Research Updates

Catch up on our recent research highlights and activities.


Health Equity and KPMG Foundation Research Seed Grants Awarded

We're delighted to announce the successful applicants to Island Health's 2023-2024 research seed grant competition. This competition funds health research projects that:

  1. Align with Island Health’s priorities and goals to improve care and services in our communities, and achieve our vision of “Excellent health and care for everyone, everywhere, every time.”
  2. Engage people in research to gain experience, foster strong teams, and increase competitiveness for future funding opportunities.

This year, 4 general seed grants of $12,500 each were awarded, as well as 2 seed grants of $12,500 each to support health equity projects in the Greater Victoria area. These projects will to advance health equity and eliminate health disparities by improving outcomes or access to health care and services for equity-deserving groups. 

Funding for this competition has been generously provided by the Victoria Hospitals Foundation through support from the KPMG Foundation and the Victoria Foundation.

Health Equity Grants

Preventing seclusion for young adults in inpatient mental health
Allie Slemon (University of Victoria) and Tasha Mckelvey (Island Health) 

75% of mental illnesses first present by age 24. However, mental health inpatient admissions are traumatizing for many young adults, especially when they face seclusion: confinement in an isolated locked room, usually to manage acute risk of violence or harms. This spring, Royal Jubilee Hospital opened a Young Adult Mental Health Inpatient Unit to support young adults (17 to 26) who are experiencing severe mental health challenges. This project brings together researchers and Island Health leaders with peers and young people who have lived experience of seclusion. They’ll identify strategies for preventing seclusion while ensuring that any changes are equitable and grounded in the voices of those most affected.

Integrating Mental Health and Substance Use Supports for Residents in Long-term Care
Amy Salmon (University of British Columbia) and Amanda Leddy (Island Health) 

Long-term care (LTC) provides 24-hour care, accommodation, and hospitality to adults with complex medical and cognitive health issues. While most LTC residents have traditionally been older adults living with complex health conditions such as dementia and frailty, a growing number of younger people with developmental, brain injury, and mental health and substance use needs are living in or waitlisted for LTC homes. The Summit, a LTC home in Victoria, has developed a specialized care unit for people who do not fit the traditional LTC resident profile. The unit is currently home to 32 people, many of whom have a history of precarious housing or homelessness and complex mental health and substance use issues. Through this innovative care model, residents can access services rarely or never available in other LTC homes, such as harm reduction supplies, prescribed safer supply, and opioid agonist therapy. This project will engage and explore the perspectives of those residents, enhancing services to better meet their needs and improve their experience.

KPMG Foundation Research Seed Grants

Safety Interventions: Are they helping healthcare workers feel safer?
Frances Jorgensen (Royal Roads University) and Michael Morrison (Island Health) 

Workplace violence is on the rise in healthcare, and has serious consequences for employees, patients, and our communities. Emerging research also suggests that equity-deserving employees are more often the target of workplace violence and may suffer more enduring negative consequences. Many ways to prevent workplace violence have been proposed and implemented, but we don’t know how healthcare employees actually experience these interventions, or whether they feel safer as a result. This project will ask hospital employees whether violence prevention in their workplace has increased their sense of safety, and how it could be more effective. The research team aims to develop practical ways to improve violence prevention, enhancing employee safety and reducing risk.

Recharging the Charge Nurse: developing the next generation of nurse leaders
Lenora Marcellus (University of Victoria) and Kent Soltys (Island Health) 

Charge nurses, or unit leaders, are critical to the successful operation of clinical care units. They coordinate and mobilize resources, respond rapidly to changing demands and conditions, create a positive work culture, and are accountable for patient safety and quality care. Within Island Health, the role has usually been given to the most senior or expert nurse on shift, yet many are now retiring. In Island Health’s annual survey of new registered nurse graduates, 60% reported being appointed as charge nurses within their first 6 months, yet many lack access to training and support specific to this complex point-of-care leadership role. This project aims to describe the experiences of Island Health charge nurses, how they were prepared for the role, the challenges they experienced, and how they developed as leaders. The results will contribute to improving satisfaction and retention, and creating an initial foundation for and interest in nursing leadership development.

