Patty Wellborn

Email: patty-wellborn@news.ok.ubc.ca


 

UBC Okanagan’s Governor General gold medal winner Mike Tymko stands at a landmark called Kala Patthar with Mount Everest in the background.

UBC Okanagan’s Governor General gold medal winner Mike Tymko stands at a landmark called Kala Patthar with Mount Everest in the background.

Accomplished researcher wins Governor General’s top academic honour

Although he climbed numerous mountains to conduct high-altitude research, UBC Okanagan’s Mike Tymko admits the peak of his academic career might have arrived in his inbox a few weeks ago.

Tymko is UBC Okanagan’s winner of this year's Governor General Gold Medal. The award is presented to the university’s most accomplished doctoral graduate each spring. Tymko, who has published more than 60 research papers, is beyond talented says his supervisor Professor Phil Ainslie. The pair have worked together since 2012, when Tymko, an undergraduate at Mount Royal University, was invited to join one of Ainslie’s research expeditions to Nepal.

“At the time UBC Okanagan was much smaller and Professor Ainslie was relatively new into his appointment, but you could tell the research team he was building was extremely unique even at that time,” says Tymko. “That was such an amazing trip to me from both a life and scientific perspective.”

Within months, he was a student in UBCO’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences, working on his master’s degree with another colleague from the Nepal project, Associate Professor Glen Foster, also fairly new to the Okanagan. The pair got along during the 2012 Nepal expedition and created a dynamic and busy research team when reunited at the Kelowna campus.

“I knew that as Professor Foster's first student I would be privy to more one-on-one training. I appreciate everything that he has taught me over the years and I wouldn't be the scientist I am today without his mentorship.”

Foster’s laboratory studies how the respiratory, cardiovascular and autonomic nervous systems interact to control blood flow and ventilation in health and disease. And Ainslie, a Canada Research Chair in Cerebrovascular Physiology in Health and Disease, studies cerebral blood flow regulation, how that can be influenced by environmental stress—heat, altitude, pressure—and how exercise can also affect cerebrovascular function. The research teams would work together for a number of years studying basic aspects of helping people under extreme conditions—whether that be where they live, or an illness they have—be able to breathe better.

Tymko explains there are many people—such as those living in Nepal, the Andean mountains and Ethiopia—who live in high-altitude regions. And more than 200 million tourists travel to high-altitude destinations each year. However, his research also impacts millions of people who never get the chance to travel.

“From a more clinical standpoint there are many pathologies that are characterized by low oxygen, such as people living with heart failure, obstructive sleep apnea and lung disease,” he says. “Studying healthy human adaptation to low oxygen in both the laboratory and in the field has implications to better understand the physiological consequences that occur in these clinical states. The findings from these studies are applicable not only to Canadians, but people worldwide.”

There were several highlights for Tymko while working on his doctorate, but Ainslie notes he is a natural leader. During his studies, he has trekked to Nepal in 2012 and 2016, as well as White Mountain, California in 2015 and Peru in 2018—where Tymko co-led more than 40 scientists at a research station at Cerro de Pasco.

“This was undoubtedly Michael’s most impressive feat during his doctorate,” says Ainslie. “So far more than 10 research manuscripts have been published based on data collected during this expedition and many others will come in due course.”

Tymko is humbled by the gold medal win, and says, like the expeditions, this is not something you accomplish alone.

“These research projects are never led by one person, they are a product of dozens of people working together towards one goal,” says Tymko, crediting Ainslie, Foster and dozens of colleagues for years of support. “The best part of these trips are the people you meet—researchers from all over the world. But it’s also a fantastic feeling knowing that your research is meaningful and impactful within the academic community."

Ainslie credits Tymko’s diverse interests, skills, leadership and dedication that made him an outstanding doctoral student.

“Not only can he operate as a high-level academic but he can also design, implement, build and lead high-level scientific initiatives,” he says. “His research interests expand those from normal laboratory-based experiments to the translation of the work into Indigenous populations at high altitude. He is a true allrounder and, importantly, also values the importance of scientific teaching and education. As an exceptional young scientist, he is fully worthy of this recognition.”

UBC Okanagan’s Governor General gold medal winner Mike Tymko takes ultrasound measurements of the internal carotid artery and vertebral artery while conducting research on the neural control of blood flow to the brain.

