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Research Profiles

Waugh Family MS Society of Canada-funded doctoral student: Julia O’Mahony

Julia O'MahonyWhen you’re a pediatric MS researcher, getting to know children living with MS and their families is an essential part of the job. For Julia O’Mahony, Waugh Family MS Society-funded doctoral candidate at University of Toronto, it’s also the best part. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree in science at McMaster University (Hamilton ON), Julia began working at the MS Clinic at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. While spending time with children living by MS and their families, Julia identified important research questions that could be used to improve how health care is delivered to people living with MS.

Julia believes that the support that children with MS receive at home and in their communities can make a huge difference in how they to manage their disease, and it is this outlook that drives her research. “Through my research, I hope to identify community resources, such as family physicians who work in teams, that can help to improve the quality of life of children with MS,” says Julia, “Identifying resources that improve the health of children with MS will allow us to ensure access to these resources for all.”

In addition to dedicating her time to her doctoral degree, Julia has been an active participant in the MS Society’s endMS Research and Training Network. In 2013 and 2014, she participated in Scholar Program for Researchers IN Training (SPRINT), where she worked with mentor Dr. Steven Kerfoot (Western University, London ON) to develop a manual with the aim of bridging the communication gap between researchers who study MS in humans and those who study animals with an MS-like disease. Julia found the experience to be deeply rewarding; “[SPRINT] provides MS graduate students with some of the key tools they need to obtain academic appointments, while fostering critical inter-generational relationships between mentors and students that are imperative for imparting knowledge and vital skills.”

Research Events and Funding Opportunities

MS Society to award up to $15,000 to participants in Hack4Health competition

On September 26 and 27, the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo will host a hackathon with a health spin. The two day event called Hack4Health will bring together students in computer programing, software and hardware development, graphic design, and project management to develop practical, cutting-edge applications that will improve health and quality of life for people affected by Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Staff from the MS Society of Canada’s research and communications teams will be at the event, providing live updates and serving as one of the judges. One or more teams may be selected at the end of the event to be eligible to receive up to $15,000 in funding from the MS Society to work with an established researcher to further develop their project.

Seeking Community Representatives for upcoming research review

The MS Society’s research department invites all people affected by MS, who are interested in scientific research and are actively engaged in the community to submit an application to be a Community Representative in the 2016 Annual Research Competition. Each year the MS Society seeks scientific experts to review grant and award applications from researchers and trainees who are seeking funding. In addition, members of the public are involved in the review process to ensure that the process is transparent, and that funding is directed to research that will have meaningful impact in the lives of people with MS. For details on eligibility, responsibilities and how to apply, please visit the MS Society website.

Submit an abstract to ACTRIMS to be considered for MS Society Travel Award

The next ACTRIMS (Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis) Forum is taking place on February 18-20, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The MS Society will offer endMS Research and Training Travel Awards to four MSSC funded doctoral candidates and postdoctoral fellows who have submitted a successful abstract to ACTRIMS Forum 2016. The deadline to submit an abstract is Tuesday September 15, 2015. Visit the ACTRIMS website for submission guidelines and to submit an abstract.

Healthy and Productive Workplace funding opportunity

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and sister grant funding organization, the Canadian Institute of Health Research recently launched the first phase of a two-phase call for applications of the new funding opportunity: Healthy and Productive Work. Healthy and Productive Work is aimed at driving innovative, evidence-informed and gender responsive solutions to work and labour market challenges to improve the health and productivity of Canada’s diverse workforce. Details of the initiative and application requirements can be found here. Webinars will be held to communicate details of the initiative. For more information and to register, please visit the CIHR Web site.

Hosting an MS research event in your community? Submit it to msresearchgrants@mssociety.ca to be featured in Research in Action!

MS Updates

What is the impact of a parent’s MS on their children?

For young children, a parent with a chronic disorder like MS can be a source of stress and anxiety and, in some instances, can affect the child’s psychosocial behaviour; however, there is very little research exploring the effects of parental MS on early childhood development. MS Society-funded doctoral student Neda Razaz analyzed healthcare administrative data to determine if childhood development is influenced by having a parent who lives with MS. Read more…

Sophisticated genetics analysis reveals low vitamin D increases MS risk

DNAA growing body of evidence reveals that vitamin D deficiency is linked to MS; however, one challenge facing researchers examining this link is that most studies have been observational and cannot demonstrate a direct relationship. New research by Dr. Brent Richards and colleagues at McGill University involved a powerful statistical technique that uncovered compelling evidence showing a relationship between low vitamin D levels and risk of development of MS. Read more…

Early spinal cord tissue damage linked to disability in primary progressive MS thanks to cutting-edge imaging tech

SpineDeveloping the tools and technologies to visualize and measure progressive neurodegeneration death of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord is essential to managing MS. Drs. Olga Ciccarelli, Alan Thompson and their team in the United Kingdom combined advanced imaging techniques with sensitive clinical measures to detect early signs of neurodegeneration in the spinal cords of persons living with primary progressive MS. Read more…

In Other MS News…

Research Blog

(Image credits: TipsTimesAdmin / Flickr)In the latest multi-part series of Research Decoder, MS Society Vice-President, Research Dr. Karen Lee delves into the topic of outcome measures the tests that clinical trial investigators perform to decide whether a treatment being tested is having any effect.

In Part 1, Dr. Lee describes some of the clinical outcome measures commonly used to assess changes in MS disease activity and disability progression in clinical trials. Part 2 covers advanced imaging measures as well as other, newer measures that are starting to gain traction in the research world.

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