Campus Life  

UBC Okanagan opens new community-engaged research space

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility and Kelowna—Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr are surrounded by UBC Okanagan researchers as they cut the ribbon at the official building opening.

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility and Kelowna—Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr are surrounded by UBC Okanagan researchers as they cut the ribbon at the official building opening.

Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility attends ceremony

Research for those living with chronic disease, physical disability and obesity is set to get a boost with the opening of two new community-focused research spaces at UBC Okanagan.

The new facilities, which were made possible with funding in part from the Government of Canada, were officially opened today with the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, on hand to preside over the ceremony.

"By investing in institutions like UBC Okanagan, our government is giving Canadians the necessary spaces to train the new generation and bring together researchers and entrepreneurs who turn bold ideas into reality,” says Qualtrough, who helped make the announcement on behalf of the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport. “We’re giving science, and specifically data, the opportunity to inform policy on issues of significant importance such as disability and accessibility. This investment in science will allow the health and well-being of the local community and beyond to improve for generations to come.”

Located in UBC Okanagan’s Upper Campus Health Building, the research spaces were made possible by nearly $1 million in new funding; $723,567 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, $123,567 from the BC Knowledge Development Fund and $60,000 from the Frank C. Diener Foundation.

“We are proud to support important research facilities like these through the BC Knowledge Development Fund. Researchers at UBC Okanagan are undertaking meaningful and innovative work that will help make a difference in people’s lives,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. “The research done at the university will help develop new methods in health care and bring important benefits to British Columbians and Canadians alike.”

The research will be led by Professor Kathleen Martin Ginis, Associate Professor Mary Jung, and Assistant Professor Heather Gainforth from the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, and by Lesley Lutes, associate professor of psychology at UBC Okanagan.

Martin Ginis, who is also the founding director of SCI Action Canada, a team dedicated to spinal cord injury research, says her focus will be on promoting the health and well-being of people living with physical disability and those living with or at risk of chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes.

“Nearly one in ten Canadians report some form of physical disability and nearly seven in ten Canadian adults have been diagnosed with diabetes so these are areas of research that have real implications for a huge portion of the population,” says Martin Ginis. “Our aim is to foster research excellence that is responsive to the healthcare needs of our region. To develop, test and evaluate the latest interventions and deliver the most effective strategies directly to those that can benefit from them the most.”

Lutes says her clinical health psychology research space complements the work of Martin Ginis, bringing together the evidence from behavioural medicine and clinical psychology to develop cognitive and behavioural programs that not only make people psychologically feel better, but improve their physical health.

“60 per cent of visits to primary care are now related to mental health, or as a result of managing a chronic health condition such as diabetes,” says Lutes. “We want to take innovative, evidence-based treatments and embed them within every primary care practice in Canada. That way physicians can focus on what they do best, and we can deliver tailored visits delivered by qualified health-care professionals, resulting in healthier and happier Canadians.”

Both Lutes and Martin Ginis emphasize the community-engaged nature of the new research facilities. They say this approach brings the community itself into the research process to help guide its direction and to ensure the resulting knowledge is immediately available to those that can use it best.

“We’ve designed our space to be open, welcoming and accessible,” says Martin Ginis. “For example, we’ve created a demonstration kitchen that will allow us to run nutrition workshops and that is completely wheelchair accessible. It was important that our space is fully functional for those that will be involved and engaged in making our research a success.”

While the new space has only just been opened the researchers and their teams have already hit the ground running.

“We’ll be inviting our stakeholders and community members up to the new space in the coming weeks and we’re already in the planning stages for several projects, including a new integrated care clinic pairing medicine and clinical psychology to provide cutting edge healthcare,” says Lutes. “I want every Canadian to have the healthcare that will benefit them the most. Whether it is mental health or physical health - it is all healthcare.”

“We’re hoping to make huge strides in our respective fields and we’re grateful for the support of federal, provincial and private funders in making that a reality.”

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.

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