Patty Wellborn



An MRI of a brain after trauma

As many as 92 per cent of women who experience violence at the hands of a partner may experience brain injury, which can lead to chronic physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms.

Lingering trauma from a brain injury can increase challenges facing survivors of intimate partner violence in child custody and access cases, according to new research from UBC Okanagan.

Dr. Paul van Donkelaar, a Professor in the Faculty of Health and Social Development, oversaw the research conducted as part of UBC’s Supporting Survivors of Abuse and Brain Injury Through Research (SOAR) project. Researchers explored the ethics of how a woman with a brain injury, sustained through partner violence, might be treated in Canada’s justice system.

“A brain injury will contribute to the way the person behaves in fairly predictable ways, and that needs to be considered during legal proceedings between survivors and perpetrators of intimate partner violence,” he says. “This paper is the first of its kind that looks at how the legal system might use a brain injury diagnosis in parenting disputes, and how women are unfairly treated—including during a custodial challenge.”

As many as 92 per cent of women who experience violence at the hands of a partner may experience brain injury, which can lead to chronic and sometimes debilitating physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, memory issues, trouble with sleep and difficulty regulating emotions.

The research, published in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, was conducted by Quinn Boyle, a doctoral student working with Dr. Judy Illes at Neuroethics Canada. While there have been recent improvements when it comes to mental health issues in custody disputes, Boyle says this is not the case with a brain injury.

“If a lawyer raised the diagnosis of depression, anxiety or PTSD as a reason why a woman would be unfit to parent, they would be scoffed at,” says Boyle. “For the most part, basic mental health disorders are no longer used against a woman during a parenting dispute where intimate partner violence is involved because evidence has shown that they can be managed effectively.”

There is a lot of overlap between mental health symptoms and those of a brain injury, he adds.

“If we’re now saying there is a likelihood of brain injury, we may have a situation in the Canadian justice system where that brain injury is used against the woman during a legal challenge for custody of her children,” he says. “A lawyer could hypothetically say the brain injury is a concern and that the woman is unfit to parent.” More specifically it is the lack of gold-standard treatment for brain injury that creates uncertainty about a woman’s recovery trajectory and timeline. It is this uncertainty that will likely be weaponized against women.

Current legislation and confidentiality laws surrounding health information leave these women vulnerable as the brain injury can be disclosed in court regardless of their preference, and also be critically examined and weaponized by opposing counsel. The lawyers interviewed unanimously expressed their strategy as opposing counsel would include using a brain injury to argue the mother is unfit to parent, as their professional duty is to represent the best interests of their client. This is despite them acknowledging it as abhorrent, immoral behaviour earlier in the interview.

Dr. Deana Simonetto, Assistant Professor with the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and co-author of the paper, says this research provides good insight into a family’s experience of parenting with a brain injury and what the legal system does in terms of parenting disputes.

“It’s important to think through how the legal system is structured and how women have been historically treated in parenting dispute cases,” she says. “We want to do the best for them, so our solutions need to change these structures. However, they are not easily changed.”

In a crime that is under-reported, and where there are often no witnesses, it’s already difficult for survivors of intimate partner violence to receive the supports they need. Given brain injury often goes unrecognized and undiagnosed, the challenges facing survivors are even greater.

“A brain injury can leave a person seeming out of sorts and confused. The police might think they are acting erratically, and interpret the behaviour as being caused by substance use or mental health issues, rather than a physical injury to the brain,” says Dr. Simonetto.

Current and previous SOAR research has focused on developing education and training for frontline workers—including police, paramedics and shelter workers—to better recognize and respond to brain injury from intimate partner violence.

The next step, says Dr. van Donkelaar, is to raise awareness in the legal system of brain injuries caused through intimate partner violence. This latest paper provides four recommendations, including training lawyers and judges about brain injury and its effect on survivors of intimate partner violence. The authors also propose organizations conduct brain injury assessments on survivors of intimate partner violence to prioritize allyship with medical experts who are willing and able to advocate for women in parenting disputes. Lastly, they recommend that women are offered complete transparency so they know how a brain injury diagnosis might be used against them in court.

“We need to work with the relevant agencies at the provincial levels—those that work with lawyers and judges—and help them recognize that brain injury is likely occurring in victims of intimate partner violence,” says Dr. van Donkelaar. “When a brain injury is involved, we need to better understand the injury and do the right thing both from a medical and legal perspective.”

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Young man using desktop pc at desk in home office

New UBCO research takes a closer look at the physiological changes that occur within the motor pathway from the brain to the muscle as a result of sleep deprivation.

Most people, whether they are shift workers, first responders, students, new parents or those working two jobs, have experienced feelings of fatigue through sleep deprivation. And many also know if they are overtired, even the simplest tasks may seem more difficult than usual.

Brian Dalton, an Assistant Professor in UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences, says despite the high prevalence of sleep deprivation, little is known about its effects on perceived and performance fatigability.

