Medical Research Competition
Helping bright ideas in the lab become realities in patient care delivery

Community support of the University Hospital Foundation’s Medical Research Competition (MRC) has contributed more than $5.5 million in seed grants to some 250 peer-reviewed research projects at the University of Alberta Hospital, the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute and the Kaye Edmonton Clinic over the past 10 years.


 By providing critical funding at the earliest stage, the Medical Research Competition has given researchers, such as Dr. Ian Paterson and Dr. Justin Ezekowitz, critical support when they need it most – before they begin.

In December 2016, 14 new clinical research projects received $480,000 in funding from the University Hospital Foundation Medical Research Competition (UHFMRC). These grants will have a real impact on improving clinical care.


2016 Medical Research Competition Recipients 

Click here for information on the 2016 Medical Research Competition recipients

Researcher: Ngan Lam
Caring for those who care for others

“Giving your kidney to a loved one, or in some cases a stranger, is a selfless act to save the life of another person,” says Ngan Lam. “We should make sure that we’re taking care of the people who give so much to help others.”

Lam will be studying how often kidney donors are receiving follow-up care, and how they access these services. Tracking the follow-up care kidney donors receive will help identify ways to improve care and evaluate the impact follow-up makes on overall health.

Currently no such data exists, and very little research has been done in this area. The funding from UHF will help get the work done quickly. Having this information is important, as Alberta currently has one of the lowest number of living kidney transplants in Canada.

“I’m so grateful for this funding,” says Lam. “We want to make sure we are taking care of these amazing people, and if we can show that as a community we are, hopefully more people will consider donating a kidney.”


Researcher: Haili Wang
Improving surgical recovery for all

The standard notion that patients shouldn’t eat or drink anything before surgery has recently been called into question. Alberta implemented Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) for colorectal surgeries in 2013. The goal of ERAS is to improve the patient’s overall experience, decrease time spent in hospital and reduce complications and readmission rates. This is achieved through changes to: nutrition, mobilization, anesthesia, and pain management.

But diabetic patients have not been able to benefit from the improved recovery for colorectal surgery. A significant number of people are missing out, as 15 per cent of colorectal surgery patients are diabetic. Haili Wang will be studying if carbohydrate loading before surgery is safe for diabetic patients.

“Carb loading before surgery gives patients an extra boost before the stress of surgery on the body, but practices for diabetic patients haven’t been consistent,” says Wang. “This study will give us some much needed clarity.”

The study wouldn’t be possible without the UHFMRC funding and the collaboration of many partners from the Department of Surgery, Alberta Health Services and the Department of Anesthesia.


Researcher: Ian Winship
Using new imaging techniques to see solutions for Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a serious disease that requires a lifetime of medication and is associated with other serious complications.

Ian Winship and co-principal investigator Christopher Power will be using advanced imaging techniques to study brain dysfunction in models of schizophrenia.

Evidence from brain tissue from individuals with schizophrenia suggests that a loss of extracellular matrix structures in the brain may contribute to symptoms associated with schizophrenia. Supporting this, Winship found that the extracellular matrix is degraded in models of schizophrenia. Winship will now use advanced imaging techniques, originally used in his lab to study the effect of strokes on brain activity, to link brain dysfunction in schizophrenia to a loss of extracellular matrix structures. Once they are able to clearly link the loss of these structures to brain dysfunction and symptoms of schizophrenia, they can develop new treatments and interventions to prevent these devastating symptoms.

“If you want to move closer to a cure for a complex disease like schizophrenia, you need new ideas,” says Winship. “Without the opportunity to explore novel approaches to treatment, new drugs are generally slightly improved derivatives of existing drugs.”

“This is some of the research I’m most excited about,” says Winship. “It’s very hard to get funding to study a new area. The grant from UHF allowed me to take the research in my lab in a whole new direction.”


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