FoMD in the News

A round-up of news stories featuring the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

By ROSS NEITZ - 2 October 2020

This is a roundup of relevant news and media stories involving the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. We appreciate you relaying information that is relevant to faculty members in your respective areas.


Cochrane Today (via The Canadian Press): "It's like a cape": experts share ways to get kids to practise mask hygiene

Allison Carroll, a pediatric respirologist at the U of A, says mask-wearing will be just one aspect of COVID prevention in a school setting, and hand hygiene becomes increasingly important for kids who will be constantly putting on or removing masks from their faces. Coverage appears in multiple newspapers and media outlets across the country.

New York Post: New study finds cat drugs may fight COVID-19 in humans

Two coronavirus drugs used in cats might help humans infected with the novel coronavirus, according to a preliminary study recently published in the journal Nature. Joanne Lemieux, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Alberta, is quoted. Coverage also appears on CTV News, Global News, CityNews stations across Canada, CBS News, Forbes, SciTechDaily, a GenomeAlberta podcast and in several other media outlets.

CBC News (via the Canadian Press): New CPR board created in Edmonton to help with COVID-19 resuscitation

A new piece of medical equipment created at the U of A may give doctors a quicker and safer way to resuscitate patients who go into cardiac arrest due to COVID-19. Matthew Douma, a registered nurse and assistant adjunct professor of critical care medicine, is quoted. The Canadian Press article also appears in media outlets across the country including the Globe and Mail, National Post, Global News and The Star. Additional coverage appears on Global News, CTV News, Research2Reality and CFMZ Edmonton.


Research2Reality: Your Gut Feeling About Babies in Nature Is Right

Getting a formula-fed baby out into green spaces can improve their gut microbiome and guard against obesity, asthma and allergies. Pediatrics researchers led by Anita Kozyrskyj believe that exposure to a wild environment encourages the growth of specific bacteria, types that are associated with a healthy gut. 

National Post: Older Canadians less likely to suffer depression despite increased COVID-19 death rate: study

An intriguing new study by psychiatry professor Vincent Agyapong suggests that people under 25 are most likely to be seriously anxious, depressed or stressed about the coronavirus and its fallout, and those 60 and older were least likely to show signs of such conditions in a survey of people who use the province’s unique new COVID mental-health app. Story also appears in several other Postmedia newspapers across the country.

Edmonton Journal: U of A studying impacts of COVID-19 on antibodies in children

A U of A study is examining the antibodies of Edmonton children who had COVID-19 in an effort to better understand the virus. Piush Mandhane, associate professor of pediatrics, will be leading the two-year study. Coverage also appears on Global News Edmonton and 630 CHED.

Edmonton Journal: U of A study shows worse birth outcomes, higher maternal risk for rural babies and moms

Adverse birth outcomes and related maternal risk factors happen more frequently in the province’s poorest rural regions, new research out of the U of A shows. Lead researcher Maria-Beatriz Ospina is interviewed. Story runs in 40 Postmedia outlets.

Edmonton Journal: Edmonton researcher gets $1 million from feds to study impact of COVID-19 on health-care workers

A research project led by U of A professor of medicine Nicola Cherry will receive just over $1 million to study the impact of COVID-19 on health-care workers across Canada. The project is one of 22 across Canada receiving a total of $12.4 million in funding from the Canadian government’s Immunity Task Force, in collaboration with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The story also runs in the Calgary Herald/Sun and Cherry is highlighted in a Genome Alberta podcast as well.

Radiology Business: Abdominal radiology must stay vigilant as almost 20 per cent of COVID cases report with only GI symptoms

Almost one out of every five COVID-19 cases comes with only gastrointestinal symptoms, signalling the need for abdominal radiologists to remain vigilant during the pandemic, experts advised Monday. Kevin Lui from the Department of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging is quoted.

The Standard (via Canadian Press): COVID-19 stress is hitting youth much harder than people over 60, new research shows

A new study shared in by the U of A has revealed that young people are reporting higher levels of stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic compared to those over age 60, despite their significantly lower risk of dying from the virus itself.

Leap Magazine: Research Rockstar: Dr. Luc Berthiaume

U of A cell biologist Luc Berthiaume is developing a potentially life-saving new drug. Later this year or early in 2021 (due to a pandemic-related delay), clinical trials will begin on a promising new cancer drug, known as PCLX-001, based on myristoylation-inhibition research done in Berthiaume’s lab. Related coverage also appears on Radio-Canada (Sept.18 at 8:48 a.m.).