Perceived fatigability, he explains, refers to how a person feels about the amount of effort required to do a task, such as curling a dumbbell. It’s different than performance fatigability, which is an actual decline in the physical execution of a task. Both can be negatively impacted by lack of sleep, which raises important health, safety and performance concerns for sleep-deprived people.

Dr. Dalton and his team of researchers, including Dr. Chris McNeil and doctoral student Justine Magnuson, recently published an exploratory study that takes a closer look at the physiological changes that occur within the motor pathway from the brain to the muscle as a result of sleep deprivation.

“A person’s perception of the effort needed to perform a physically fatiguing task might be markedly different from that person’s true performance capacity,” says Dr. Dalton. “This is an important consideration given that work and daily life activities are typically carried out based on perceptions of effort and fatigue.”

The research was designed to independently assess excitability at the level of the brain and spinal cord during a fatiguing task after sleep deprivation, explains Dr. McNeil. The team also examined the effects of sleep deprivation on the actual performance—monitoring maximal strength of the muscles that bend the elbow and the capacity of the brain to drive these muscles maximally—and a person’s perceived fatigue.

Nine participants visited the lab in the late evening, remained onsite overnight and engaged in sedentary activities, such as reading and watching movies, until testing began about 25 hours from their reported wake time the previous day.

For the physically fatiguing task, participants completed a sustained, moderate-intensity elbow flexor contraction, like curling an arm with a dumbbell, for 20 minutes. Before, during and following the task, participants performed maximal effort contractions to test the capacity of their neuromuscular system, while also rating their perceived effort throughout the task.

On a separate day, the participants performed the same procedures but in a well-rested state. By comparing data across the two sessions, the researchers were able to determine the effects of sleep deprivation on the physically demanding task.

The researchers determined that performance-based measures were not affected by sleep deprivation, before, during or after the fatiguing task. However, sleep deprivation increased the perceptions of effort, task difficulty and overall fatigue—making the task seem more difficult than it is when well-rested. Therefore, a person’s perceived fatigability is different than their performance fatigability, especially when they are sleep deprived, adds Dr. McNeil.

“A person might be able to maintain their maximum strength when sleep deprived, but sustained or repetitive tasks can be more affected as motivation decreases and perception of fatigue increases,” he explains. “These findings could have important implications for workplace safety and everyday tasks.

“Despite our novel findings, owing to the limited sample size, further research is needed to investigate the relationship between the underlying mechanisms of fatigue and determine the potential functional consequences of the incongruent sleep deprived-related effects on performance and the perceived fatigability.”

The paper, published last fall in the European Journal of Sport Science, was supported by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

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seniors walking

UBC Okanagan health experts will explain how to embrace simple exercise and diet strategies to age well and prevent chronic diseases.

What: The Southern Medical Program presents MEDTalks: Health strategies to optimize aging and quality of life.
Who: UBC Clinical Instructor and Family Physician Dr. Janet Evans and UBC Professor Dr. Jonathan Little.
When: Wednesday, December 7, 7 to 8 pm.
Venue: UBC Clinical Academic Campus in Kelowna General Hospital, 2312 Pandosy Street. Virtual option also available.

As we grow older, changes in our body’s metabolism impact how we process the food we eat. Our metabolic health influences everything from exercise performance to weight fluctuations to the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle and diet can greatly impact metabolic health and increase vitality. However, with the overwhelming amount of information ready at the click of a mouse, the challenge is often determining what’s relevant and how to even get started.

Learn from UBC Okanagan health experts on how to embrace simple exercise and diet strategies into your daily life to age well and prevent chronic diseases.

Dr. Janet Evans is the Medical Director of CGB Medical and a family physician in Kelowna. She is also a Clinical Instructor with the UBC Faculty of Medicine and an Affiliate Clinician with the UBC Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management. In her practice, she continuously looks for strategies to improve health, as well as prevent and reverse disease in her patients. In partnership with a registered nurse, her interdisciplinary team developed a primary-care-based dietary program to manage chronic diseases without medication. Together, they work with community partners to improve physical functioning and improve health span (how well one lives) versus life span (how long one lives).

Dr. Jonathan Little is a Professor with UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Health and Social Development and an Investigator with the UBC Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management. After pursuing his master’s degree at the University of Saskatchewan focused on sports nutrition, Dr. Little completed his doctorate at McMaster University focusing on muscle metabolic adaptations to exercise in healthy humans and individuals with Type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Little’s research at UBC Okanagan focuses on optimizing diet and exercise strategies to prevent, treat and reverse chronic disease with a focus on Type 2 diabetes.

MEDTalks is a health education lecture series exploring current and emerging trends in medicine. Hosted by the Southern Medical Program at UBC Okanagan, researchers and health professionals share their insights and expertise on how to enhance your overall health.

The event is free and open to the public with in-person and virtual options available.

To register, or find out more, visit:

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A photo of graduating students throwing their hats

UBCO is hosting a unique fall graduation ceremony Thursday. Students who graduated in 2020 and 2021 will now have the opportunity to toss their caps in celebration like these students did in 2018.

They’re baaack!

