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UBC partners with Third Space to promote mental health, work-life balance

A UBC Okanagan partnership with the Third Space non-profit group will see nursing and social work students providing community health services in Kelowna’s newest living lab.

The five-year partnership will see UBC social work students experience a clinical placement in a non-profit mental health clinic while nursing students will help local businesses develop work-life supports for their employees.

“As an institution that has benefited a great deal from the generosity of Okanagan residents, we are excited to find a way to incorporate these kinds of services to the community and into our curriculum,” says Gord Binsted, dean of the faculty of health and social development. “We also look forward using Kelowna’s newest living lab to give our students the opportunity gain real-world experience with local health practitioners.”

As part of the five-year partnership with Third Space, UBC has been provided with space in the Landmark group of buildings, located in central Kelowna as well as partnership and mentorship opportunities with health practitioners operating in the area.

“We are thrilled and honoured with the relationship our team has been building with UBCO leadership and students, collectively they bring a tremendous amount of experience and vision to Third Space,” says Ken Stober, Third Space founder. “The students who have been working at Third Space are bright, enjoyable and inject energy into our space, we are incredibly excited as to what the future holds.”



UBC professor heads to Rwanda to promote inclusion and play

UBC Assist. Prof. Stephen Berg with school children in Rwanda.

UBC Assist. Prof. Stephen Berg with school children in Rwanda.

Even children who live in extreme poverty or countries ravaged by war respond positively to games and playtime.

UBC Assist. Prof. Stephen Berg, who has seen this time and time again, heads to Rwanda next week where he will introduce playtime inclusion into Rwanda classrooms.

“It doesn’t matter where you live,” he says. “All children love to play.”

Berg teaches with UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Education and heads to Rwanda with Right To Play, a global organization committed to using play as a learning tool for children inside and outside the classroom.

During his trip, Berg will pilot a program called “Abilities First” that promotes inclusion in the classroom.

“We need to ask how we can make it so that every child, regardless of ability around the world, learns and succeeds in school.”

Right To Play’s use of play as a learning tool appeals to Berg, whose research areas include physical education, health education and children’s physical activity.

“Seeing the program in action is remarkable,” he says. “You see children playing and having fun while also learning through their engagement with the activity.”

While in Rwanda, Berg will host a full-day workshop with Right To Play staff and Rwandan school teachers. Feedback from local educators will be incorporated into the training manual in an effort to make the manual more effective in local classrooms.

“At Right To Play, we believe play is a powerful learning tool. It engages children’s interest, motivating them to learn inside and outside the classroom. Games, songs, sports, theatre and other types of play help break down social barriers and expand the ways children think and behave with one another,” says Kevin Frey, CEO and president of Right to Play International.

Building the capacity of educators to deliver more quality education by using play as a teaching tool is a focus of Right To Play’s "Play for the Advancement of Quality Education" program, undertaken in Rwanda and seven other countries globally, with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.

Back in 2012, when Berg first visited Rwanda, he saw the technique used to teach children about malaria and how to protect themselves from the infectious disease.

“The children immediately made the connection,” he says. “They didn’t even realize they were learning as they were so engaged in the activity.”

Berg has hosted “Play Days” in Kelowna elementary schools. Using Right To Play’s teaching style of Reflect-Connect-Apply, students participate in a fun activity, reflect on what they experienced playing the game, connect their learnings to what they already know, feel and believe and then, apply it to similar situations and aspects of their lives.

Berg believes play as a learning tool could be effective in all classrooms.

“Every child loves to play,” he says. “So why not use this process to enhance their learning? If teachers can use play as a way to teach students, then everyone wins.”


Prolonged antibiotic use can accelerate diabetes, UBC study shows

UBC Assist. Prof. Deanna Gibson

UBC Assist. Prof. Deanna Gibson

A team of UBC researchers has found that gut bacteria are linked to the onset of Type 1 diabetes.

Their findings also show that long-term and over-use of antibiotics can accelerate the process by disrupting the gut bacteria.