UBC Okanagan’s Governor General gold medal winner Mike Tymko takes ultrasound measurements of the internal carotid artery and vertebral artery while conducting research on the neural control of blood flow to the brain.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Rick Mercer will deliver the 2020 keynote address. Mercer was a 2010 UBC honorary degree recipient.

Rick Mercer will deliver the 2020 keynote address. Mercer was a 2010 UBC honorary degree recipient.

Virtual ceremony takes place Wednesday as more than 1,900 students graduate

UBC Okanagan’s Convocation of 2020 will go down in history as a unique event. Instead of students, parents and faculty joining together on campus, the celebrations will be held virtually.

“The context of 2020 has made necessary a very different approach to our graduation ceremony this year,” says Deborah Buszard, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UBC’s Okanagan campus. “While the ceremony will be virtual, the remarkable achievements of our students are very real and worthy of recognition. I invite everyone to join me in celebrating the Class of 2020.”

This year, 1,925 students have qualified for convocation from UBC Okanagan—that includes 1,600 undergraduates, more than 270 students who have earned a master’s degree and 45 newly-conferred doctorate degrees.

While convocation is a time of celebration, it’s also a time of long-kept traditions. The program will begin with Chancellor Lindsay Gordon presiding over the virtual ceremony. UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa J. Ono and Buszard will both address the Class of 2020 live, dressed in full academic regalia. And graduates will have an opportunity to take a virtual selfie with President Ono.

UBC has arranged for Canadian icon and comedian Rick Mercer to deliver the 2020 keynote address. Mercer was a 2010 UBC honorary degree recipient.

Students have had the opportunity to purchase graduation regalia, special graduation gifts, create a personalized commemorative graduation video clip, download congratulatory signs and sign a guest book with congratulatory messages.

The virtual ceremony will last 45 minutes and it will be livestreamed on June 17, with a pre-show beginning at 2:30 p.m. The ceremony begins at 3 p.m. and a 20-minute virtual alumni reception takes place at 3:55 p.m. The ceremony can also be watched on YouTube, Facebook or Panopto, a platform that is accessible from many countries. To find out more, visit: www.virtualgraduation.ok.ubc.ca

“These are, indeed, unusual times, and UBC students have shown once again their resilience and ability to cope and thrive in the face of change,” says Buszard. “With everything they have accomplished over these past months and over the course of their studies, I couldn’t be more proud of the extraordinary UBC Okanagan Class of 2020. Congratulations.”

This year’s medal recipients

  • Governor General's Gold Medal: Mike Tymko
  • Lieutenant Governor's Medal Program for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation: Dominica Patterson
  • UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Aiden de Vin
  • UBC Medal in Arts: Ellie Jane Fedec
  • UBC Medal in Science: Nicholas Kayban
  • UBC Medal in Education: Alyssa Pembleton
  • UBC Medal in Nursing: Christopher Popel
  • UBC Medal in Management: Amanda Campbell
  • UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Madison Pows
  • UBC Medal in Engineering: Tyler Ho

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBCO Associate Professor Jonathan Little discusses how just the right amount of exercise can help build immunity.

UBCO Associate Professor Jonathan Little discusses how just the right amount of exercise can help build immunity.

UBCO professor provides exercise guidelines during COVID-19

By now, everyone has read some guidelines on how to stay healthy while living with the COVID-19 stay-at-home policy. Tips include keeping a routine, eating well, not staying up too late and getting exercise regularly. But how much exercise? And is there such a thing as too much exercise?

UBC Okanagan Associate Professor Jonathan Little, who conducts research with the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, answers some of these questions.

Can getting regular exercise really increase my immunity? If so, how?

Being inactive is linked to poor metabolic and psychological health and a less functional immune system. Most people know that regular exercise can improve markers of metabolic or psychological wellbeing, but what is less appreciated are the effects of exercise on the immune system.

Working through multiple pathways, research shows that the right amount of exercise can boost immunity.

If I’m eating properly, and getting the right amount of sleep, do I really need to exercise?

That’s a great question. Certainly, eating healthy and sleep are very important for overall health. But I think the evidence showing how exercise has such wide-ranging health benefits, including improving our immune system, suggests that our bodies have evolved to function optimally when we are regularly active. So, I don’t think anything can substitute for regular physical activity when it comes to optimizing health.