Catalyzing action to reduce preterm birth among Indigenous people in BC
Jennifer Murray (University of British Columbia) and Shannon Waters (Island Health) 

Worldwide and in Canada, Indigenous women face an increased risk of adverse birth outcomes, including preterm birth. Preterm birth is any birth before 37 weeks of gestation, and has long-lasting health impacts on the infant, parents, and family. These disparities are linked to the impacts of historical and ongoing colonization that have severely disrupted Indigenous people's lives, culture, and the intergenerational transfer of knowledge. An ongoing community-based study has found that the rate of preterm birth is three times higher for Quw'utsun (Cowichan Tribes) community members than for non-First Nations births. The goal of this project is to reduce the risk of preterm birth by catalyzing health system change and fostering strong, healthy, and thriving Indigenous communities in Quw'utsun, across Vancouver Island, and throughout BC. To achieve this goal, the team will prepare a policy brief and engage in deliberative dialogue with policymakers and health service leaders.

Improving quality of life and reducing pain for children with spasticity
Dr. Paul Winston

Spasticity causes muscle stiffness, pain, and disability for millions of adults and children worldwide. It affects up to 70% of children with cerebral palsy, as well those have experienced strokes, spinal cord injuries, or severe traumatic brain injuries. Spasticity can cause painful and deformed joints, and may result in disability; as they grow, children either need constant injections with botulinum toxin, or major surgeries. This research project will document the impact of an innovative treatment for spasticity in children: cryoneurolysis or nerve-freezing is a quick, long-lasting, and cost-effective procedure. The study will measure mobility, function, independence, pain, and quality of life following cryoneurolysis. Learn more about cryoneurolysis for spasticity in this short video.


New Research in Review: Read the 2023 Annual Report

In the 2023 calendar year, we continued to support our vision of excellent health and care for everyone, everywhere, every time. Thriving research collaborations are changing lives and improving services by:

  • preventing vascular risk
  • reducing migraine pain through a clinical trial
  • preventing injury in community healthcare workers
  • co-creating a response to the toxic drug poisoning crisis
  • engaging community to improve dementia care in the Comox Valley
  • empowering people through better data management

Read the report


Engaging Community to Spark Aging, Dementia, and Long-Term Care Research in the Comox Valley

July 2023


The Comox Valley Community Foundation has awarded Island Health $130,000 from the Robert and Florence Filberg Medical Research Grant to engage community in improving care and services for an aging population. 


The grant was facilitated by the Comox Valley Healthcare Foundation; President Bill Anglin notes that “aging well and growing old are on the minds of many in our community. The Comox Valley Healthcare Foundation, working alongside Island Health, is placing a spotlight directly on aging well and growing old. We are grateful for the generous funding provided by the Comox Valley Community Foundation.”

Some of the grant will support a local research priority-setting workshop in September 2023. The workshop will bring together patients--including family members, caregivers and friends--researchers, clinicians and healthcare decision-makers to identify the community’s top priorities around aging well, dementia, and long-term care. “We’re thrilled that the Comox Valley Community Foundation and the Comox Valley Healthcare Foundation are supporting research collaborations with patients and communities," says Cindy Trytten, Director of Research. 
The workshop’s patient-oriented approach engages people with lived experience as equal partners through the whole research process, from setting priorities to ensuring that the results will improve outcomes. For Max Jajszczok, Executive Director, Rural and Remote Strategy, “The Filberg Medical Research Grant will empower the people who receive our services to identify their research priorities for aging and dementia care by bringing them together with researchers, clinicians, and health system leaders to improve experience and outcomes.”

Following the workshop, the majority of the grant will be distributed through a grant competition to fund research projects and fellowships that address the top priorities. These projects will have a tangible local impact, paving the way for participation in studies, fostering more research opportunities, and shaping a brighter future for aging and dementia care. 

Learn More
Interested in contributing or participating? Connect with us! 


    Congratulations to the latest crop of research seed grant winners! 