“The incidence of Type 1 diabetes has doubled in the last few years in Western countries, and this is most obvious in children aged 1 to 5,” says Assist. Prof. Deanna Gibson of UBC’s Okanagan campus, the study’s senior author. “This suggests that early life events are critical to health. Our research pinpoints the significant role of bacteria and how antibiotic use can alter their normal development in the gut which then can alter the health of these individuals.”

“While it’s clear that antibiotics are very useful in medicine, overusing them can have significant consequences.”

The study, which looked at diabetes-onset in mice, demonstrated that those susceptible to diabetes had more harmful and less beneficial bacteria than those resistant to the disease. The researchers also demonstrated that the harmful bacteria generated an immune response, which in turn, stimulated destruction of insulin-producing cells.

“We were able to establish a clear relationship between bacteria, the body’s immune reaction and the development of Type 1 diabetes,” says Gibson, a microbiologist at the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences. “This is likely to have significant implications for treatment of the disease. The next steps are to narrow-in and identify which bacteria induce or perhaps protect against Type 1 diabetes. This, in turn, could help with the production of more specific antibiotics.”

There are more than 10 million Canadians living with diabetes or prediabetes, a chronic disease in which the body cannot produce or properly use insulin. (Insulin controls the amount of sugar in the blood.) Type 1 diabetes results when the immune system accidently attacks and kills insulin-producing cells.

The research, recently published in the Nature Group’s ISME Journal (nature.com/ismej/journal/v10/n2/full/ismej2015114a), was supported by the Child and Family Research Institute Diabetes Catalyst Grant from the Canuck’s Foundation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.To read more about Gibson’s research on bacteria, nutrition and health.

To read more about Gibson’s research on bacteria, nutrition and health, visit: ourstories.ok.ubc.ca/stories/deanna-gibson



UBC study finds psychedelic drugs may reduce domestic violence

Psychedelic drugs may help curb domestic violence committed by men with substance abuse problems, according to a new UBC study.

The UBC Okanagan study found that 42 per cent of U.S. adult male inmates who did not take psychedelic drugs were arrested within six years for domestic battery after their release, compared to a rate of 27 per cent for those who had taken drugs such as LSD, psilocybin (commonly known as magic mushrooms) and MDMA (ecstasy).

The observational study followed 302 inmates for an average of six years after they were released. All those observed had histories of substance use disorders.

UBC Assoc. Prof. Zach Walsh

UBC Assoc. Prof. Zach Walsh

“While not a clinical trial, this study, in stark contrast to prevailing attitudes that views these drugs as harmful, speaks to the public health potential of psychedelic medicine,” says Assoc. Prof. Zach Walsh, the co-director for UBC Okanagan’s Centre for the Advancement of Psychological Science and Law. “As existing treatments for intimate partner violence are insufficient, we need to take new perspectives such as this seriously.”

“Intimate partner violence is a major public health problem and existing treatments to reduce reoffending are insufficient,” he says. “With proper dosage, set, and setting we might see even more profound effects. This definitely warrants further research.”

The study was co-authored by University of Alabama Assoc. Prof. Peter Hendricks, who predicts that psilocybin and related compounds could revolutionize the mental health field.

"Although we're attempting to better understand how or why these substances may be beneficial, one explanation is that they can transform people's lives by providing profoundly meaningful spiritual experiences that highlight what matters most,” says Hendricks. “Often, people are struck by the realization that behaving with compassion and kindness toward others is high on the list of what matters."

While research on the benefits of psychedelic drugs took place from the 1950s to the 1970s, primarily to treat mental illness, it was stopped due to the reclassification of the drugs to a controlled substance in the mid-1970s. Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in psychedelic medicine.

“The experiences of unity, positivity, and transcendence that characterize the psychedelic experience may be particularly beneficial to groups that are frequently marginalized and isolated, such as the incarcerated men who participated in this study,” says Walsh.

The study was published last week in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. The abstract can be found here: jop.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/04/16/0269881116642538.abstract

UBC Okanagan marks milestones for professors and staff

Long service employees at UBC’s Okanagan campus were honoured Thursday. Pictured are: Gary Pearson, Robin Dods, Daniel Dural, Nancy Holmes, Rob Johnson, Bernard Momer and Ian Walker. Missing from the photo are: Briar Craig, Linda Hatt, Carl Hodge, Mark Holder, Patricia Tomic and Linda Falkingham.

