Five summer student researchers who went on to do great things

Amy Samson

Artwork by
Natasia Designs

Edited by
Sasha Roeder Mah

The largest in Canada, the UAlberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry's summer student research program began in 1969. Since the 1980s, it's been supported by the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, Alberta Innovates, alumni donors and the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. Here are five summer-student researchers who have contributed significantly to the advancement of health science.

Dennis Modry, '73 MD

A summer of work with animal models led to the first heart and heart-lung combined transplants in Western Canada

Dennis Modry, who graduated from the U of A's school of medicine in 1973, spent the summer after his first year working in the Surgical-Medical Research Institute doing heart-lung transplants in animal models.

After training in surgery in Montreal, Modry accepted a position at Stanford, where he was chief of the transplant division before returning to the U of A in the 1980s to pilot a heart-lung transplant program. During that time, Modry performed the first heart transplant and the first heart-lung combined transplant in Western Canada. The University of Alberta Hospital's heart and lung transplant program is now one of the nation's busiest.

Barbara Romanowski, '73 MD

Passion for community health made former summer student a leader in sexually transmitted disease research

In 1970, Barbara Romanowski presented at the summer student research day on a project with what was then the Department of Community Medicine.

Romanowski completed her MD at the U of A in 1973, followed by specialized training in infectious diseases. From 1979 until 1998, she was director of Alberta's sexually transmitted diseases (STD) program and was involved with Edmonton's AIDS Network, now HIV Edmonton.

She has also been involved in human papillomavirus (HPV) clinical trials for more than a decade and has published extensively on STDs. She is currently a clinical professor in the division of infectious diseases at the U of A

Sir John Bell, '75 BMedSc, '03 DSc (Hon)

Former honours student in medical science knighted for his pioneering work in the clinical application of genetics

Before graduating­ from the U of A in 1975 with a bachelor's in medical science (honours), Sir John Bell-together with Raymond Yee-won first place at summer student research day.

A Rhodes Scholar, he attended Oxford and Stanford universities and is currently the Regius professor of medicine at Oxford, where he founded the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics.

Bell was made a Knight Bachelor in 2008 and, in 2015, a Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire. In 2009, he won the Henry G. Friesen International Prize in Health Research.

Janet McElhaney, '86 MD

Former Harry Weinlos Prize winner a research leader in influenza among aging populations

Janet McElhaney, who presented at the 1983 summer research day, completed an MD at the U of A in 1986, winning the Harry Weinlos Prize in Medicine, awarded to a student who demonstrates humanitarianism and an excellent academic record. She went on to a residency in internal medicine, followed by a fellowship in geriatric medicine.

McElhaney is a leader in influenza research, particularly in aging populations. She sits on a number of boards and committees, including, as of 2016, the federal Institute Advisory Board for Indigenous Peoples' Health.

She currently works with the Health Sciences North Research Institute in Sudbury, Ontario.

Lewis E. Kay, '83 BSc

Four years of summer-school biochemistry lab work eventually led to 2017 Canada Gairdner International Award

Lewis Kay was a summer student researching nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) throughout his undergraduate degree and graduated with a bachelor of science in biochemistry in 1983.

He obtained his doctor of philosophy in molecular biophysics from Yale University in 1988, followed by postdoctoral studies at the National Institutes of Health. He is a senior scientist in molecular medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and a Canada Research Chair in Proteomics, Bioinformatics and Functional Genomics.

In 2017, Kay was named Canada Gairdner International Award Laureate for "the development of modern NMR spectroscopy for studies of biomolecular structure dynamics and function, including applications to molecular machines and rare protein conformations."