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Vivian Welch, Lisa Sheehy, Simone Dahrouge, Amy Hsu, Vanessa Taler, Shirley Bush, Chantal Trudel

Celebrating Women in Science Contributing to COVID-19 Research


On February 11, the United Nations marks the celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. In spite of a prevailing gender gap in science, women and girls continue to be vital contributors to the field.

The pandemic has been challenging on many fronts. This year, the theme of the recognition day is “women scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.” Meet seven women in science at the Bruyère Research Institute, who are dedicating their work to understanding COVID-19, its impacts, and are asking how we can transform health care for the better.

Dr. Shirley Bush
Dr. Bush, an experienced physician in palliative care, is expecting that there will likely be an increase in severe grief reaction experiences over the course of the pandemic. Her research focuses on the bereavement experience of family members, in order to understand the burden of severe grief reactions caused by the pandemic, to identify specific risk factors, and to evaluate the effectiveness of virtual support groups to reach a large number of grieving families.

Simone Dahrouge, PhD
Dahrouge is exploring how to mitigate the reductions in health care service delivery and community outreach, notably for those with common mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression who have lost their services due to the need for physical distancing. Using the Access to Resources in the Community (ARC) Navigation program, she aims to address the current unmet needs in the community by connecting patients with health and social resources to help offset the impacts of COVID-19 through the use of a lay navigator.

Amy Hsu, PhD
Long-term care has been hit hard by COVID-19, as they are essentially communities unto themselves, linked by a shared workforce. Early identification of risk associated with health care workers moving between long-term care homes and the community can help significantly reduce viral spread. To combat the spread, Hsu is developing and integrating a prediction algorithm for the transmission of COVID-19 within the existing symptom screening application at Bruyère to be used in combination with existing staff rosters, geolocation, and administrative data.

Lisa Sheehy, PhD, PT
Rehabilitation and treatment programs have undergone many changes because of COVID-19, but so have patients. Sheehy has focused her research efforts on how rehabilitative programs will need to be adapted for COVID-19 survivors. She has already produced considerations for post-acute rehabilitation survivors of COVID-19 to integrate directly into physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology which takes the recovery of the respiratory system into account as well as the impact to patients’ mental health.

Vanessa Taler, PhD
Leading one of the collection sites for the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), Taler’s work will support the capture of critical information on COVID-19 in older adults, including understanding why some older adults develop a symptomatic presentation of the virus while others remain asymptomatic despite infection. On top of launching questionnaires covering symptoms, risk factors, use of health care, and psychosocial and economic consequences of COVID-19 across Canada, Taler will support the collection of blood draws for analysis of the prevalence, spread, and COVID-19 immunity among older adults in Ontario.

Chantal Trudel
While infection prevention and control procedures are well-established in hospitals, they are not well-developed in long-term care settings. Trudel, an industrial designer, is undertaking research on the appropriate design of long-term care homes in Ontario to address infection prevention and control needs without compromising residents’ quality of life. Taking the sector’s unique characteristics into account, such as shared spaces, shared labour, and flow of residents and visitors from homes to community will be crucial to changing existing infrastructure.

Vivian Welch, PhD
Understanding all the research coming out on COVID-19 and its effects, the policies and guidelines it is informing, and getting synthesized and digestible information to the public is an enormous component of the pandemic research effort. Welch’s work will support synthesizing evidence and developing clinical, public health, and health policy recommendations for Canadian and international stakeholders. In addition to creating contextualized and living recommendations, Welch is working in partnership with scientists, doctors, nurses, and citizens to develop digital communication materials to help Canadians better understand the information and research about COVID-19.