Edmonton Journal: Six still births in first six months of 2020, Edmonton still in midst of syphilis outbreak

Six syphilitic stillbirths in Alberta in the first six months of 2020 signal the province’s syphilis outbreak declared in July 2019 is far from over, despite a temporary case drop related to the COVID-19 pandemic. U of A infectious disease expert Ameeta Singh, who also works at an Edmonton clinic for sexually transmitted infections, said there are a number of factors affecting Edmonton’s high rates, including meth use. Coverage also appears on Newstalk 770 and 630 CHED. Related coverage about a syphilis outbreak in Saskatchewan appears in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix as well.

The Gateway: 13 U of A researchers receive funding for COVID-19 vaccine research

In response to the pandemic, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research has awarded $11.3 million to 13 U of A research projects in the faculties of medicine & dentistry and nursing, and the school of public health, to learn more about the rapidly developing situation of COVID-19. John Lewis, a professor of oncology, will receive $4.23 million to develop a potential COVID-19 vaccine. 

Global News Edmonton: Health Matters: Dental injuries on the rise thanks to e-scooter use

A new U of A study shows injuries related to electric-powered scooters and bikes are on the rise. Periodontist Liran Levin is quoted. Coverage also appears on Global News in the form of an online news article.

Sci News: Researchers Create Detailed Map of Human Heart

A multinational team of scientists has created a detailed cellular and molecular map of six anatomical adult heart regions. U of A professor of medicine Gavin Oudit contributed to the work and says it’s the first step toward understanding heart disease and developing new targeted treatments to stop it. Coverage also appears in News-Medical.

CBC News Edmonton: U of A researchers discover new way remdesivir acts against virus that causes COVID-19

Antiviral drug acts like a roadblock, stopping or slowing the spread of coronavirus, according to a study led by U of A microbiology researcher Matthias Gotte. Related coverage also appears on CBC Radio One.

Canadian Press via CTV News: COVID-19 causing stress, depression and obsessive behaviour: survey

U of A psychiatry researcher Vincent Agyapong conducted an online survey of Albertans who have reached out for help during the COVID-19 crisis. Results suggest the pandemic is taking a toll on mental health, with increased signs of obsessive behaviour, stress and depression. Related coverage also appears on Newstalk 770 and CBC Radio One.

Edmonton Journal: Seven COVID-19 research projects split $2.1M in Alberta government funding

The grants from provincial Crown corporation Alberta Innovates will support five projects at the U of A totalling $1.4 million. Two of the projects selected involve faculty researchers Andrei Drabovich and Puneeta Tandon. Story appears across the local media landscape.

Global News Edmonton: U of A team ready to begin Phase 1 of COVID-19 vaccine testing

U of A oncology researcher John Lewis and his team with Entos Pharmaceuticals have been working overtime to develop one of Canada’s leading vaccine candidates. Lewis said the early results are promising so clinical trials will begin in the next few weeks with a vaccine being ready for distribution in early 2021. Coverage also appears in a Global News story that aired in markets across Canada.


Edmonton Journal: Opinion: Why Alberta's doctors are fighting government health reforms

Sabrina Eliason, a developmental pediatrician and clinical lecturer with the Department of Pediatrics, writes that despite government claims, doctors are not asking for more money for themselves. Doctors are asking to work with the government to find ways to save money within the health-care system that prioritize patient care and limit the waste of existing infrastructure and labour.

CBC News: How can I safely return to work during the pandemic?

Staying healthy as work resumes for some and others leave their homes for more formal work settings is going to require employees to not only strictly adhere to preventive measures—such as hand hygiene and physical distancing—but to know their rights, say experts in infectious disease and occupational health and safety law. Infectious-disease specialist Lynora Saxinger is interviewed. She also comments in a related Covid-19 Q & A CBC piece and is broadcast on several CBC radio stations.

Y-Kollektiv: So gefährlich sind Brustimplantate: Was ist Breast Implant Illness?

Breast implants have long been considered a safe medical device. But increasingly, women complain of a wide variety of symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, itching, hair loss and much more, which they attribute to the implants. These symptoms are summarized as Breast Implant Illness. Jan Willem Tervaert, a professor of medicine at the U of A, offers expert comment.

630 CHED: COVID-19 mask-wearing, research discussed

Lorne Tyrrell, director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, is interviewed about the hunt for a vaccine, immunity and the work the U of A is doing on the virus. (No link)

CTV News: What we know about how COVID-19 affects the heart, even after the virus is gone

New research shows the coronavirus could contribute to a variety of cardiac issues. Gavin Oudit, a professor of medicine at the U of A, is quoted. Coverage also appears on CTV Morning Live.