Is there such a thing as too much exercise?

We can think of exercise as medicine for boosting our immune function; too little and we have no effect but too much might actually be bad. There is evidence that after extreme exertion, like a marathon or very strenuous bout of prolonged exercise, our immune cells don’t work as well to fight off infections.

Finding the sweet spot right now by engaging in regular moderate exercise is probably the best approach.

With all this extra time people have these days, is now a good time to train for a marathon or CrossFit competition?

You don’t want to be inactive but it’s probably also not the best time to be tripling your regular exercise routine because you have extra time on your hands.

I wouldn’t discourage anyone from creating a realistic goal or new challenge but using some common sense, increasing your mileage or minutes moderately, and keeping within your limits is best right now. We also don’t know when races or competitions are going to start up again so that probably should come into consideration.

The gyms are all closed. What should people be doing to keep themselves fit? And sane?

If you are a regular gym-goer and can’t keep up with your routine, I think now is the time to try out some different activities like hiking, jogging, cycling and bodyweight exercises that you can do from home. Naturally, there are a lot of great resources online to help guide you and many gyms are maintaining online fitness classes to provide some guidance and direction.

I think it’s important to remember that exercise, even if it is moderate intensity such as a walk or hike, helps to reduce stress, improve mood, and as discussed above improve metabolic health and immune function.

So even if you can’t bang out your regular workout at the gym, preventing yourself from being inactive during these times is probably one of the best things that you can do for yourself. And it’s something that you can control.

Can you provide a few tips on how to get started?

There are lots of great online resources out there, especially right now. Whether it is fitness or yoga classes, video demonstrations, or virtual cycling there seem to be options for everyone. However, just getting outdoors for a walk or hike (while maintaining physical distancing, of course) will have benefits to many aspects of your health.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Nobel Night 2016

Learn about the world-changing discoveries and achievements

What: Nobel Night panel discussion at UBC Okanagan
Who: University researchers discuss the 2019 Nobel Prizes
When: Tuesday, December 10, beginning at 7 p.m., refreshments to follow
Where:  Room COM 201, The Commons building, 3297 University Way, UBC Okanagan, Kelowna

Planets, poverty, peace and powerful batteries. The science and activism behind all of these are tied together this year by the lasting legacy of Alfred Nobel’s annual recognition for game-changes.

On December 10, thousands of kilometres away from the Okanagan, world leaders will gather in both Stockholm and Oslo to watch as the 2019 Nobel Prizes are presented. This year, 15 laureates will be honoured for discovering planets outside our solar system, working to reduce global poverty in all forms or trying to stop a war.

At UBC Okanagan’s Nobel Night -- a tradition upon its own -- university professors will explain why these awards and the recognition they garner are relevant in today’s changing world. UBC professors will discuss each award, the winners and why they matter.

The event, emceed by UBC Vice-Principal and Associate Vice-President, Research and Innovation Phil Barker, takes place in the Commons lecture theatre. Following the presentations, there will be an opportunity for audience questions and a social with refreshments.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information and to register visit: 2019nobelnight.eventbrite.ca

The Nobel Prize in Physics

Tim Robishaw, adjunct professor in the department of computer science, mathematics, physics and statistics will talk about James Peebles work on theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology. The award is jointly shared this year with Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for their discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Jian Liu, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, will discuss the work of John B Goodenough, M Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino for the development of lithium-ion batteries.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Glen Foster, assistant professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, will highlight William G Kaelin Jr, Peter J Ratcliffe and Gregg L Semenza’s discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.

The Nobel Prize in Literature

Bryce Traister, professor of English and dean of the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, will talk about Peter Handke for his influential work with linguistic ingenuity.   

The Nobel Peace Prize

Professor of Political Science Helen Yanacopulos will speak to the accomplishments of Abiy Ahmed Ali for his efforts to achieve peace and resolve the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The Economic Sciences

UBC Provost and Vice-President, Academic Ananya Mukherjee Reed will discuss the work of Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

A participant performs a computerized task designed to probe cognitive function in Paul van Donkelaar’s concussion lab.

A participant performs a computerized task designed to probe cognitive function in Paul van Donkelaar’s concussion lab.

