Our Researchers

Meet some of our researchers and ambassadors; we support more than 160 of them!

The world of research doesn’t have to be complex, intimidating, or difficult to understand.  The research we fund, across multiple streams, from basic science through to clinical and community-based efforts, results in knowledge that we proudly share with our funding partners in ways meaningful to them. 

The Alberta Women’s Health Foundation is directly engaged with researchers and clinicians who are passionate about the work they do and the difference they make.  

These researchers and clinicians are ambassadors who are pleased to represent their work to the funding partners who make their work possible. While we cannot list them all—the brief list below provides an idea of scale and scope of the projects that are making a difference in the health of women, locally, provincially, and nationally.

AWHF-Supported Research Chairs and WCHRI Executive Director

Dr. Sandra Davidge

Faculty of Medicine Dentistry, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology 
Executive Director, Women and Children’s Health Research Institute
Area of research: Reproductive health (preeclampsia; developmental origins of health and disease)

Dr. Dawn Kingston 

Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary
Lois Hole Hospital for Women Cross-Provincial Chair in Women’s Mental Health Research

Dr. Cheng-Han Lee 

Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology
Sawin-Baldwin Chair in Ovarian Cancer

Dr. Colleen Norris

Faculty of Nursing
Cavarzan Chair in Mature Women’s Health Research

Dr. Jane Schulz

Faculty of Medicine Dentistry, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology 
Alberta Women’s Health Foundation Chair in Women’s Health Research

Our Ambassadors

Dr. Dawn Kingston

Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary
Lois Hole Hospital for Women Cross-Provincial Chair in Women’s Mental Health Research

Area of research: Women’s mental health

As the Lois Hole Hospital for Women Cross-Provincial Chair in Women's Mental Health Research, Dawn is using technology to improve mental health care for pregnant women. With prenatal anxiety and depression affecting one in four pregnant Albertan women, Dawn developed The Hope Digital Platform—a comprehensive online system providing mental health screening, referral, and treatment options for pregnant women in Alberta.

This platform gives primary care providers the foundation to start asking, and women the encouragement to start talking. In other words, it emboldens both to face pregnancy’s most common complication with the right tools, an empowered mindset, and most importantly, hope.

Dr. Sangita Sharma

Canada Research Chair in Population Health
Centennial Professor and Professor in Indigenous and Global Health Research
Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, Department of Medicine

Areas of research: Indigenous health, global health

Gita is working with community partners serving the most vulnerable populations to assess and improve access to and experience with healthcare services. Her work informs the development and implementation of organization-specific interventions.

Dr. Sue Ross

Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Areas of research: Menopause

Sue is dedicated to menopause research, as well as the health and well-being of mature Indigenous women. Leading a national team, Sue is focused on research empowering mature women to take control of their wellness. Support from the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation has allowed Sue to develop new and culturally relevant holistic approaches to assist women in managing their menopause symptoms; explore the effects of exercise through a social support network; and collaborate with Indigenous women to raise community awareness of menopause.

Dr. Jane Schulz

Chair, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology
Alberta Women's Health Foundation Chair in Women's Health Research

Areas of research: Urogynecology

Jane is helping to educate women on pelvic floor disorders—which impact one in three women—at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. Support from the Lois Hole Hospital for Women and Alberta Women’s Health Foundation allows Jane to focus on research that has direct knowledge translation and impact on clinical innovation and efficiencies. From removing barriers and improving much-needed care for immigrants impacted by language barriers and cultural differences to introducing online pelvic floor disorder modules that decreased intake appointments by 30 minutes, Jane is improving how to connect patients with correct pathways to care.

Dr. Helen Steed

Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Areas of research: Gynecologic cancer

As a gynecologic oncologist, Helen has championed minimally invasive surgery, which results in faster recovery times, shorter hospital stays, and ultimately, less pain and discomfort for patients. Helen’s research was instrumental in building a case to bring a dedicated robot into operating theatres at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women—increasing the number of women who have access to state-of-the-art robotic surgery.

Dr. Lauren Beaupre

David Magee Endowed Chair in Musculoskeletal Research
Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine

Alberta Bone & Joint Health Institute, Bone and Joint Health Strategic Clinical Network

Area of research: Musculoskeletal

Osteoporosis affects approximately 250,000 Albertans and each year there are 22,000 osteoporosis-related fractures in the province along with their associated costs. The incidence of osteoporosis in women is continuously apparent from data trends in Alberta, with females accounting for approximately 70-75 percent of hip fracture patients who require emergency surgery. With an aging population, increasing life expectancy, and no cure for the disease, the incidence of osteoporosis is expected to rise in Canada.

Addressing care gaps systematically, strategically, and with evidence has been instrumental in improving health, and in some cases saving the lives, of thousands of women in Alberta. Education has played an important role in the successes. The Alberta Women’s Health Foundation is working with ABJHI and the BJH SCN to support research in osteoporosis and educational tools for women to plan for a lifetime of bone health.

Dr. Sandra Davidge

Distinguished University Professor
Former Canada Research Chair in Maternal and Perinatal Cardiovascular Health

Executive Director, Women and Children's Health Research Institute
Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology

Areas of research: Reproductive health (preeclampsia; developmental origins of health and disease)

As many as 20 percent of pregnancies are affected by complications—such as preeclampsia or poor fetal growth—that can lead to long-term cardiovascular problems for both mothers and their babies. Sandy’s pioneering studies on vascular health in the dire pregnancy complication preeclampsia are leading to new therapies to improve pregnancy outcomes.

With support from the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation, Sandy is looking at how improving outcomes for complicated pregnancies might reduce, or even prevent, future chronic cardiovascular problems in both mothers and their children.

Dr. Christy-Lynn Cooke

Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology 

During pregnancy, the body goes through many changes and can sometimes be affected by disorders that involve the cardiovascular system, such as preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction. Even after pregnancy, the cardiovascular issues which occur during pregnancy can have consequences later on in the woman’s life and also for the baby. The older the woman is when pregnant, the higher her risk of experiencing these complications.

As a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women and researcher at the University of Alberta, Christy-Lynn leverages her support from the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation to explore how the age of mothers, especially older mothers, influences the structure, function, and control of the cardiovascular system.

To improve vascular function and health outcomes for both moms and their children, ​Christy-Lynn uses pre-clinical models to study blood vessels in complicated pregnancies to develop novel, targeted therapies to regulate a mother’s vascular function.

Dr. Lisa Hornberger

Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Department of Pediatrics

Cardiovascular disease, including hypertension, coronary artery disease, and stroke, is responsible for one-third of all deaths worldwide.

Lisa Hornberger and her team have been exploring the impact of prenatal exposure to gestational diabetes, a complication that occurs in women who did not have diabetes before pregnancy and can lead to problems for the mother, including high blood pressure.

Lisa’s research project – supported in part by the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation – focuses on the long-term impact of gestational diabetes on babies, before and after birth. She and her team have conducted cardiovascular assessments, using echocardiograms, to measure the health of the heart and blood vessels of children whose moms had gestational diabetes. Her team is also looking at other risk factors – the children’s diets and physical activity levels since birth, the mother’s diet and activity during pregnancy, and how well her glycemic, or blood sugar, levels were controlled during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester.

One of Lisa’s goals is to get the message out to mothers that had gestational diabetes that their babies may be at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and encourage them to lower their children’s long-term cardiovascular risk after birth through a healthy diet and physical activity.

Dr. Geetha Menon

Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Department of Oncology

Medical physicist and researcher Geetha Menon is exploring better treatment delivery options for cervical cancer treatments, including using machine learning to more easily create personalized radiation therapy to improve the health outcomes for women with this disease. 

Cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable forms of cancer if detected early and managed effectively. Despite being a preventable and curable disease, this cancer is responsible for a large burden of suffering in women worldwide.

According to the World Health Organization, 99 percent of cervical cancer cases are linked to infection with high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) – an extremely common virus transmitted through sexual contact and the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract.

With support from the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation, Geetha and her multidisciplinary team is currently focusing on research with maximal translational potential to deliver personalized brachytherapy, a crucial component in the treatment of locally advanced cervical cancer. 

Starting from basic cell studies to the application of machine learning for improving treatment delivery, they are also identifying opportunities for enhancing brachytherapy education through virtual reality tools. Such developments can have major implications for improving outcomes in cervical cancer survivors. 

Dr. Stephanie Montesanti

School of Public Health

Stephanie Montesanti, a health policy and systems researcher in the School of Public Health, is advancing critical actions towards integrated system responses for family violence within primary health care. She is developing a tool to assess the readiness of Alberta’s primary health care (PHC) clinics to offer effective family violence interventions and support to their patients. 

Family violence is a serious public health issue in Alberta, which consistently has the third-highest rate of domestic violence reported to police among Canadian provinces. Alberta also has the second-highest rate of self-reported spousal violence in the country. 

Women and children account for two-thirds of all individuals affected by family violence in Canada, according to Statistics Canada, and exposure to family violence in children can result in social, behavioural, emotional, and cognitive problems.

This issue has devastating consequences not only for the women and children involved but also for communities and the healthcare system. Family violence results in increased use of health services by all patient groups affected by violence—including inpatient hospitalization, primary and specialty care, and mental healthcare.

Using funding from the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation, Stephanie has been working with healthcare professionals to understand the barriers that may deter primary healthcare practices from offering family violence interventions. Building on their expertise, she launched a pilot project of the readiness tool in two Alberta clinics in the fall of 2022.

Dr. Donna Vine

Metabolic and Cardiovascular Disease Laboratory, Division Human Nutrition

Findings from a recent survey of 300 Canadian women diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) show that it took 34 percent of Albertan women more than two years to get a diagnosis of PCOS, and 60 percent had to visit more than one healthcare provider before a final diagnosis. 

On top of that, 75 percent of the respondents weren’t told about the health risks linked to PCOS. And following their diagnosis, 23 percent of the women were found to have high blood cholesterol and 25 percent were either prediabetic or diabetic.

Nutritional scientist Donna Vine leads the PCOS Together research and community outreach program which aims to understand the health conditions and the healthcare needs of those living with PCOS.

With support from the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation, Donna has found that women with PCOS in Alberta are at two and three-fold higher risk for developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Armed with this knowledge, she and her team are establishing methods to detect early disease risk in women with PCOS and also undertaking clinical interventions to treat high-risk women with PCOS in the prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Jane Yardley

Augustana Campus, Department of Social Sciences

Diabetes researcher Jane Yardley focuses on the effects of different types and timings of exercise on blood glucose levels in people with type 1 diabetes. 

Diabetes can lead to many complications including renal failure, heart disease, blindness, and nerve damage, so life expectancy is 10 to 15 years lower than for people without diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes delay or prevent these complications – and can live longer – if they exercise regularly, with a lower risk of depression and a higher quality of life.

The associate professor of physical education at Augustana Campus is currently using support from the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation to look at how exercise affects post-menopausal females with type 1 diabetes, to provide better guidelines to help them manage their health.


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