CBC News: Edmonton health economist explains why speed is key to securing COVID-19 vaccines

"We cannot afford to wait," said health economist Christopher McCabe, executive director and CEO of the non-profit Institute of Health Economics. "We need to be set up to roll out the vaccine as close to the time it's approved as possible," he said. Related coverage appears on CTV News Channel and Global News Radio.

Star Edmonton: Talking to teens about physical distancing as they head back to school

Lynora Saxinger, an infectious-diseases specialist and associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the U of A, said she believes teens deserve some credit for doing reasonably well at complying with public health restrictions during the pandemic.

CBC News Edmonton: Virtual Panel

Researchers at the U of A held a virtual panel in September examining what has been learned about COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Lorne Tyrrell, director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, shared his perspective on vaccine development in the lead-up to the event.

Newstalk 770: Friday, Sept. 4

Some mental health experts say Alberta is poised to lead a new field of psychiatry emerging from the pandemic. Because of Alberta's history with natural disasters, psychiatrists in this province tend to have more experience in the area of crisis psychiatry. Serdar Dursun, a professor of psychiatry at the U of A, is quoted.

CBC Radio One: 11 Alberta schools report cases of COVID-19

U of A infectious-disease expert Lynora Saxinger said you will often find a single case in a classroom but not find any secondary cases. However, it is inevitable that a case in a classroom means there's been infection spread there as well.

CTV Alberta Primetime: Teaching children how to wear a mask properly begins with the reason why they need to wear it 

Pediatric respirologist Christopher Ewing said children love to help, so if parents explain to their children that the reason they need to wear a mask is because it helps others, they will be more likely to do it. It also helps to have them choose the mask they want to wear, but to make sure it fits snugly around the nose.

Medicine Hat News: Is it ethical to travel internationally during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Austin Mardon, an assistant adjunct professor of psychiatry, along with a group of former and current U of A students, wrote that although ultimately it is each person’s individual choice to travel internationally, it is vital to consider how travel could affect the place being visited and whether the positives outweigh the negatives. 

Healthy Debate: Rolling out the welcome mat: Hospitals making visits less intimidating

Samina Ali, an emergency physician at Stollery Children’s Hospital and a professor of pediatrics at the U of A, discusses how pediatric hospitals have changed to become more welcoming for patients and their families.

CTV News Channel: Are we on the verge of a second wave?

Infectious-disease specialist Ilan Schwartz said recent spikes in the number of cases is cause for concern but it doesn't necessarily mean that we are on the verge of another large outbreak of COVID-19.

Newstalk 1010 (Toronto): Can grandparents remain in our social circles once kids go back to school?

Individual families will have to determine the level of risk they're comfortable with when debating excluding grandparents from their social circles, said U of A infectious-disease specialist Ilan Schwartz. "The smaller that bubble, the more hope there is for it to retain its integrity."

CBC News Edmonton: Loss of funding for intensive opioid therapy program will have fatal consequences, critics warn

U of A assistant clinical professor of psychiatry Krishna Balachandra said about 100 patients across the province are currently enrolled in the treatment program. Without injection treatment, patients will likely return to using street drugs and a dangerous cycle of addiction.

Edmonton Journal: Halloween hesitancy: Parent, Edmonton doctor support trick-or-treating during COVID-19 pandemic

U of A injury prevention researcher Louis Hugo Francescutti said vehicles pose a bigger danger than the coronavirus on Halloween night.

Hawaii Public Radio: They can make viruses synthetically but it's not the rogue states you should be worrying about

U of A virologist David Evans said countries around the world signed up to ban biological weapons in the 1970s because they knew it was a foolish military activity, as anything they created would eventually bounce back on their own population. What Evans worries about are the well-meaning people with scientific curiosity and some know-how who just want to re-engineer these things.

630 CHED: Ryan Jespersen Show: What you need to know about COVID-19 transmission in schools

Infectious-disease specialist Lynora Saxinger said it is important for people to focus less on who in a school might have COVID-19 and more on whether the conditions in schools are allowing for transmission. She also discusses scenarios around quarantine after a positive case in a school.

CBC Radio: What questions and concerns do you have about COVID-19?

A panel of experts, including Lynora Saxinger, answers questions during CBC Radio's Cross Country Checkup program.

Global News: Province to start offering flu vaccine to vulnerable Albertans by Oct. 13

Infectious-disease expert Stephanie Smith said during viral respiratory season, there is an increased number of patients admitted to hospital and health-care resources are stretched.

Global News Edmonton: COVID-19 ICU patients face lengthy recoveries: Alberta critical care doctor

Peter Brindley, a professor of critical care medicine at the U of A, describes the typical ICU stay for a COVID-19 patient. A stay in the ICU is a traumatic event on the body and treatment is lengthy, with patients often remaining on the unit for two to three weeks before moving to another ward and then home.