This week UBC Okanagan’s campus will be filled with students, now alumni, who graduated and were celebrated with a virtual ceremony during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 600 are returning to campus to take part in a special ceremony on November 10. The event will recognize the accomplishments of those who didn’t have the chance to experience that iconic opportunity of crossing the stage to receive their degree at a live graduation.

This will be the first time UBC Okanagan has hosted a fall graduation ceremony and it’s a special event for those who graduated in 2020 and 2021, says UBCO Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dr. Lesley Cormack. Those graduates were surveyed and many indicated they were interested in coming back to campus for a make-up graduation ceremony.

“These are students who completed their studies during a particularly difficult and disconnected time,” Dr. Cormack says. “While UBC honoured our graduates during the height of the pandemic with virtual ceremonies, nothing can compare to the distinction of an in-person event, complete with student speakers and a gym full of proud family members.”

Each ceremony will be complete with speeches from students and special moments to recognize people who received honorary degrees during the pandemic.

Evangeline Saclamacis, who graduated with an applied sciences degree in 2021, is currently working with an international renewable power generation business in Vancouver. She says there are a lot of emotions flowing as she looks forward to returning to UBCO for the ceremony and connecting with former classmates.

“I’m excited to see how the campus has changed since I was last there, and also inspired to see how much I have changed since I first started as a student in 2016,” she says. “UBCO was a place that not only allowed me to grow as an individual, but also allowed me to connect with people with similar aspirations and goals. I’m really excited to return and walk the stage, closing the chapter on my bachelor’s degree.”

Aneesha Thouli, who graduated from UBC Okanagan’s Health and Exercise Sciences program in 2020, is now back at school and is currently a third-year medical student in the Southern Medical Program based at UBCO.

“While this ceremony will look different than any of us expected, I’m grateful we have the chance finally to celebrate,” she says. “I think having been alumni for a few years gives us a unique perspective on the ceremony overall and gives us an opportunity to celebrate our successes in a totally different way than previous classes.”

Three ceremonies will take place on November 10, the first starting at 8:30 am with School of Engineering graduates. Following that, graduates in the School of Education, Faculty of Management and Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science will cross the stage. The final ceremony takes place at 1:30 pm where graduates in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Health and Social Development and the Faculty of Creative and Critical studies will be celebrated.

Rain Inaba graduated with an undergraduate degree in microbiology and remained at UBCO to begin his master’s in biochemistry and molecular biology. Inaba is excited to reconnect with the many friends he made while living in residences and says Thursday’s ceremony will allow his fellow graduates to relive past moments and finally celebrate with their families, friends and faculty members.

“With these ceremonies, alumni from all faculties are welcomed back to the campus we all called home for many years,” he says. “This is a day of deserved festivities and a moment of recognition for our graduates. Let us make the ceremonies loud and memorable for each of our classmates as they cross the stage.”

As they have already technically been conferred as UBCO graduates and are officially UBC alumni, these ceremonies will be slightly different from spring convocation. However, Dr. Cormack says every student, especially those who persevered with their studies online, should enjoy the moments of being celebrated at their own graduation ceremony.

“While different, these ceremonies will include many of the traditions of graduation to honour the profound achievements and celebrate the resiliency of these students,” Dr. Cormack says. “We’re proud to have these incredibly engaged alumni who are going out of their way to come back for their graduation. I’m looking forward to congratulating each and every one of them in person.”

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A photo of a student helping an elderly person

UBCO is one of the first universities in BC to join the global Age Friendly University network, an organization that brings learning institutions committed to age-friendly programs and policies together to discuss policies and ideas.

With more than 85 per cent of Canadians saying that being able to age in their own homes and communities is important, researchers at UBC Okanagan have taken this statistic seriously.

Dr. Jenn Jakobi is a Professor with UBCO’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences and Director of the campus’s Aging in Place Research Cluster. As part of this initiative, Dr. Jakobi spearheaded an application to join the global Age Friendly University network.

That network, established in 2012 by Dublin City University, brings learning institutions together that are committed to age-friendly programs and policies. As one of eight Canadian universities in this network, and the first in BC, UBCO will have the opportunity to learn about emerging age-friendly efforts and contribute to an international educational movement of social, personal and economic benefit to students of all ages.

Dr. Jakobi explains why keeping pace with our aging population is important and how membership with the Age Friendly University global network will make a difference to our community.

Can you explain the mandate behind the Age Friendly University global network?

The Age Friendly University (AFU) global network was established on a set of 10 principles aimed at improving the age-friendliness of the policies, programs and spaces on campuses across the globe. Established by an international, interdisciplinary team led by Dublin City University, the AFU principles reflect the distinctive contributions that institutions of higher education can make in responding to the interests and needs of an aging population as well as the important and potentially underappreciated roles older adults play on campus. Launched by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in 2012, the 10 AFU principles have been adopted by institutions in Ireland, the UK, the US, Canada, and beyond. UBC Okanagan is the first in British Columbia.

The AFU network asks members to evaluate their institutions on the 10 AFU principles and to seek out ways to improve and nurture these principles. Joining the AFU network provides institutions with a guiding framework for distinguishing and evaluating how they can shape age-friendly programs and practices while continuously identifying growth opportunities.