Long service employees at UBC’s Okanagan campus were honoured Thursday. Pictured are: Gary Pearson, Robin Dods, Daniel Dural, Nancy Holmes, Rob Johnson, Bernard Momer and Ian Walker. Missing from the photo are: Briar Craig, Linda Hatt, Carl Hodge, Mark Holder, Patricia Tomic and Linda Falkingham.

It’s been a year of milestones for UBC with the university celebrating its 100th anniversary and the Okanagan campus marking 10 years since it officially opened.

Different milestones were marked last week, as faculty and staff who have served for more than 25 years (at either UBC and at Okanagan College) were celebrated at the university’s Long Service Recognition Dinner.

The annual event is an important way to honour long-serving faculty and employees who have helped shape the university, explained Deborah Buszard, deputy vice-chancellor and principal of UBC Okanagan. While talking about the transition from Okanagan University College to UBC and Okanagan College, Buszard said the two institutions currently provide more than 17,000 post-secondary positions.

“I am in awe of the people who went through that transition and helped create these wonderful institutions,” she said. “We are so lucky that we do have two wonderful institutions in the Okanagan that have both grown to be extraordinarily successful.”

UBC staff and faculty honoured for 25 years of service include:

  • Briar Craig, Nancy Holmes, and Gary Pearson — Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies
  • Daniel Durall, Linda Hatt, Carl Hodge, Mark Holder, Bernard Momer, Patricia Tomic, and Ian Walker — Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences
  • Rob Johnson — Athletics and Recreation

Faculty congratulated for 30 years of service were:

  • Robin Dods — Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences
  • Linda Falkingham — Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies

Along with music and top television shows and movies from both 1986 and 1991, significant news events, like the space shuttle Challenger tragedy and the gulf war five years later, were also part of the highlight reel.


Eleven trips to the podium for OC students at Skills BC competition

Okanagan College Media Release

Three Okanagan College students are on their way to Moncton, NB to competeAST at Skills April 2016 in the Skills Canada National competition following their gold medal wins at the provincial competition, which was held in Abbotsford on April 13. The three gold medalists were joined on the podium by an additional eight students who earned four silver and four bronze medals for the College in categories that ranged from Aerospace Technology and Carpentry, to Culinary Arts.

Okanagan College was the best in B.C. in the areas of Electronics, Aerospace Technology and Automotive Service. Second-year student Zachary Andrews won gold in the Electronics category. Spencer Humphries, a first-year student in the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering M License program, won in Aerospace Technology and Aaron Schmidt, a level 4 apprentice, led the College to gold in Automotive Service. He was one of three Okanagan College apprentices who finished in the top three in the province – OC swept the automotive category.  

Automotive Service instructor Jamie Bloomfield said he was extremely proud of the efforts of his students, who he referred to as the dream team.

“Each one of our students took the competition preparation and practices very seriously,” he said. “They had great attitudes and were very motivated. During the competition they shook the nerves off quickly and performed beautifully – I couldn’t be prouder.”

By the end of the competition, Okanagan College had captured 11 medals. Other institutions that took part included Vancouver Island University, BCIT, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Camosun College, North Island College, Northern Lights College, University of the Fraser Valley, Thompson Rivers University and Vancouver Community College.

Okanagan College students placed as follows:

Zachary Andrews – Electronics
Spencer Humphries – Aerospace Technology
Aaron Schmidt – Automotive Service

Dale Blumhagen – Automotive Service
Curtis Koepke – Refrigeration
Sarah Maw – Culinary Arts
Lukas Pfob – Carpentry

Hugo Beaumier-Martin – Automotive Service
Andrew Kennedy – Aerospace Technology
Rav Matharoo – Heavy Equipment Service
Rudi Verlinden – IT – Network Systems Administration

The National Skills Canada competition attracts more than 500 competitors who compete in 40 contest areas, each vying for a chance at a coveted gold medal. The program was launched in 1994, and is the only national multi-trade and technology competition for young students and apprentices in the country.