The Star: Should we infect volunteers with COVID-19 to test potential vaccines? The dilemma of ‘human challenge testing’

One of the pillars of the global effort to find a COVID-19 vaccine will be human testing. It’s a process that all new drugs must undergo, but the scale of the pandemic and the urgency with which teams around the world are working have put trials under scrutiny like never before. Michael Good, an adjunct professor in medical microbiology and immunology at the U of A is interviewed.

Edmonton Journal: Forcing patients out of opioid treatment clinics dangerous, critics warn Alberta government

Edmonton doctor Krishna Balachandra, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the U of A, says moving people with severe opioid-use disorders out of specialized clinics, set to close next March, will be devastating for those patients.

CBC News: Hospitalizations steady despite rising COVID-19 cases. But this could change quickly, experts say

An uptick in COVID-19 cases across the country has prompted many public health officials to remind Canadians to follow set guidelines to limit the spread. But the relatively stable hospitalization data should not provide too much comfort, as ICU units may begin to fill if cases continue to increase. Lynora Saxinger is interviewed.

Macleans: What to do as a second wave of COVID looms

Infectious-disease specialist Ilan Schwartz is interviewed about playing sports, the performative aspects of 'deep-cleaning' and whether you should steer clear of exhaling smokers.

Global News Edmonton: Edmonton Transit working to reduce crowding on popular bus routes as ridership sits at 50 per cent

According to infectious-disease specialist Lynora Saxinger, public transit has not so far proven to be a high risk for COVID-19 transmission. 

CBC News Edmonton: Regional council delays decision on mandatory masks in Fort McMurray

The Fort McMurray region, which has been under a COVID-19 watch, will not be bringing in a mandatory mask bylaw this month, after regional council opted to delay a third reading of the bylaw. Lynora Saxinger noted that although mask bylaws are becoming more common, there is debate about how effective they are. Saxinger is also quoted in a Global News story commenting on the efficacy of face shields and in a Q & A COVID-19 story on CBC News.

CBC News: Multiple provinces are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases. What needs to be done now?

A resurgence in coronavirus infections in several provinces has raised alarms about current disease-control measures in place and what steps need to be taken to curb the spread of the virus. Infectious-disease specialist Stephanie Smith is interviewed.

Chatelaine: My Kids Are Back At School. Can They Still See Their Grandparents? COVID Questions, Answered

Infectious-disease specialist Ilan Schwartz is interviewed about playing sports, the performative aspects of 'deep-cleaning' and whether you should steer clear of exhaling smokers.

CBC Radio One: No asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 in Alberta

Infectious-disease specialist Lynora Saxinger is interviewed about this shift in testing in Alberta.

CHAT TV Calgary: Be careful riding e-scooters

Louis Hugo Francescutti, a professor with the U of A’s School of Public Health and the Department of Emergency Medicine, is interviewed about the dangers of riding e-scooters.

CMAJ News: Hospitals rolling out the “welcome mat” to ease COVID-19 fears

Samina Ali, an emergency doctor and professor of pediatrics at the U of A, gives expert comment on the work happening in hospitals across Canada to make pediatric emergency rooms more comforting for young patients and their family members.

Global News: Alberta teacher’s social media posts about ‘lonely’ school year, COVID-19 cohorts gaining attention online

U of A psychiatry chair Peter Silverstone said the decision some teachers may make to remove family members from their cohorts could be a hard change.

Hindustan Times: The dangers of genetic engineering: Opinion

Article makes reference to a 2017 study in which a research team at the U of A created from scratch horsepox—an extinct relative of smallpox—by stitching together fragments of mail-order DNA.

CBC Radio One: Lack of masks in classrooms concerning

Infectious-disease specialist Lynora Saxinger says that, while not disastrous, the lack of masks in schools is concerning.

Global News: 1st wave or 2nd wave? Where COVID-19 stands in Alberta

Case numbers have been consistently high in Alberta the last several weeks, and experts say the province appears to be in a transition period between waves of the novel coronavirus. Lynora Saxinger gives expert comment.

CBC News Edmonton: COVID-19 Virtual Panel

The U of A hosted a virtual panel titled Pandemic Perspectives: What we’ve learned from COVID-19. Lynora Saxinger addresses her biggest takeaways since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

CTV News Edmonton: CTV News Wednesday, September 23

A new study out of China suggests wearing glasses might protect against COVID-19 infection. Lynora Saxinger gives expert comment.

CBC News Network — Ask CBC News with Carole MacNeil

Lynora Saxinger answers multiple COVID-19 related questions from viewers.