    June 2023

    The results are in! Congratulations to the three successful teams, who will receive $7,500 each to support the following projects:

    • Improving frailty care in Cowichan: Lina Al-Sakran (evaluation consultant, Cowichan Health & Wellness Plan) will take a patient-centred approach to improve community care and services for people living with frailty in the Cowichan Valley. This study aims to understand the needs of Cowichan Valley seniors, and identify opportunities to improve services that will support older adults to live independently in the community.
    • Supporting patients before life-changing surgery: Meara Brown (speech language pathologist) will map the care journeys and counselling experiences of patients who have total laryngectomies: the complete surgical removal of the voice box. Drawing on the help and expertise of the laryngectomy community, this is a first step towards building a counselling framework to better support patients before a life-changing surgery with profound social, economic, and health consequences.
    • Engaging Indigenous youth to measure connections to culture and land: Jennifer MacKenzie (regional youth MHSU nurse clinician & youth intensive case management team coordinator), Andrea Mellor (UVic) and Cecelia Benoit (UVic) will engage with Indigenous communities in Victoria and Cowichan to evaluate a meaningful way of measuring connections to culture and land for Indigenous youth who access mental health and substance use services. Cultural interventions take a whole-person and strengths-based approach, and measure hope, belonging, purpose, and meaning.


    From left: Lina Al-Sakran, Meara Brown, and Jennifer MacKenzie

    Meaningful Review, Meaningful Projects

    For the first time in an Island Health grant competition, the application review process included patient and community partners alongside clinical and academic reviewers. All reviewers were invited to evaluate all applications to the competition. Their scores and feedback were weighted equally, and combined to determine which projects would receive funding. Designing a balanced and meaningful review process that brings together many perspectives is one way to make sure we're funding research that matters to the communities we serve. It also helps to ensure that the funded projects are designed and conducted with patients, families, and communities in mind as equal partners.

    The patient partners were supported throughout the review process by Island Health’s Leader for Patient and Public Research Engagement. Patient partners include anyone directly affected by a health condition, illness, or health system issue: family members, loved ones, and care givers as well as patients. There are lots of ways to get involved in research beyond participating as a study subject. Whether you're interested in joining a research team, helping set priorities for future research, reviewing grant applications, or contributing to events and education, your experience provides a unique and valuable perspective.

    • Complete this brief survey and we'll be in touch when we have a local opportunity that fits your interests.

    Emerging Stronger

    Funding for this competition was made available through the Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s Emerge Stronger campaign. This $10 million campaign provided $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 supporting health research on Vancouver Island. To donate or to learn more about these projects and others, visit the Foundation's website.​​

    New Research in Review Highlights Collaborations & Impact

    April 2023

    Curious about what we've been up to recently? Check out our Research in Review, a report that highlights just some of the inspiring researchers at Island Health and the people whose lives they impact in so many positive ways. Research is all about collaboration, relationships, learning, and inquiry; thank you to those who support what we do!

    Read our Research in Review

    REDCap Data Management: Celebrating 10 Years + 1,000 Projects at Island Health

    March 2023

    REDCap (Research Electronic Data CAPture) is a powerful data management tool that’s advancing health services management, quality improvement, innovation, and research at Island Health and across BC.

    On March 22, we reached a major milestone: 1,000 REDCap projects have been created at Island Health since its launch in 2014! 

    • Check out this infographic celebrating 10 years of REDCap at Island Health
    • Get the details on its evolution at Island Health in this report.

    The 1,000 Project: Snapshot

    Who requested the 1,000th project? Aimee Falkenberg, a forensic nurse examiner and clinical coordinator for the Nanaimo Forensic Nurse Examiner Program (Central and North Island). Learn more about Forensic Nursing Services at Island Health.


    How will Aimee use the project? Aimee and her team will use REDCap to collect statistical data for the forensic nursing program. This will allow them to increase their skillset and educate forensic nurse examiners; it will also shed light on the increasing levels of intentional violence and injuries they’re seeing. Forensic nurses are on call 24/7 and 365 days of the year. They see survivors of intimate partner violence, intentional relational violence, family violence, sexual exploitation and sexual assault across the lifespan, all genders up to seven days post incident. 

    What’s the impact? Aimee says that “having data to show what types of injuries we are seeing and the significance of those injuries to the health and wellbeing of survivors will help us develop interventions and research projects that will directly impact care outcomes. I am excited to start this project, to see the benefits of the data collection and to make deeper and greater impacts for survivors of intentional traumatic violence.”

    Why did Aimee choose REDCap? It came with a strong recommendation: “Using REDCap for data collection was a very easy decision to make. Trauma Services is using REDCap for a large trauma project and Darren Chan (trauma coordinator for Central and North Island) said it was seamless to use and crucial to the work they do.” says Aimee.

    Learn More about REDCap

    WINTER 2023

    New Research Network to Improve Care for Acquired Brain Injury

    January 2023

    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: