News and Stories


New Research Network to Improve Care for Acquired Brain Injury

Vancouver Island University (VIU) researcher Dr. Sandy Shultz and Island Health's Aimee Falkenberg (clinical coordinator for the Forensic Nurse Examiner program, Central and North Island) are leading a patient-oriented research team to improve care for survivors of intimate partner violence who have experienced a brain injury.

There isn't a lot of research on Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) as a result of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), which can be difficult to diagnose because there is no current standard for screening.  ABIs can be misidentified as emotional distress or struggles with mental health or substance use, and symptoms may not occur immediately after an assault. Targeted assessment tools are urgently needed.

In December, a group of clinicians, researchers, community organizations, and people with lived and living experience of ABI/IPV gathered in Nanaimo to establish a patient-oriented research​ network. 


Supported by members of Island Health's Research Department and funded by a Michael Smith Health Research BC grant, the event built on a longstanding collaboration between the Nanaimo Brain Injury Society, academic & community partners, and Island Health.

Forensic nurses and people with lived experience underscored the lack of assessment tools and treatment protocols for ABI/IPV survivors, and identified priorities and next steps for collaboration. Dr. Shultz presented his novel blood-biomarker research protocol developed to enable rapid and accurate diagnosis of ABI/IPV. Attendees reviewed the protocol to optimize its implementation at Island Health and will support the recruitment of ABI/IPV survivors to test the blood biomarker later this year.

Learn More:

Get Involved:

Research Scholar in Residence Mental Health and Substance Use Competition

Island Health is requesting proposals for a Research Scholar to collaborate with Mental Health and Substance Use (MHSU) team members in support of research-related activities for identified priority areas. 

  • Eligible applicants must have a PhD and be associated with an academic institution as Postdoctoral Fellow, Clinical Fellow, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor or Professor. Emerging scholars are especially encouraged to apply.
  • Letters of Intent are due February 6, 2023.
  • This is a 2-year position, starting May 1, 2023.
  • This is a part-time position (2.5 day/week) valued at $67,500 per year, including salary, benefits, and direct costs.
  • See the full guidelines for details and how to apply.


Congratulations to the 2022 Research Catalyst and Seed Grant Winners

Generously funded by the Victoria Hospitals Foundation and their donors, Catalyst Awards support one year projects that have a tangible impact on local patient care and build local research capacity. Seed Grants support new and developing Island Health researchers as they gain experience and build research capacity to improve care. Please join us in congratulating this year’s winners!

The winners of Island Health’s 2022 Catalyst Awards are:

  • Drs. Michael Chen and David Goodlett, "Rapid pathogen identification using lipidomics in ventilated patients with pneumonia."
  • Drs. Markus Sikkel and Joshua Giles, "Prevention of Prometheus-Like Punishment: First in Human Use of a Converter to Downgrade Implantable Defibrillators to Pacemakers in the Elderly and Frail."
  • Drs. Paul Winston and Ève Boissonnault, "Cryoneurolysis as drug free novel treatment of knee and shoulder pain impairing inpatient neuro-rehabilitation."
  • Griffin Russell and Dr. Bruce Wallace, "Drug user knowledge & drug checking evidence: Knowledge synthesis actions to reduce overdose in Island Health."
  • Drs. Michael Berger and John Kramer, "Understanding 'breakthrough' neuropathic pain episodes in peripheral neuropathy: A community study of patient and healthcare impacts."

The winners of the first cycle of Seed Grants are:

  • Dr. Katherine Blood and Dr. Caitlin Chang, "Beyond Genomics: Assessing the Improvement in Diagnosis of Rare Diseases using Clinical Epigenomics in Canada (EpiSign-CAN) - Participating Centre."
  • Dr. Elizabeth Plant and Professor Shannon Dames, "Combining Western and Indigenous Ways of Knowing in the Treatment of Depression and Substance Use Disorder: Piloting a Two-Eyed Seeing Approach in a Resilience-Focused Community of Practice Program."
  • Dr. Samuel Brophy and Dr. Maxwell Moor-Smith, "Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) for Acute Back Pain in the Emergency Department."

Funding for these grant competitions has been made available as part of the Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s Emerge Stronger campaign. This $10 million campaign is providing $500,000 to fund research projects that support the provision and delivery of care in the South Island and/or Island-wide. We are grateful to the Victoria Hospitals Foundation and their very generous donors for ongoing support of health research on Vancouver Island. To donate and support these projects and others, visit the Foundation's website.

Stay tuned for a second cycle of seed grant funding, coming Fall 2022.


Director of Research at Island Health is a 'Difference Maker'

Cindy Trytten, CHE, chose a career in healthcare as a result of her empathy and concern for others. Read the full article from the Canadian College of Health Leaders (CCHL) here.

Walking together in the same direction: co-developing a culturally rooted model for diabetes prevention

In collaboration with the nine First Nations of Southern Vancouver Island, researchers from Island Health, Simon Fraser University and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) are working together on a project to develop an Indigenous, community-based and culturally rooted diabetes prevention model.