Now that UBC Okanagan has joined this network, what changes on the campus? And in the community?

UBC Okanagan has a strong research program in aging-related topics across disciplines and is already well on its way to fulfilling the AFU principles. Joining this global network of institutions committed to a campus inclusive of learners, employees and community members of all ages allows UBCO to formalize and share how we are a campus community committed to the inclusion of all people.

The AFU principles can be applied beyond the realm of “age” and speak to the overall importance of diversity, accessibility and inclusivity in higher learning—ultimately improving the campus experience for all.

In the 2014 Aspire Report, UBC Okanagan identified community engagement and involvement as important priorities moving forward. As the university works toward these goals, age friendliness must be a priority considering the demographics of the region as a “retirement hub”. Statistics indicate the Okanagan is greyer than the rest of Canada, and this cohort of citizens is highly active and engaged.

Older adults represent the largest group of attendees from outside the university at community-oriented campus events and engagement of older adults is already embedded across research and community outreach. With the goal of supporting collaborative networks, UBCO will explore and develop ways to elevate existing programs and expand partnerships that support older adults in our community.

What are the goals of UBCO’s Aging in Place Research Cluster? Are there specific research projects related to this initiative?

The Aging in Place Research Cluster at UBCO aims to support the needs and choices of older adults through interdisciplinary research for the development of knowledge to support in-home approaches including supportive technologies and physical activity for maintaining independence and wellbeing.

Our research team is committed to participatory research approaches that include older adults throughout the process to ensure that research questions, engagement and results are relevant and readily translatable to real solutions that improve the experience of aging. Our group, as well as many other UBCO researchers and groups including the Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention and The Age-Link Society, work hard to actively share research findings and engage with older adults in the form of lecture series and events.

People might think a university is an institution just for young students. Does being an Age Friendly University change that?

Acknowledgement of the diversity of the student body, but also of all the other individuals that keep a university going from day to day, is important.

On our campus we have older students, faculty, staff and members of the community that contribute to the campus experience. We also know that diversity, including diversity in age, improves the learning experience for everyone.

According to our most recent survey, UBCO students and faculty overwhelmingly agreed that older learners added significant value to their classroom experiences. Despite this, we also heard from many older students, faculty and staff that they felt alone or isolated on campus because much of the campus culture is centred around young people. Our hope is to leverage the AFU framework to address this feeling and ensure that UBCO is a welcoming and inclusive community for all people.

In addition, we hope to shed light on campus accessibility. Campus accessibility is not only important for older learners and visitors, but also for improving the experience of students, faculty and staff of all ages and abilities.

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A photo of Dr. Rob Shaw playing wheelchair tennis

Dr. Rob Shaw, one of Canada’s top wheelchair tennis players, is UBC Okanagan’s 2022 recipient of the Governor General Gold Medal.

Some might think it’s a bit ironic that the winner of UBC Okanagan’s Governor General Gold Medal is already a gold-medal-winning athlete.

But Dr. Rob Shaw, who graduates this week with his Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies, can quickly explain how much hard work goes into earning an honour of this calibre. Dr. Shaw is a wheelchair tennis player who won a gold medal at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Peru. He is the highest-ranked member of the Canadian wheelchair tennis team and last summer he competed in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

He didn’t get there without a lot of hard work. The same could be said of his accomplishment at UBCO.

Dr. Shaw is the highest-ranked graduate student at UBCO, an honour that has earned him the Governor General’s gold medal.

“Looking at past winners I can’t help but feel humbled by this award,” he says. “Five years ago, my supervisor and I committed to completing a PhD that would make an impact beyond the silos of academia and extend into the community to benefit people living with spinal cord injuries. I’d like to think that this award reflects that we achieved that goal.”

While earning his doctoral degree, his research focused on how peer mentorship can improve the health and wellbeing of people who have incurred a spinal cord injury. While his supervising professor Dr. Kathleen Martin Ginis describes his research as exemplary, she notes he has also become an internationally respected scientist and a community leader.

Throughout his degree, Dr. Martin Ginis says he has embraced an interdisciplinary spirit, but his impact extends beyond the traditional walls of academia and into the community. His leadership and expertise are frequently sought out by local, national and international organizations, and he has an unwavering commitment to examining and resolving pressing societal issues.

“An excellent scientist can produce a lot of great research. But an excellent scientific leader finds the potential in people and has the courage to inspire and support them. Rob has achieved excellence and acclaim as both a scientist and scientific leader,” she adds. “Through his research and leadership, and his outstanding global citizenship, Rob is making the world a better place.”

Dr. Shaw, however, says this award is only possible thanks to the support from Dr. Martin Ginis and others he has worked with along his doctoral journey.

“I am extremely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish, and I owe this award to her, my lab mates, my community partners, and most importantly to my participants who allowed me into their world so that I could try to make a real difference in their lives.”

Dr. Shaw has been described by Dr. Martin Ginis as an outspoken champion of equity, diversity and inclusion.