Groundbreaking research seeks to create better supports and outcomes for women

While the diagnoses and treatment of sport-related concussion have well-established guidelines and protocols, a new study from UBC’s Okanagan campus is looking at what has previously been an understudied group—women survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV).

Their hope is to develop a simple screening tool to help front-line services, like women’s shelters, identify traumatic brain injury (TBI) earlier, says Paul van Donkelaar, lead researcher and professor with the School of Health and Exercise Sciences.

“It is widely known survivors of intimate partner violence face many short- and long-term consequences from abuse which can have profound impacts on both their mental and physical health,” says van Donkelaar. “But there is currently very little direct evidence for the potential link between this violence and traumatic brain injury-induced brain dysfunction.”

Despite the abundance of research and public awareness around brain injury in athletes, van Donkelaar says traumatic brain injuries suffered by survivors of IPV are largely ignored. In fact, his most recent research, which is hoping to establish the incidence and effects of TBI on these women, is only the fourth study he knows of that deals specifically with this issue.

“IPV happens behind closed doors and usually there are no witnesses—if there are witnesses they are generally the children and they are traumatized,” says van Donkelaar, adding that if a survivor does seek medical help after an attack it is often for other traumatic injuries. “In many cases, survivors of IPV don’t necessarily know they have had a traumatic brain injury and yet they are suffering from chronic symptoms including headaches, dizziness, and difficulty remembering,” he says.

“If a brain injury is diagnosed, it might be several months or even years after the initial damaging blow took place. And was it caused by one blow, multiple attacks over several months, or from being shaken or even strangled?”

While diagnosis is a challenge, there also remains a social stigma with IPV. Van Donkelaar says many women who do seek medical help, may not tell the truth when asked how the injury occurred. For these reasons alone, van Donkelaar and his research team, including former UBCO postdoctoral fellow Jonathan Smirl, want to make concussion assessments and care for survivors of IPV accessible and straightforward.

“Although the health care system is a good place for TBI diagnoses in the context of IPV, many survivors do not feel comfortable accessing care in this manner so this leaves staff at women shelters as the first line of defense,” says Smirl. “Yet these staff members aren’t necessarily aware TBI can be part of their client’s experience and currently do not have appropriate screening tools available to them.”

For this latest research, the team used two brain injury questionnaires—the Brain Injury Severity Assessment tool (BISA) and the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT5)—to get a better sense of the symptoms experienced by survivors of IPV. Eighteen women who had experienced IPV took the part in the study.

The research, published in Brain Injury, determined that by using the BISA test, which asks questions about symptoms resulting from episodes of IPV, more brain injuries were reported by the survivors. The study determined that each of the participants have suffered at least one previous TBI, and most had suffered many.

“It’s estimated that several hundred thousand Canadian women a year experience a TBI, an even greater number than hockey or football players,” says Smirl. “And yet, due to the perceived stigma around IPV, many of these women don’t seek medical support. Unfortunately, living in this situation is their normal, waking up in a daze because she was punched again is her normal. Not only is it going undiagnosed, it’s going untreated.”

The findings from the current investigation can help develop TBI-informed screening tools to help front-line staff at women’s shelters identify a brain injury as a possible factor in the symptoms experienced by IPV survivors.

“What we’re hoping to do is implement a simple informed screening tool, just a few questions that front-line staff can ask which can help reveal whether a woman has potentially experienced an IPV-related TBI,” he says. “We will then be able to use it as a means to refer them to appropriate supports in the community.”

Van Donkelaar says providing these practical support resources to IPV survivors will improve their chances of breaking the cycle and enable them to move forward into an abuse-free future for themselves and their children.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBC research goes from the athletic stadium to African wildlife sanctuaries

An international research group at UBC, Harvard University, and Cardiff Metropolitan University has discovered how the human heart has adapted to support endurance physical activities.

Chimpanzee echocardiogram being performed by Aimee Drane from the International Primate Heart Project. Photo courtesy of Robert Shave.

Chimpanzee echocardiogram being performed by Aimee Drane from the International Primate Heart Project. Photo courtesy of Robert Shave.

This research examines how the human heart has evolved and how it adapts in response to different physical challenges, and will bring new ammunition to the international effort to reduce hypertensive heart disease - one of the most common causes of illness and death in the developed world.