Called Walking Together in the Same Direction, the project has received a $15,000 award from Michael Smith Health Research BC. 

The project will be co-led by Dr. Diane Sawchuck, Island Health’s Lead, Evidence, Evaluation & Knowledge Translation and Valerie Bob PhD (c), Simon Fraser University in collaboration with the FNHA. The diabetes prevention model will be co-created with the Esquimalt, Pauquachin, Pacheedaht, Scia’new, Songhees, Tsartlip, Tsawout, Tseycum, and T’sou’ke First Nations. 

“Island Health is excited to be working with First Nations communities, SFU and FNHA to co-create this model with and for Indigenous patients and families,” says Eunice Joe, Island Health Acting Vice-President of Indigenous Health & Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “We are grateful to Michael Smith Health Research BC for recognizing the value of this research project and the need for it to be grounded in lived experience, relationship and co-design.”

The Walking Together in the Same Direction project will explore the experiences of diabetes prevention through a series of community gatherings. These will enable sharing of languages and cultures within the South Island’s Nations. A community-based Advisory Circle will guide partnerships, and ensure health care reflects Indigenous perspectives of family, community and wholism.

“The rate of diabetes among Indigenous people is significantly higher than among our non-Indigenous neighbours," says Dr. Shannon McDonald, FNHA’s Chief Medical Officer. "People with diabetes also suffer more serious complications of the disease at a younger age. Prevention is key to life without diabetes, and better pathways are needed to living well with diabetes. High quality diabetes care must reflect the experiences and knowledge of the Indigenous people, be culturally appropriate, and collaborative."

The national prevalence of diabetes in Canada is 7.3 per cent. The diabetes rate among Indigenous individuals is almost five times higher at 34.8 per cent. Western, colonial approaches to diabetes prevention and management within Indigenous communities have had limited success in reducing the diabetes rate among Indigenous individuals. 

“This Indigenous-community driven project will add worldviews and lived experiences into evidence-based resources,” said project co-lead Sawchuck. “Utilizing knowledge and information-sharing, health provision systems will aim to reach closer towards anti-racist agendas.”

“Permanently reducing the burden of diabetes in Indigenous communities requires uprooting and decolonizing the structures that accelerate its onset, and using a community-developed and trauma-informed approach,” said project co-lead Bob. “Interventions must be culturally appropriate and tailored to meet the specific needs of communities. These include incorporating First Nations’ traditional foods and activities, benefits of traditional medicines, and wholistic perspectives on health and healing to support physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the whole person.”

Walking Together in the Same Direction will enhance the culture and resilience already present within Indigenous communities, and bridge gaps in care to develop a diabetes strategy that can support the question of “how can we be who we are as First Nations people while integrating our Traditional knowledge with the best of Western approaches to diabetes care?”

Planning for the Walking Together in the Same Direction community gatherings is now underway.

The Michael Smith Health Research BC public announcement about the award is available here​.  

Innovations in Diabetic Care: Total Contact Casting in Nanaimo


A new method wound care helps patients with diabetic foot ulcers improve mobility and avoid amputation. Learn more about the nurse and care team that brings an innovative new treatment to Nanaimo. Read the full article in Island Health Magazine.

Emerge Stronger: $500,000 in research funding

Island Health Research is proud to share that Victoria Hospitals Foundation has announced a new pilot funding allotment for the 2022/23 fiscal year, to fund research. As part of the $10 million Emerge Stronger fundraising campaign, Victoria Hospitals Foundation has made $500,000 available to support research projects within Island Health.

Island Health employees or affiliated health professionals can apply as Lead or Co-Lead for one or both of two distinct granting opportunities, outlined below. Academic partners may apply as a co-lead with an Island Health co-lead. Collaboration is encouraged and research team members may come from other organizations.


  • Catalyst grants aim to fund health research and knowledge translation projects that enable the creation and sustainability of evidence use to support Island health’s vision of “Excellent health and care for everyone, everywhere, every time” that:
    • Have a tangible impact on local patient care and building local research capacity;
    • Support provision and delivery of care in the South Island and/or Island-Wide; Align with Island Health priorities and Strategic Framework; 
    • Align with the VHF Emerge Stronger campaign; and
    • Do not replicate other research being completed locally or nationally.
  • Applicants may apply for an award amount between $10,000 and $100,000. A total of $450,000 in funding is available.


  • These bi-annual Seed grants aim to provide Initial funding for new and developing Island Health researchers that:

    • Engage health professionals in research, to support the acquisition of research experience, and to increase competitiveness for external funding opportunities;

    • Support provision and delivery of care in the South Island and/or Island-Wide; Align with Island Health priorities and Strategic Framework; and Do not replicate other research being completed locally or nationally.

  • Applicants may apply for an award of up to $10,000. A total of $50,000 is available for the year across two cycles of funding (Fall and Spring).

FALL 2021

The BC SUPPORT Unit Vancouver Island Centre Announces 2021-22 Graduate Fellows

The Island Centre’s Graduate Fellowships provide students with training and support in the principles and practice of patient-oriented research, create opportunities for collaboration, and build capacity for patient-oriented research.