“He consistently reminds and challenges all of us to think about inclusion and accessibility in how we conduct and share our research with others.”

The importance of inclusion is also reflected in both the name and the criteria of the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation. This week it will be presented to UBC Okanagan student Azzah Al Zahra Farras, who just completed her Bachelor of Arts with a joint major in philosophy, political science and economics.

Shortly after arriving at UBCO in 2018, Farras established a campus-wide chapter of Amnesty International and began hosting conferences and events to examine local and international issues. She coordinated weekly sessions where students could discuss international injustices, while creating a safe space for marginalized students to share their stories and discuss opportunities for students to engage in change.

“Through the Amnesty International chapter, we created opportunities for students on campus to share issues about human rights, protection, justice and conflicts that they care about from their own country,” says Farras, explaining the students had engaging conversations about many issues including the farmer’s protest in India, Tibetan rights to self-determination, the Palestinian rights, and democratic rights for people living in Thailand.

“I am surrounded by a very international community at UBCO and it’s something we should all look forward to in universities,” she adds. “I have a lot of friends from different countries that support me and also celebrate my culture and my beliefs and values as I celebrate theirs. That’s what I’m really happy about.”

In September 2021, she joined the UBC Okanagan Library team as a student representative of the UBC’s Inclusion Action Plan and Indigenous Strategic Plan, where she independently developed projects to highlight Arab, Muslim, Asian, Indigenous and Black voices in literature and academia. Farras built multiple book displays at the library and designed digital LibGuide sites that list resources based on each theme, granting students information and access regardless of their location during COVID-19.

Farras recalls the day when a student approached the service desk and tearfully thanked the library staff saying how encouraging it was to see students with hijabs represented at the library and it helped make her feel included.

“For me, this was a full-circle moment,” says Farras. “Although I did feel isolated in my first year, I was able to change that situation for younger hijab-wearing students. I believe these efforts transpired important representation at UBCO. It raises important conversations on institutionalized racism and discrimination against marginalized groups. I am honoured to be a part of that shift.”

UBCO Librarian Christian Isbister says Farras worked tirelessly to engage the campus community and bring awareness to diverse voices in the library collection. Her book displays were always popular and well-received, and her work on the Book Fairies project helped encourage reading of more diverse authors, including Indigenous, Black, Asian and Arab writers.

“Azzah has dedicated herself to the promotion of inclusion on our campus,” says Isbister. “At the library, she demonstrated great leadership in developing initiatives to highlight diverse voices in our collection, and foster a sense of welcome and belonging for students belonging to marginalized communities. It was a pleasure to get to work with Azzah, and her presence in the library will be greatly missed.”

Also, this week, Anna Bernath, who just completed her Bachelor of Science degree with concentrations in biochemistry and molecular biology, was awarded the Pushor Mitchell Gold Medal Leadership Prize.

The $10,000 prize is the largest donor-funded award available to graduating Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science students. The award recognizes a student who has excelled academically and demonstrated leadership while earning their degree.

Bernath joined Dr. Andis Klegeris’ Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology Lab as a volunteer research assistant, and contributed upwards of 250 hours in the facility. She also conducted research studying the role of microglia—immune cells of the brain—in Alzheimer’s disease. When not in the lab or studying, she worked as a teaching assistant, acting as a liaison between faculty and students.

“I have immense gratitude for the faculty, staff and UBCO colleagues who created invaluable opportunities for growth and leadership, and I hope I made a lasting impact on junior students and excited them about research endeavours,” says Bernath.

The Pushor Mitchell LLP Gold Medal Leadership Award has been presented to a student at UBCO since 2009, explains Andrew Brunton, Managing Partner at Pushor Mitchell.

“Pushor Mitchell is very pleased to see another deserving student receive this award,” says Brunton.  “Our firm has been supporting this prestigious award at UBC Okanagan for 13 years now, presented to students based on both academic excellence and community leadership. We applaud this year’s recipient Anna Bernath and wish her luck with her career in neuroscience research.”

Farras and Bernath will be recognized as they cross the stage at Thursday’s convocation while Dr. Shaw will receive his medal Friday morning.

Other University of British Columbia medal (top of class) winners are:

  • UBC Medal in Arts: Abhineeth Adiraju
  • UBC Medal in Education: Anica McIntosh
  • UBC Medal in Engineering: Rachel May
  • UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Amelia Ford
  • UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Kenedy Olsen
  • UBC Medal in Management: Jo-Elle Craig
  • UBC Medal in Media Studies: Jordan Pike
  • UBC Medal in Nursing: Camryn McCrystal
  • UBC Medal in Science: Megan Greenwood

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A photo of Kate, Barry and Kieran McBride

Kate, Barry (centre) and Kieran McBride are three generations of the McBride family with strong ties to UBC Okanagan. Photo credit: Chris McBride.

A family who plays together, stays together. But what about a family who studies together?

The McBride family can answer that.

Friday, at UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Health and Social Development convocation ceremony, Kate McBride will cross the stage after earning her Master of Science in Nursing. Minutes later, her son Kieran will pick up his Bachelor of Human Kinetics degree. And, on the stage in the official platform party will be Barry McBride—Kieran’s grandfather and Kate’s father-in-law.