The landmark study analyzed 160 humans, 43 chimpanzees and five gorillas to gain an understanding of how the heart manages different types of physical activity. In collaboration with Harvard University’s Daniel Lieberman and Aaron Baggish, UBC Professor Robert Shave and colleagues compared left ventricle structure and function in chimpanzees and a variety of people, including some who were sedentary but disease-free, highly active Native American subsistence farmers, resistance-trained football linemen and endurance-trained long-distance runners.

The wide variety of participants were specifically recruited to examine cardiac function in an evolutionary context. From the athletic stadium to wildlife sanctuaries in Africa, the team measured a diverse array of cardiac characteristics and responses to determine how habitual physical activity patterns, or a lack of activity, influence cardiac structure and function, explains Shave.

“While apes showed adaptations to support the pressure challenge associated with activities such as climbing and fighting, humans showed more endurance related adaptations,” says Shave, director of UBCO’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences.

Guiding their inquiry is the well-known idea that the heart remodels itself in response to different physiological challenges, he notes.

“Moderate-intensity endurance activities such as walking and running stimulate the left ventricular chamber to become larger, longer and more elastic—making it able to handle high volumes of blood,” he says. “But pressure challenges like chronic weight-lifting or high blood pressure, stimulate thickening and stiffening of the left ventricular walls.”

Among humans, the research team showed there is a trade-off between these two types of adaptations. This trade-off means that people who have adapted to pressure cannot cope as well with volume and vice versa. Basically, the hearts of endurance runners aren’t great at dealing with a pressure challenge, and the weight lifter’s heart will not respond well to increases in volume.

This new research provides evidence that the human heart evolved for the purpose of moderate-intensity endurance activities, but adapts to different physical (in)activity patterns.

“As a result, today’s epidemic of physical inactivity in conjunction with highly processed, high-sodium diets contributes to thicker, stiffer hearts that compromise the heart’s ability to cope with endurance physical activity, and importantly this may start to occur prior to increases in resting blood pressure,” explains Shave.

This is often followed by the onset of high blood pressure and can eventually lead to hypertensive heart disease.

“We hope our research will inform those at highest risk of developing hypertensive heart disease,” says Shave. “And ensure that moderate-intensity endurance-type activities are widely encouraged in order to ultimately prevent premature deaths.”

This research was published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

During the international expedition to Peru, Ben Stacey a doctoral student from Cardiff, United Kingdom conducts a blood vessel function test on a local Andean resident. Researchers are trying to understand how some Andeans, who live at high altitude, develop altitude sickness.

During the international expedition to Peru, Ben Stacey a doctoral student from Cardiff, United Kingdom conducts a blood vessel function test on a local Andean resident. Researchers are trying to understand how some Andeans, who live at high altitude, develop altitude sickness.

International team conducts high-altitude research experiments

A group of international researchers went to great heights to better understand how high altitude affects both newcomers and Indigenous populations.

The 45-person international research team completed more than 15 major scientific studies in Peru’s Cerro de Pasco—a mining town at 4,330 metres. During the 30-day expedition, the team conducted more than 750 study sessions accounting for over 3,000 hours of experimental testing.

Roughly the size of an NFL team, the 2018 expedition included undergraduate and graduate students, as well as researchers and physicians from six countries and 11 universities. No easy feat to organize or execute, says UBCO’s Mike Tymko, expedition co-leader.

“Despite encountering serious logistical challenges, each of the proposed studies was completed at both sea level and high altitude,” says Tymko, who has just completed his PhD in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences.

It was not without challenges, he notes. The first being the logistical nightmare when more than 15 per cent of the expedition’s research equipment was delayed in customs at Lima airport.

The group, however, had a happy conclusion. The team’s perseverance, he says, ensured that all four metric tons of equipment and consumable research items, valued at $1.5 million, arrived at the high-altitude site. This allowed the team to set up six temporary laboratories that worked almost around the clock.

This achievement was part of the Global Research Expedition on Altitude-related Chronic Health—or Global REACH, the acronym the researchers devised for the far-reaching connectivity of the team and the study results.

“The results of the collective research will progress our understanding of how changes in blood flow to different stimuli, at low and high altitudes, alters the human body,” says Tymko. “The findings directly affect our understanding of high-altitude exposure on health. This research is relevant for people who suffer from conditions that are characterized by low oxygen including those with lung or heart disease.”

