or rupture. This can be fatal.

A preliminary study has shown that about 3,200 Manitobans have been diagnosed with TAD but only 1,200 patients have been referred to the Manitoba Thoracic Aortic Diseases (MTAD) Clinic. The reasons for this are unclear, but they’re important to understand to decrease preventable deaths. On top of this, our previous work demonstrates a lower number of diagnosed cases in females and in rural Manitoba. We wish to understand why this is occurring.

We will use databases to understand TAD in Manitoba by determining at what point in their disease process patients are having fatal complications. We will also use radiology imaging data to determine whether patients with TAD are getting the appropriate follow-up tests.

We will study patients who are not being referred to the MTAD Clinic and attempt to find out why they are not being referred. We also wish to understand why rural Manitoba has fewer cases of TAD compared to Winnipeg. These results will allow us to better identify Manitobans with TAD so that they can be referred for the life-saving treatments that they need.

Ultimately, this study will help us better understand TAD within Manitoba. This will aid in predicting future health care needs for TAD in Manitoba and improve the treatment of Manitobans with TAD.

  • Dr. Michael Yamashita – BSc (Chemistry) University of McGill 2001; MD CM (Medicine) University of McGill 2006; MPH (Quantitative Methods) Harvard University 2009

    Assistant Professor, Surgery, University of Manitoba

    Cardiac Surgeon, Cardiac Sciences Program, St. Boniface Hospital

    Director of Complex Thoracic Aortic Surgery, St. Boniface Hospital

    Surgical Director of Heart Failure Program - ECMO Program, St. Boniface Hospital

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