Barry is also UBC Okanagan’s very first Deputy Vice-Chancellor. And to say UBC runs in the blood of the McBride clan might just be an understatement. He was the top administrator at the newly formed university campus and led the students, faculty and staff during UBCO’s formative years until his retirement in 2007.

But the roots go much deeper than that.

“I’m just adding everyone up, and there are 13 of us in the family with a UBC degree,” says Barry. “My mother and father both graduated from UBC, as did my wife Barbara and Barbara’s mother—so Kieran’s great-grandparents and grandparents, his father and now his mother all have UBC degrees.”

UBC Okanagan was established in 2005 when UBC was granted the land and buildings at the then-Okanagan University College’s North Kelowna campus.

Barry McBride is Professor Emeriti of Microbiology and Immunology in the Faculty of Science. Before moving to the Okanagan to take on the leadership role at UBCO, he served as the Dean of Science and then Provost and Vice-President Academic at the Vancouver campus.

To have studied, worked and then taken on a leadership role at both campuses gives Barry an immense sense of accomplishment and honour.

“I am incredibly proud of UBC,” says Barry. “It’s a world-class institution that has grown to be seen internationally as a very important research and teaching university. And I am so pleased to see that UBCO has done so well. We should be proud of the number and quality of students UBCO hosts and the talent they bring to the Okanagan.”

Since its inception, the student population at UBCO has grown from the first class of some 3,000 students to more than 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students. More than 22,000 degrees have been conferred since the campus offered its first lecture. And the campus has expanded—from 12 original buildings to, currently, more than 53.

“I am beyond delighted that Kate and Kieran are graduating from this institution. I couldn’t be more delighted they chose UBCO,” says Barry.

For Kieran, the close-knit campus and high calibre of the human kinetics teaching staff were the main attractions of the Okanagan campus. While he grew up in Vancouver, Kieran says he never felt any pressure from his family to attend UBC—but when it was time to apply to universities, he had one specific place in mind.

“I didn’t want to go too far from home and UBCO’s Health and Exercise Sciences program is world class,” he says. “I’ve been so fortunate and had many great experiences, even working on an undergraduate research program that was an amazing opportunity. I gained so much experience at UBCO.”

He’s not sure what’s next on the horizon and he hasn’t ruled out a master’s degree. Now that his mother has one, it could be the next family tradition.

Kate readily admits having a son at UBCO helped her decide where to earn her master’s. As a registered nurse, she’s enjoyed a fulfilling career, working as a rehab nurse with Vancouver’s GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre and, more recently, enjoying a leadership role with the Provincial Health Services Authority.

“I was inspired by Kieran going to UBCO. It was appealing to be going to the same school as him, although he might not feel the same way. But I thought to myself, ‘it’s time to do this. And yes, I can do this.’”

If it hadn’t been for COVID-19, Kate and Kieran would have spent more time at the same campus together. But the pandemic didn’t get in their way with both successfully completing their journeys, and thanks to a twist in timing, both were scheduled to graduate the same day, in the same ceremony.

“I waited a lot of years before starting my master’s and I was really fortunate to be with a good cohort—most of the students were half my age,” says Kate. “And now I’m excited to be graduating with my son.”

And both agree, they had the family tradition of UBC degrees that helped fuel their momentum.

“It’s hard to express how incredibly grateful I am for all the support I’ve had, especially all the years I had to do it at home,” says Kieran. “I was essentially doing my university studies with my parents, and for some people, the experience could have been terrible. But they were really supportive—honestly, the support I’ve had from my older sister, parents and grandparents has been amazing and inspirational at the same time.”

Kate, too, says the McBride family bonds were uplifting from the get-go. While she’s had support from her father and in-laws, her husband Chris—a spinal cord injury researcher turned community organization partner who collaborates with UBC researchers on both campuses—was also cheering along in the background. There was no way this master’s degree was not getting done.

“The support I’ve had from Barry and Barbara over the years has been incredible. They are such awesome role models, for myself, our children and our younger generation,” says Kate, adding the youngest McBride grandchild will start her UBC degree in September. “So, the tradition continues. I feel very fortunate and privileged to have such wonderful role models who have taught us all to be the best we can be.”

The post Family ties run tight for the close-knit McBride clan appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of this year's UBCO researchers of the year

From left: Dr. Margaret Macintyre Latta, Dr. Jennifer Davis Dr. Kyle Larson and Rhyann McKay.

Four UBC Okanagan researchers—whose work is making a difference locally and globally—were recognized at a special event last week when the campus celebrated the Researchers of the Year.

In a university dominated by timely and meaningful research, it’s hard to stand out in the crowd. But Phil Barker, UBCO’s Vice-Principal and Associate Vice-President of Research and Innovation, says the unique and outstanding contributions from this year’s winners allows UBCO to shine the light on their accomplishments.