View the list of the 14 Graduate POR 2021-22 Fellows, funded through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) as part of Canada’s Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR).

Knowledge to Action Month

Every November, the Research Department hosts a month of collaborative events, bringing together leaders and researchers, healthcare providers and patients to learn about the importance of translating evidence into practice to improve care and outcomes.

View recordings of this year's of events.

Volunteers Making a Difference


Across the communities that Island Health serves, over 2,000 volunteers work alongside staff, clinicians and patients and families to improve the care experience and help achieve our vision of excellent health and care for everyone, everywhere, every time. While many volunteer programs had to pause temporarily during the COVID19 pandemic, a small but mighty team of 22 volunteers in the Research Department was able to continue working remotely. Read the full article in Island Health Magazine.

Get to know Amanda Leddy


Amanda Leddy is Island Health's research facilitator, helping guide Island Health staff and health professionals from research idea to implementation. Amanda is the first point of call for all research queries. Learn more about Amanda below!

What is your role in Island Health’s research department?

I am the research facilitator, which means that I support teams through the full research process. From formalizing an idea, designing a study, forming collaborations and navigating approvals, I’m here to be a guide for clinicians conducting research and for external teams looking to partner with Island Health.

Why did you embark on a career in research?

After completing my MSC in Psychology (Lifespan Health & Development) at UVic, I knew I wanted to stay in the research world. To me, there’s nothing more exciting than tackling an interesting question that will help add to existing knowledge or evidence about the world. I worked in research and clinical education at the University of Saskatchewan for five years, and was delighted to join Island Health in 2020. My favourite thing about my current role is the incredible diversity of projects I get to support from across program areas and geographies.

What are the challenges or benefits of conducting research on Vancouver Island?

The partnerships and collaborations that are possible here are truly outstanding. Between the five local post-secondary institutions, active community groups and highly engaged patients, families and public, there is so much opportunity to bring multidisciplinary teams together and learn from different perspectives. As for challenges, many clinicians are constrained from engaging in research by heavy workloads and lack of time. The Research Department works to reduce these barriers and make research more accessible through teambuilding, sharing resources and streamlining processes.

What is your favourite thing about living here?

Our rainy winters are my favourite time of year. I love nothing better than cracking a window and listening to the rain on our tin roof. I also get to rediscover the island through my toddler’s eyes, which is a treat – there’s so much to explore. I feel very fortunate to be able to live and work on Coast Salish territory, and to raise my daughter to understand the relationship between this land and its original stewards.

What’s your top health or wellness tip? 

Like many people who’ve been working from home during the pandemic, I realized how much time I spend sitting when I don’t get to commute by bike, walk to meetings or take a co-worker for coffee. I try to add movement to my day by digging in the garden during webinars, for example, or calling into meetings while walking around the block. I can’t wait for the day when we’re able to have in-person walking meetings again.


Global COVID-19 clinical database passes the half million patient records mark

The International Severe Acute Respiratory and emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC) is celebrating a major milestone: submission of clinical data from over half a million individuals hospitalised with COVID-19. ISARIC is a global federation of clinical research networks, providing a proficient, coordinated, and agile research response to outbreak-prone infectious diseases.

COVID-19 data is being collected from 1,651 sites in 63 countries - including data contributed by our Clinical Trials Unit at Royal Jubilee Hospital through the Short PeRiod IncideNce sTudy of Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SPRINT SARI). SPRINT SARI is a hospital-based surveillance database that enables the real time tracking and reporting of the sickest patients with COVID-19. Data from SPRINT SARI feeds into the ISARIC COVID-19 Clinical Database. Clinical research nurses Gayle Carney (lead) and Deb Parfett oversaw Island Health’s involvement, supported by medical and nursing students Riley Reel, Sarah Douglas, and Ashleigh Swanson who volunteered to assist with the data collection and entry.

The ISARIC COVID-19 Clinical Database enables individual investigators to collaborate globally. The collective generated evidence has resulted in the publication of over 50 reports and manuscripts, with an additional 25 in progress. These publications help inform public health response to COVID-19 around the world.

To learn more, read the full announcement.

Changing the conversation: pilot projects focus on improving emergency department care for people who use opioids

A better experience for people who use opioids and their care providers is the goal of two pilot projects underway at emergency departments in Campbell River and Victoria. “We needed champions to be in both sites to do this,” says Arlene Hogan, Island Health’s Regional Overdose Response Coordinator. “You need people on the ground to create momentum and interest.”

Read the full article in Island Health’s News page.

The Contact Identification Tool keeping patients and staff safe

As a vital part of ensuring patient safety, Island Health follows strict infection control to prevent the introduction and spread of infection. Because of COVID-19, we’ve all become familiar with measures like screening, hand hygiene stations, and proper personal protective equipment. But even with strong procedures in place, transmission of infectious viruses such as COVID-19 within Island Health care and service locations may still be possible.

Read the full article in the 2021 Summer edition of Island Health Magazine.