U of R researchers receive more than $350,000 in SHRF funding.
Tremors, balance, vertigo, dizziness, bladder and bowl dysfunction, memory issues, depression, fatigue, difficulty walking, blurry vision, loss of vision, pain. These are a few of the common symptoms people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) suffer from. And they can become debilitating.
While not fatal, there is no cure for MS, and because it’s a chronic condition, people can live with these symptoms – and many others – for decades and decades.
“This means that MS may be associated with a person’s progressive loss of autonomy and a decline in their quality of life,” says Dr. Janine Brown, associate dean (faculty affairs) in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Regina. “All of these factors may lead individuals living with MS to turn to medical assistance in dying (MAID).”
Brown says that those living with MS deserve open conversations about their care options – which includes MAID. “Yet, there’s a real lack of research about patient-and-family-centered care where MS and MAID care intersect, cutting that conversation short.”
Now Brown has received $117,000 in support from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) through their Establishment Grants program for her project called Multiple sclerosis and medical assistance in dying: A qualitative exploration of patient and family-centered care. The project will allow her team to engage in conversations with people living with MS and their care partners concerning MAID.
“We will listen and interpret what participants tell us, then describe their perspectives and experiences,” says Brown, who is leading a team that includes patient study advisors, a nurse MAID researcher, a rehabilitation physician practicing MS care along the entire disease course, a geriatric psychiatrist involved in MAID research, practice, and policy development, the MS clinical director, and the Saskatchewan MS research chair.
Recruitment for participants is possible because of the existence of an established clinical research database of over 700 people living with MS who have consented to be contacted. Potential participants will be invited to share the study recruitment notice with their care partners.
“We will use semi-structured, individual interviews with approximately 40 participants (20 individuals living with MS and 20 care partners), along with 10-15 care providers. We will then review the data within the context of the participants' demographics,” says Brown. “And, in the end, will share our findings with participants.”
Brown is excited to get started because she says the research will enhance the understanding of MS and MAID for those living with MS, their care partners and care providers, as well as policymakers, and others in the community.
“What we discover will help to establish best practices and support continued health system improvement for dignified, high-quality care for all in the MS community.”
Two other University of Regina researchers also received SHRF Establishment Grant funding:
Assistant professor in the Faculty of Social Work, Dr. Lise Milne received $119,958 for her project, Exploring the optimal conditions for implementing a trauma-focused prenatal group program in Saskatchewan.
Her project aims to uncover the necessary conditions to successfully implement a trauma-focused prenatal prevention program in Saskatchewan: Supporting the Transition and Engagement in Parenthood (STEP). Developed to support expectant parents who experienced childhood trauma, STEP is based on early childhood development research confirming significant risk of neurodevelopmental problems for infants born to parents who experienced childhood trauma.
Support for expectant parents during their infant’s most vulnerable development phase is critical to their future development. Research clearly shows that preventive interventions lead to short and long-term benefits for infants, including healthy attachment and optimal development.
By supporting expectant parents with histories of childhood trauma, Milne and her team aim to increase their knowledge and confidence, decrease their stress and anxiety, and augment peer and community support, thereby leading to enhanced resilience.
Throughout this project, a multidisciplinary group of researchers within social work, psychology, neuroscience, nursing, and education will connect with key stakeholders and those with lived experience in Saskatchewan, so that STEP is implemented in a way that reflects the needs of its citizens. The team will then produce and share accessible, innovative knowledge on the neurobiological impacts of trauma.
University of Regina biology assistant professor Dr. Nicole Hansmeier received $116,951 for her project, How to spot the next pandemic? Wastewater-based epidemiology for improved public health.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how vulnerable our community is to new diseases and how much we need a surveillance system to identify and track diseases within the population.
Traditional testing can often not be scaled up quickly enough to cover large populations, suffers from sampling biases, and takes time and commitment of each community member. The goal of this research project is to establish a low-cost and sustainable health surveillance system to track diseases without interfering with people’s personal lives.
A promising strategy to survey a population in a timely manner is the analysis of wastewater streams. Many diseases can be identified in human fecal and urine specimens and are therefore trackable in the wastewater system.
This program builds on an existing pilot project for wastewater-based SARS-CoV-2 surveillance and intends to address current challenges and limitations of wastewater-based epidemiology using the City of Regina as a model.
In collaboration with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, the program will expand monitoring to seasonal flu and the contagious food-borne norovirus. Moreover, this program will assess how additional wastewater data can be used to improve health and disease monitoring. Overall, this program will build a robust surveillance program that will not only provide crucial information throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic but will also develop new tools to better spot and prepare us for the next disease outbreak.
The Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation is the provincial funding agency that funds, supports, and promotes the impact of health research that matters to Saskatchewan. SHRF Establishment Grant funding attracts and retains early-career researchers who have the knowledge and expertise needed to build successful programs of research and bring further research funding to Saskatchewan from national and other funding agencies.