“The Researcher of the Year ceremony is one of my favourite events of the year. It is a distinct pleasure to acknowledge some of our star researchers and highlight their contributions,” he says. “UBC Okanagan is one of the most rapidly expanding campuses in Canada and we are attracting top-notch scholars and researchers who are leaders in their fields.”

The winners of the prestigious awards are Dr. Jennifer Davis for health research, Dr. Kyle Larson in natural sciences and engineering and Dr. Margaret Macintyre Latta, the winner of the social sciences and humanities award. Rhyann McKay was recognized as the Student Researcher of the Year.

Teaching in the Faculty of Management, Dr. Jennifer Davis is a Canada Research Chair in Applied Health Economics. Her research focuses on improving the health of older Canadians who are at risk for falls or cognitive decline. Much of her work assesses the economic value of dementia and mobility intervention and prevention efforts through partnerships with clinicians. Dr. Davis’s international collaborations have resulted in policy change and significant advancements in applying health economic evidence to lifestyle interventions.

A professor in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, Dr. Kyle Larson is an innovator of analytical techniques for tectonics research. His novel methods have led to fundamental discoveries about how major mountain belts form, including a solution to a decades-old geological controversy surrounding the origin of the Himalayas. As Director of the Fipke Laboratory for Trace Element Research, Dr. Larson’s work has helped develop paradigm-shifting methods for the rapid dating of geological material.

Teaching in the Okanagan School of Education, Dr. Margaret Macintyre Latta is a prominent researcher who transforms traditional approaches to education. A champion of interdisciplinary and community-based research, her focus is to advance curriculum as a shared learning experience that inspires reconciliation. Her research with Indigenous, school district and community partners helps educators to decolonize curriculum and teaching practices.

As a doctoral student in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, Rhyann McKay conducted research in partnership with provincial spinal cord injury organizations across Canada to co-develop behaviour change interventions for support providers to enhance wellbeing and self-care. McKay is currently a health system impact fellow at the University of Alberta, evaluating the implementation of acute care intervention.

“The purpose of these awards is to highlight and honour the research excellence that makes UBC a top-40 global university,” adds Dr. Barker. “I am impressed with the calibre of all our researchers, grateful for their efforts, and am very proud of this year’s recipients. I look forward to tracking their careers and celebrating their future successes.”

The post UBCO celebrates the researchers of the year appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

Isolation Quarantine Covid-19 stock photo

UBCO experts discuss how society has coped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was March 17, 2020, just on the heels of the World Health Organization declaring the as-yet-un-named virus a pandemic, that BC declared a state of emergency.

Schools were closed, offices shuttered, stores locked and people were sent home to face isolation, uncertainty and a looming sense of fear and bewilderment. And now Zoom calls, masks, vaccines and mandates have become part of everyday life across the country.

How has society coped? What has been learned? Has anything changed?

Long before Dr. Bonnie Henry suggested people be kind to each other, Dr. John-Tyler Binfet, an Associate Professor with the Okanagan School of Education, was making the study of kindness part of his daily routine. Dr. Binfet is joined by six other UBC Okanagan experts, who can field questions ranging from vaccine equity, online shopping trends, the importance of exercise and the impact of so much screen time on children.

Dr. Binfet, Director of the Centre For Mindful Engagement and Director of Building Academic Retention Through K-9s

Availability: Noon, Wednesday and all of Thursday, PST

Dr. Binfet’s areas of research include the conceptualizations of kindness in children and adolescents, measuring kindness in schools, canine-assisted interventions and assessment of therapy dogs. His new book written during the pandemic, Cultivating Kindness, will be available this summer.

Related to the pandemic, Dr. Binfet can discuss:

  • University student wellbeing
  • Being kind
  • Why kindness matters

Kevin Chong, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies

Availability: Wednesday and Thursday, 9 to 11 am PST

Chong teaches creative writing, fiction, creative nonfiction, literary journalism, dramatic writing and different writing styles including short story, memoir, personal essay, and lyric essay. He is the author of six books, including The Plague, and wrote a book during the pandemic when the public reading of his play was cancelled due to COVID-19. Dr. Chong also established an online antiracist book club during the pandemic.

Related to the pandemic, Chong can discuss:

  • Writer’s block
  • Online book clubs
  • Antiracist associations

Mahmudur Fatmi, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering

Availability: Wednesday, most hours and Thursday, 8:30 am to noon PST

Dr. Fatmi is a transportation modelling expert. He can talk about how people’s travel and online activities such as work-from-home and online shopping activities have changed during the pandemic, and the implications of these changes.

