WCH CONNECTJanuary 27, 2020

Looking ahead to a new year of research at WCRI

  • January 27, 2020
  • BY Sarah Warr

As we begin a new year (and decade) at Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI), we are reflecting on our many achievements in 2019 and looking ahead as we embark on a new decade of groundbreaking research.

Over the past year, our research has made a meaningful impact in addressing the most pressing issues facing our patients and health system. This year, we will continue to support the execution of our hospital’s strategy with new research that enhances clinical practice, reimagines healthcare delivery, improves health equity and transforms how patients access their care.

In 2019, we saw a 20 per cent increase in research funding and achieved over twice the national average success rate for the past three Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) project grant competitions. For the eighth consecutive year, we ranked as one of Canada’s Top 40 research hospitals – a testament to our commitment to world-class research and innovation. Media outlets once again sought out our scientists’ expertise on the latest health research and news – reaching audiences both here in Canada and countries around the world. Scientists, fellows and other research staff also gave 385 presentations in 2019 – further extending the impact of WCRI’s research.

Our internationally recognized programs of research, such as the Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit, continue to have a major global impact in improving health outcomes. The research generated from these established programs is transforming how care is delivered by developing new strategies to inform disease prevention and treatment recommendations worldwide.  

We would like to also congratulate our world-class scientists who received awards and accolades for their contributions this past year, including a Canada Research Chair, Polanyi Prize, Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Society of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Distinguished Fellow Award from the International Association of Forensic Nurses, Emerging Leader Dean’s Alumni Award, promotions at the University of Toronto and appointments to CIHR Advisory Boards. These accomplishments reflect the high caliber of our work and its widespread impact.

2019 was also marked by important research advances. Publications from our scientists discovered that women with inflammatory bowel disease were at greater risk for perinatal mental illness, disease labels influenced patients’ treatment decisions, low levels of arsenic exposure may be linked to breast cancer and other influential findings across a variety of health specialties. Dr. Steven Narod’s work on mammography and breast cancer was also recognized by The BMJ as one of five key publications to mark the decade.

In addition, we published our annual research and innovation report – We are Women’s: Research + Innovation Revolutionized, which showcased how our teams at WCRI and WIHV are working together to find novel solutions that have the power to revolutionize healthcare. The stories share the real-world impact of our discoveries as we pursue our vision for a healthier and more equitable world.  

Looking ahead to 2020, we are excited to embark on a new collaboration with our colleagues at the Women’s Health Research Institute in British Columbia and the Women & Children’s Health Research Institute in Alberta. This collaboration will allow us to bring attention to the health gaps faced by women and develop solutions to address these inequalities through integrated fundraising and research initiatives. Together we will begin a national conversation to enhance women’s health and women’s health research across Canada.

Addressing how healthcare and health research for men and women differ, we will be promoting the use of new and updated SGBA+ (sex- and gender-based analysis plus) resources. We are undertaking a novel process to ensure that all WCRI scientists and trainees apply these tools within their research – from design to measurement, analysis and implementation – to ensure that both biology (sex) and society (gender) are acknowledged and taken into consideration in every project.

We also recently opened applications for our annual Summer Student Research Program, which is now in its 17th year. Last year, we set a goal to improve diversity and equity within the program by hiring and supporting students who identify with groups that have been historically underrepresented in health research. In 2020, about 20 per cent of our summer student positions are targeted towards students who identify with these groups to enhance excellence and ensure fairness, while broadening the scope of health research inquiry to better address health disparities.

New trainee positions, including postdoctoral fellowships in transgender health and aging, also provide unique opportunities for WCRI to serve as a leader in tackling the gaps facing both underserved and marginalized populations, as well as an aging population that is rapidly growing. Increasing our capacity for research in these areas will allow our teams to develop solutions to respond to the diverse health needs of the communities we serve.

We look forward to working with all of you over this upcoming year as we continue to advance health research and outcomes to improve health for all for a healthier and more equitable world.


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