Aug 31, 2023

WE-SPARK Health Institute and its funding partners have awarded 18 research grants totaling $345,000 to tackle local health challenges in its latest round of funding during a celebration event at the University of Windsor’s CORe (Centre of Research Excellence) Building.

The grants provide funding to promote the development of early-stage, innovative health research and health education projects in Windsor-Essex and support other health research programs to increase their prospects for future funding. Projects include addressing gaps in healthcare needs, igniting new ideas, generating and disseminating knowledge, studies in emerging health topics, and sparking collaborations.

The grants involve collaborators across WE-SPARK’s five supporting institutions — Erie Shores HealthCare, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, St. Clair College, the University of Windsor and Windsor Regional Hospital — along with numerous community members, students and volunteers across Windsor-Essex.

“With each grant cycle, the number of new collaborators coming on board grows” said WE-SPARK director Dr. Lisa Porter. “And we’re beginning to see the outcomes of grants that were awarded since the program’s launch just over 3 years ago. These grants create jobs, address pressing problems and make Windsor-Essex competitive for national funding competitions.”

The 18 projects will involve over 116 researchers and trainees and thousands of participants. 

“We’re grateful for the generous support from this year’s grant sponsors - The Windsor Cancer Centre Foundation, University of Windsor’s Office of Research & Innovation Services, Katelyn Bedard Bone Marrow Association, Tayfour-Emara Excellence in Research and Education Fund, St. Nicholas Macedonian Church & Banquet Centre, and University of Windsor faculties of Science, Human Kinetics and Engineering,” adds Porter. “$275,000 of the funds were raised during our Cheers to Hope event in April, and those funds along with additional contributions from WE-SPARK have made it possible to fund these innovative projects.”

Projects will begin in September and are found here: www.wesparkhealth.com/projects.  

Since the launch of the WE-SPARK Health Institute grants program in April 2020, at total of $1.4 million has been awarded for local projects.

“Securing funding is often the biggest challenge for early-career researchers. Fortunately, the WE-SPARK Igniting Discovery Grants empower emerging researchers to explore new avenues of knowledge and provide a source of recognition that boosts their confidence to pursue innovative ideas.” – Dr. Vijendra Sharma Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Windsor

“We would like to thank Drs. Tayfour and Emara for their generosity and vision to support local research.  Without this opportunity, getting small local research projects started outside of large academic centres would not be possible.  Not only does this funding help researchers address questions relevant to the Windsor Essex region, but it also helps to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and to grow the research programs for local investigators so that they become competitive on a provincial and national stage. Dr. Telford Yeung, Pediatrics & Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, Windsor Regional Hospital

“I am beyond excited to be awarded the WE-SPARK igniting discovery grant supported by the Windsor Cancer Centre Foundation. With this award, I will be able to explore the processes of pediatric cancer care in Windsor Essex Region from the perspectives of youths living with cancer, their parents, and healthcare providers. Gaps identified from this project may help to inform changes in service delivery of cancer care for children in Southwestern Ontario. The support from local grant programs is critical in helping early career researchers like myself to pilot research ideas and advance research in cancer care for adolescents that is relatively understudied.” – Dr. Joanne Tay, Assistant Professor, University of Windsor Faculty of Nursing

“Thank you to the Katelyn Bedard Bone Marrow Foundation and WE-SPARK Health Institute for their willingness to support bold early-stage research with transformative potential, and for their efforts to advance transplantation-based therapy for patients in Windsor-Essex.  And thank you to the Katelyn Bedard Bone Marrow Association for their dedication to community health and vision to lead in the present through awareness and support for families and future through research.” Dr. Brian DeVeale, Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences University of Windsor

“Hypertension is considered a silent killer - although high blood pressure can be common, if left untreated it can lead to more concerning health concerns and even death. Certain populations are at an increased risk as rates of hypertension are higher, it presents earlier in life, and consequences may be more severe. Together with local researchers and team members from Canada, the United States, and Uganda we are working towards affordable and accessible options to manage hypertension. Local funding helps us to conduct smaller scale projects that assist in confirming protocols, developing larger networks, and providing evidence that larger funding agencies value. Furthermore, we are able to train high qualified personnel, providing skills and knowledge through experiential learning, which will aid them in their future careers.”  Dr. Paula M. van Wyk, Associate Professor - Movement Performance, Injury Prevention, and Aging - Faculty of Human Kinetics, Department of Kinesiology, University of Windsor