Related to the pandemic, Dr. Fatmi can discuss:

  • Working from home
  • Changes to transit during the pandemic
  • Online shopping trends

Ross Hickey, Associate Professor, Faculty of Management and Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Availability: Wednesday, 2 to 2:30 pm PST and Thursday, 2:30to 3:30 pm PST

Dr. Hickey is an economist who specializes in public finance, fiscal policy, government expenditure and taxation. Related to the pandemic, Dr. Hickey can speak about:

  • Inflation

Susan Holtzman, Associate Professor, Psychology, Irving K Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Availability: Thursday, 9 am to noon PST

Dr. Holtzman conducts research in health psychology with a special interest in stress and coping, close relationships, depression and social relationships in the digital age. Related to the pandemic, Holtzman can discuss:

  • perceived increase in screen time for young children
  • digital relationships
  • breaking or keeping digital habits after two years of screen time

Jonathan Little, Associate Professor, School of Health and Exercise Sciences

Availability: Wednesday and Thursday, 9 to 11 am PST

Dr. Little’s main research interest is on how to optimize exercise and nutritional strategies to prevent and treat health issues including Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and chronic inflammatory conditions. He is also involved in interdisciplinary research within the Airborne Disease Transmission Research Cluster around mitigating risk of aerosol transmission in health-care settings.

Related to the pandemic, Dr. Little can discuss:

  • Physical activity/exercise during COVID-19
  • Impact of exercise and lifestyle on immune function
  • Aerosols and COVID-19 transmission

Katrina Plamondon, Assistant Professor School of Nursing

Availability: Wednesday, various times in the afternoon PST, Thursday, 7 to 8 am, 11:30 am to noon, 2 to 3 pm PST

Dr. Plamondon’s research focuses on questions of how to advance equity action and vaccine equity. Related to the pandemic, Dr. Plamondon can discuss:

  • Populism and social movements (e.g., convoy) and what this has to do with equity and rights
  • Vaccine equity, particularly the relationship between global vaccine equity and how we can navigate the pandemic
  • Equity considerations as we transition out of pandemic restrictions (e.g., lifting mask restrictions)
  • Equity impacts and health systems considerations

The post UBCO experts discuss what’s changed after two years of COVID-19 appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A young woman checks insulin pump and blood sugar monitor while hiking outdoors.

UBCO researchers suggest something as simple as regular walks can help people living with Type 2 diabetes control inflammation.

Researchers from UBC Okanagan are looking at how exercise can help balance the immune system and reduce chronic inflammation—a known contributor to the development and progression of various chronic diseases.

Associate Professor Dr. Jonathan Little, and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Hashim Islam, both with UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences, are studying how chronic inflammation can create an imbalance that prevents a person’s immune system from protecting them. And how exercise might be the answer.

The immune system, explains Dr. Islam, is critical for preventing infections, removing pathogens and repairing damaged tissues during recovery from an illness or injury. But when immune cells become overactivated, they can overproduce and release small hormone-like molecules called pro-inflammatory cytokines.

An over-abundance of those cytokines can impair the normal function of vital tissues and organs in the body, Dr. Islam explains. This means a person might be susceptible to a number of diseases including Type 2 diabetes.

“This persistent state of immune cell overactivation is known as chronic inflammation and is linked to the development and progression of various long-lasting illnesses that are commonly found in modern society. These include cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension or stroke and Type 2 diabetes—and we’re particularly interested in studying the Type 2 diabetes aspect,” says Dr. Islam.

Lifestyle factors such as imbalanced nutrition, weight gain, obesity and physical inactivity can aggravate chronic inflammation, adds Dr. Little. These conditions increase a person’s chance of getting various cardiometabolic diseases. On the other hand, exercise and diet-induced weight loss are effective for reducing chronic inflammation in the body and lowering the risk of developing cardiometabolic disease.

The researchers are specifically looking at interleukin 10, a molecule that normally acts to inhibit inflammation. Earlier research, in collaboration with colleagues at UBC’s Vancouver campus, demonstrated that immune cells isolated from people with Type 2 diabetes were less responsive to the anti-inflammatory actions of interleukin 10—something that typically acts as a brake or fire extinguisher to prevent immune cell overaction.

The inability of interleukin-10 to inhibit inflammation was linked to elevated blood sugar levels, suggesting that interventions that normalize blood glucose levels may be effective for restoring anti-inflammatory cytokine action in people with Type 2 diabetes.

“Chronic inflammation is when there is an imbalance of pro- and anti-inflammatory molecules in your body. We use the example of a slow-burning flame, or a brake, in the context of chronic disease,” explains Dr. Little. “Most people study the pro-inflammatory molecules and how to reduce them—which is similar to taking the fuel off the fire. Our work, which is quite novel, is looking at how to make anti-inflammatory molecules like interleukin-10—similar to a fire extinguisher—work better and stop the inflammation.”

Dr. Islam is further exploring the mechanisms that may explain why and when interleukin-10 is not working well to inhibit inflammation for people with Type 2 diabetes. His goal is to implement a practical lifestyle intervention that will involve short, frequent bouts of activity—post-meal walking or exercise snacking—throughout the day to improve blood glucose and restore the anti-inflammatory actions of interleukin-10.

“This approach has demonstrated glucose-lowering benefits in people with Type 2 diabetes,” says Dr. Islam. “Given the earlier-identified link between hyperglycemia and impaired interleukin-10 action, this may be a viable non-pharmacological strategy to restore anti-inflammatory cytokine action in people with Type 2 diabetes.”

The research was covered in a recent review article published in the Journal of Physiology and is funded by a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Trainee Award and a Killam Accelerator Research Fellowship.