Along with several high-altitude studies, the team also wanted to help a group of local Andeans—a portion of the population who have developed a genetic mutation from their habitat. These are people who have developed an advanced form of altitude illness where their blood becomes extremely thick.

“In particular, our work explored important mechanisms that underpin both adaptation and maladaptation to high altitude in Indigenous populations to South America,” Tymko says, explaining they have an excess of red blood cells in their body. “It’s like their heart is pushing sludge through their blood vessels.”

Tymko says the findings of the 15 studies will result in a comparable amount of peer-reviewed publications over the next few years.

“These studies have the potential to improve quality of life and treatment strategies for those suffering from low oxygen levels in their body,” says UBCO Professor Phil Ainslie, Canada Research Chair in Cerebrovascular Physiology in Health and Disease.

“Understanding maladaptation to such stress helps inform unique avenues for new treatment strategies,”

As Tymko’s doctoral supervisor and Global REACH co-lead, Ainslie has organized several high-altitude research expeditions, including trips to Everest, that aimed to investigate how low oxygen affects the human body in both healthy and diseased populations.

The findings of the expedition will be released throughout 2019, the first of which is now live in the journal Hypertension.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.

UBC research shows personal input and collaboration provide positive results

New co-created research at UBC’s Okanagan campus has resulted in ground-breaking increases in physical activity and fitness for those living with spinal cord injury (SCI).

Jasmin Ma is a recent doctoral graduate in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences. Along with her supervisor Professor Kathleen Martin Ginis, she recently published a study examining a time-efficient physical activity-coaching program created through community collaboration.

The key ingredient, says Ma, is partnership.

“The foundation of the project’s success is the networked approach. Health professionals, peers, researchers, and especially people living with SCI are all part of the development story,” Ma says of the intervention development process.

During the past three years, Ma worked with more than 300 people to explore the physical activity experiences of those living with SCI. The randomized controlled trial of the resulting intervention showed a five-fold increase in physical activity for its participants.

What’s impressive, says Ma, is six months after the trial ended, these levels of activity were maintained by the participants. Additionally, it’s also the first study to demonstrate improvements in fitness following a behavioural coaching intervention in this population.

While the physical activity progress for those living with SCI is in the study’s convincing numbers, the true success for Ma is how the community is thriving.

“Some of our participants have gone on to act as physical activity champions within their own networks,” she says. “Two of these outstanding individuals started the South Fraser Active Living Group and are working with Spinal Cord Injury BC to push the boundaries for accessible physical activity opportunities outside of Vancouver.”

With more than seven years of experience training clients with physical disability, Ma was no stranger to the barriers her clients face when it comes to exercise. Working individually with study participants, she found specific solutions to meet those challenges.

“The first step is asking the right questions, such as current physical activity levels and function, goals, barriers, preferences and available resources to collaboratively develop solutions,” says Ma. “After we get a good picture of our client’s situation, then it’s a matter of figuring out what strategies are needed to overcome their barriers. These strategies fall under the categories of education, referral to the right professionals, peers, or community resources, and physical activity prescription.”

Martin Ginis says the study will provide strong evidence for continued community-engaged research.

“The partnership with the SCI community and physiotherapists has resulted in a study that will improve the lives of people with spinal cord injury,” says Martin Ginis, director of the SCI Action Canada lab, which focuses on community-engaged research to advance physical activity participation in people living with spinal cord injury.”

“This study is a great step forward to collaborative community-engaged research,” adds Martin Ginis.

For Ma, who is now a postdoctoral fellow at UBC’s Vancouver campus, this is just the beginning. Her passion for bridging health care and recreation will continue as she works with Martin Ginis, the Rick Hansen Institute, Spinal Cord Injury BC, and GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver to implement this intervention in a hospital setting.

The research, which received funding from an Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation grant and a Rick Hansen Institute grant, was published recently in Sports Medicine.

Jasmin Ma is a recent doctoral graduate from the School of Health and Exercise Sciences.

Jasmin Ma is a recent doctoral graduate from the School of Health and Exercise Sciences.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.

UBC research shows that participants who listen to motivational music reported greater enjoyment from their high-intensity interval training sessions.

UBC research shows that participants who listen to motivational music reported greater enjoyment from their high-intensity interval training sessions.