UBC develops marijuana breathalyzer

The smell of your breath is the science behind a new device that will determine if you’re too stoned to be behind the wheel.

UBC Okanagan engineering professor Mina Hoorfar has developed a handheld device, known as a microfluidic breath analyzer that can detect the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a person’s breath. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

“It’s very easy to test for THC as it is a big molecule that stays in your breath for a long time,” says Hoorfar, recently named UBC Okanagan’s researcher of the year. “There is a period of 12 hours after you have consumed THC when it can still be detected in your breath.”

THC also stays in the blood and in saliva. However, roadside testing involving blood analysis or spit tests is not an easy process, and results are not immediate. With Hoorfar’s device—about the size of two fingers together—a law enforcement officer can determine within seconds whether a person is impaired.

UBC Professor Mina Hoorfar and PhD candidate Mohammad Paknahad assemble the microfluidic breath analyzer.

UBC Professor Mina Hoorfar and PhD candidate Mohammad Paknahad assemble the microfluidic breath analyzer.

The device costs about $15 to manufacture and is Bluetooth-enabled so data can be collected using a cellphone.

“This is a tool not just for the police, but perhaps more for self-testing and self-monitoring,” says Hoorfar, noting it can also be used as a personal breathalyzer after alcohol consumption. “People can consciously make the choice to test themselves after they have consumed THC or alcohol.”

The microfluidic breath analyzer, made with a 3D printer at the UBC’s campus in Kelowna, British Columbia, uses a single gas sensor along with a micrometer deep channel (not even as thick as a strand of hair). The highly-sensitive semiconductor gas sensor is inside the microchannel—and diffused exhaled breath is recorded and analyzed as it flows through this channel. The “smellprint” of the exhaled breath is then provided by the device showing how much marijuana has been consumed.

Hoorfar says with the decriminalization of cannabis on the federal government’s radar, and several American states legalizing the substance, it’s only a matter of time before driving while stoned becomes an enforcement matter. Police in Colorado and Washington states use an oral swab to test saliva, or can order a blood test. But even in those states, there is no legal definition of the amount of THC that can determine if a person is too impaired to drive.

Hoorfar is the head of the Advanced Thermo-Fluidic Laboratory (AFTL) where she and PhD student Mohammad Paknahad developed the microfluidic breath analyzer. The lab is an interdisciplinary research facility where professors, post-grad students, and researchers work with biochips and digital microfluidics.

Using technology in the lab, Hoorfar and Paknahad realized their device can also register odours other than THC. It is currently being tested for ketones, meaning diabetics may eventually be able to take a breath test instead of a finger prick blood test to monitor their glucose levels. The device is also being tested above gas lines, via a drone, to determine its capability of detecting a gas leak.


UBC Okanagan researchers receive $500,000 in innovation funding

Four UBC Okanagan researchers have been recognized as some of the top research talent in Canada.

The four—Prof. John Braun, Assist. Prof. Joshua Brinkerhoff, Assist. Prof. Liwei Wang and Assist. Prof. Wesley Zandberg—will collectively see their research supported by $500,000 of Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) funding.

UBC as a whole was awarded $1.55 million of a $20 million total investment in research infrastructure across 33 Canadian universities. The announcement was made by the Honourable Harjit Sajjan at an event held today at UBC’s Vancouver campus.

“This investment by CFI is a testament to the quality of research taking place at UBC Okanagan,” says Deborah Buszard, UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Okanagan campus. “This funding will allow our researchers to take their projects to the next level and help the campus continue to attract the best and brightest to the Okanagan.”

Braun, a statistician, was awarded $67,423 for a data visualization library that will have applications for wildfire science.

Brinkerhoff, an engineering researcher who studies the behaviour of fluid flow in engines, the environment and the human body, was awarded $124,971 to create an advanced computing facility to study fluid flows in natural gas infrastructure and natural-gas fueled vehicles.

Wang, an electrical engineering researcher, was awarded $121,874 for the creation of a flexible power transmission laboratory for renewable energy.