Insufficiently active people might benefit from choosing the right tunes

New research coming out of UBC’s Okanagan campus demonstrates that upbeat music can make a rigorous workout seem less tough. Even for people who are insufficiently active.

Matthew Stork is a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences. He recently published a study examining how the right music can help less-active people get more out of their workout—and enjoy it more.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT)—brief, repeated bouts of intense exercise separated by periods of rest—has been shown to improve physical health over several weeks of training. But, cautions Stork, it can be perceived as gruelling for many people, especially those who are less active.

“While HIIT is time-efficient and can elicit meaningful health benefits among adults who are insufficiently active, one major drawback is that people may find it to be unpleasant. As a result, this has the potential to discourage continued participation,” he says.

Previous research led by Stork and UBC Okanagan’s Kathleen Martin Ginis has examined the effects of music during HIIT with recreationally-active people. Their latest study tested the effects of music with participants who were insufficiently active, used a more rigorous music selection process and implemented a HIIT regimen that is more practical for less-active adults.

The study took place at Brunel University London and Stork worked with Professor Costas Karageorghis, a world-renowned researcher who studies the effects music has on sport and exercise. First, Stork gathered a panel of British adults to rate the motivational qualities of 16 fast-tempo songs. The three songs with the highest motivational ratings were used for the study.

“Music is typically used as a dissociative strategy. This means that it can draw your attention away from the body’s physiological responses to exercise such as increased heart rate or sore muscles,” says Stork. “But with high-intensity exercise, it seems that music is most effective when it has a fast tempo and is highly motivational.”

Next, a separate group of 24 participants completed what has been referred to as the ‘one-minute workout’—three 20-second all-out sprints, totaling 60 seconds of hard work. A short rest separated the sprints, for a total exercise period of 10 minutes including a warm-up and cool-down. Participants completed these HIIT sessions under three different conditions—with motivational music, no audio or a podcast that was devoid of music.

Participants in the music session reported greater enjoyment of HIIT. They also exhibited elevated heart rates and peak power in the session with music compared to the no-audio and podcast sessions.

“The more I look into this, the more I am surprised,” he says. “We believed that motivational music would help people enjoy the exercise more, but we were surprised about the elevated heart rate. That was a novel finding.”

Stork believes the elevated heart rates may be explained by a phenomenon called 'entrainment.'

“Humans have an innate tendency to alter the frequency of their biological rhythms toward that of musical rhythms. In this case, the fast-tempo music may have increased people’s heart rate during the exercise. It’s incredible how powerful music can be.”

Stork’s research indicates that for people who are deemed insufficiently active, music can not only help them work harder physically during HIIT but it can also help them enjoy HIIT more. And because motivational music has the power to enhance people’s HIIT workouts, it may ultimately give people an extra boost to try HIIT again in the future.

“Music can be a practical strategy to help insufficiently active people get more out of their HIIT workouts and may even encourage continued participation.”

The study was published this week in the Psychology of Sport and Exercise. Stork received financial support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research over the course of this project.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.

Leadership, prevention and health of children topic of keynote address

What: UBC Okanagan Diabetes Research Day
Who: Keynote speaker Dr. Tom Warshawski, Chair of Childhood Obesity Foundation
When: Wednesday, June 19 at 5 p.m.
Where: Eldorado Hotel, 500 Cook Rd, Kelowna

Type 2 diabetes was once a condition that only affected adults. But today Type 2 diabetes is on the rise among children and youth globally.

A recent Canadian study found that 95 per cent of children newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are obese. Dr. Tom Warshawski of the Childhood Obesity Foundation has made it his life’s work to stop this concerning trend.

As past-president of the BC Pediatric Society, Society of Specialist Physicians, and Surgeons of BC, Warshawski has been responsible for leading multiple initiatives across Canada. These include spearheading the development of Sip Smart (a campaign to reduce sugary drinks for children) and Screen Smart (a campaign to reduce screen time).

Warshawski’s goal to improve the health of Canadian children has driven his work as a pediatrician. On June 19, he will deliver the keynote address at the UBC Okanagan Diabetes Research Day, which takes place at the Eldorado Hotel. His presentation will share his work on diabetes prevention and translating diabetes research into practice.

The event is open to the public and free, but online pre-registration is required at: diabetesbc.ca/our-events/ubc-okanagan-diabetes-obesity-research-day-2019

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.