Zandberg, a chemistry researcher, was awarded $250,000 toward a centre for plant glycoscience (the study of complex carbohydrates) and biotechnology.

“We are delighted that the superb research being performed at the Okanagan campus of UBC has been recognized with these four awards,” says Phil Barker, Vice-Principal Research. “This campus is on an amazing trajectory and the research intensity of the Kelowna campus continues to grow rapidly. This is an exciting place to be.”

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UBC student participates in United Nations special assembly on drugs

UBC Okanagan student Michelle Thiessen is one of ten students from across Canada heading to the United Nations to discuss international drug policies.

The students are attending the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) in New York City, April 19 to 21. The group is sponsored by Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) — a grassroots network of students concerned about the negative impact current drug policies have on individuals and communities.

Thiessen co-founded UBC Okanagan’s CSSDP chapter last year. Since then, the student club has organized a number of drug policy-related lectures on campus and provided an opportunity for students to be trained to administer naloxone, a compound which can reverse opioid overdoses. This training was conducted through the Outreach Urban Health Centre in downtown Kelowna.

“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to attend UNGASS,” says Thiessen. “Current drug policies are failing—in some parts of the world drug possession offences are punishable by death. In North America, harm reduction programs like needle exchanges are still hotly contested.”

Gonzo Nieto, with Concordia University, is the co-chair of the national board of CSSDP.

“Historically, drug policies have been formulated with the aims of protecting youth, yet youth have hardly been included in the process of formulating and implementing these policies,” says Nieto. “However, in recent years we have seen a trend of greater inclusion of civil society groups in these proceedings, and we’re confident that supporting Canadian youths to attend this forum is an additional step in the right direction, ensuring that the youth voice is heard at these consultations.”

UNGASS is the only meeting of the UN where all 193-member states have equal representation. This particular meeting is occurring three years early at the request of the Guatemalan, Mexican, and Colombian governments who have highlighted an urgent need to reform the existing drug strategies and modernize international drug treaties.

Thiessen is a fourth-year psychology honours student at the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences who will begin her masters in clinical psychology at UBC this fall under the supervision of Zach Walsh, co-director, of UBC Okanagan’s Centre for the Advancement of Psychological Science and Law.

“We’re hoping that this meeting will signal the start of an international approach to drugs that favours public health and harm reduction,” Thiessen says. “The existing strategies that have been in place for four decades have been a failure.”

UBC Okanagan student Michelle Thiessen is heading to New York to participate in the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs.

UBC Okanagan student Michelle Thiessen is heading to New York to participate in the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs.


UBC’s rainbow stairs celebrate inclusion

Stair supporters (from left) Ben Moody, Lucia Woolgar and Jenica Frisque of the Equity and Inclusion Office, and student union VP Internal Romey Jaswal.

Stair supporters (from left) Ben Moody, Lucia Woolgar and Jenica Frisque of the Equity and Inclusion Office, and student union VP Internal Romey Jaswal.

UBC Okanagan will soon have rainbow stairs.

As part of an 18-month awareness-raising project, the stairs outside the University Centre will dawn colours similar to those of some crosswalks in Kelowna.

“UBC believes that all people regardless of race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation should be able to work and study in an inclusive environment,” says Jenica Frisque, an educator at UBC Okanagan’s Equity and Inclusion Office. “These stairs will act as a symbol of UBC Okanagan’s continued commitment of support to all students and staff and its opposition to discrimination in any form.”

The stairs, which are being generously paid for by the Students’ Union, will be coloured using $3,000 of laminate and are set to open next week. The installation of the stairs follows the beginning of the Pride Alliance, which was started on campus earlier this year.

While Canada has a large number of people who support equality, we are not there yet says Ben Moody, a coordinator at UBC Okanagan’s Pride Resource Centre.

“Canada is becoming a place where a large number of people are proud to say they support issues such as gay rights and gay marriage, but that hasn’t spread everywhere,” says Moody. “Kelowna itself has experienced many issues, but with things such as the rainbow crosswalks downtown and our mayor participating in the pride march we are making progress.”

There is an official opening scheduled for the new stairs on April 18 at 11 a.m. at the entrance to the campus' University Centre.


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