St. Albert Gazette: High demand for flu vaccine expected in St. Albert: pharmacist

A higher uptake of the flu vaccine is expected this year as the fall influenza season looms amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Lynora Saxinger gives expert comment, saying that the province's plan to secure more doses of the flu vaccine this year and focus on vulnerable populations first is a reasonable one.

Global News: The pros and cons of COVID-19 saliva tests, as Alberta explores testing method

As demand remains high on supply chains connected to COVID-19 testing, some provinces are moving towards a new type of test: a gargle test involving saliva, which is an option the province of Alberta is exploring. Lynora Saxinger gives expert comment.

CBC News Calgary: COVID-19 outbreaks at Alberta hospitals trigger staffing worries

The COVID-19 outbreaks at Foothills hospital in Calgary are raising concerns about how hospitals around the province will be able to cope as cases mount. Stephanie Smith, an infectious-disease physician and director of infection prevention and control at the University of Alberta Hospital gives expert comment, saying, “If we end up starting to get larger numbers needing hospitalization we won't have the health-care workers to take care of them."

Environmental News Network: Little Evidence Taking Vitamin D Prevents Severe COVID-19

U of A pediatrics professor Todd Alexander said the latest revelations are just another fallacy that have helped build vitamin D into a multibillion-dollar wonder vitamin 30 years in the making.

CBC Daybreak: Uncertainty breeding a second wave of anxiety

Psychiatry professor Peter Silverstone said anxiety rates are jumping again, especially in young people, as the season changes and kids head back to school.

CBC News: As Thanksgiving nears, Canadian expat in the U.S. wants exemption from mandatory quarantine

U of A infectious-disease expert Lynora Saxinger said that while the currently available COVID-19 test is relatively accurate, it's not perfect.

CBC News Edmonton: Police issue few fines despite thousands of COVID-19 complaints in Alberta

Lynora Saxinger said she's noticed a varying degree of compliance to public health orders. "It's almost like it's a permissive environment for people to pretend that we're not in a pandemic anymore and that could be a concern." 

CBC Radio: People beginning to let guard down when it comes to physical distancing

Lynora Saxinger said there are too many "permissive environments" where people stop being vigilant when it comes to safety and that those who arrange spaces can do more to ensure physical distancing continues.

CTV News Channel: Government signs deal for rapid test kit

Infectious-disease specialist Ilan Schwartz said Canada is behind when it comes to rapid testing and that a new million-dollar deal is probably a good idea, but the test they've targeted has not yet been approved by Health Canada.

CTV News: Canadians planning safe alternatives for Thanksgiving gatherings during pandemic

Ilan Schwartz says an online option for your turkey toast—similar to the ones that gained popularity early in the pandemic with Easter and Passover—is the safest way to go.

South Peace News: Has the ‘fox been put in charge of the henhouse?’ 

Bioethicist and palliative care physician Cheryl Mack says we need to acknowledge the longstanding history of faith-based organizations in the provision of care to the sick and suffering. "Historically, Christians have considered care for the dying a special duty. The modern hospice movement within the western tradition as well can be traced back to the Catholic medical/nursing traditions."


CBC News Edmonton: Dr. Lorne Warneke remembered as pivotal LGBTQ pioneer in Alberta

The academic, medical and LGBTQ communities in Edmonton are mourning the death of a psychiatrist and professor who helped them live better lives. Lorne Warneke was a psychiatrist, U of A professor and medical director at the gender clinic at the Grey Nuns Hospital until he retired in 2017. Coverage also appears on CBC Radio One and 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen Show.

Edmonton Examiner: New dental clinic to open in Elliot Lake in fall

Dentists Kaveh and Svitlana Mirsaeidi graduated from the University of Toronto’s dental school in 2018, but have some specialized dental training in sedation from the U of A.

St. Thomas Times Journal: Local doctor says goodbye

Neil Graham, who was 19 years old when he began studying medicine at the U of A, recently retired after 60 years on the job.

Edmonton Journal: U of A dental hygiene students fundraising for instructor diagnosed with ovarian cancer

Alanna Blanchette, a fourth-year dental hygiene student, has helped organize the “Team 4 Fighters” who are participating in this year’s Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope to pay tribute to instructor Patricia Gainer. Story also run by CBC Radio, Global News and CityNews.

Pipestone Flyer: New temporary doctor in Ponoka helps stem the flow

While physician recruitment continues to be an issue in Ponoka, Battle River Medical Clinic is seeing some relief with the addition, although temporary, of Kyla Adams, a recent graduate from the rural family physicians program at the U of A.

Sherwood Park News: Two for the record books for Guinness group

Organizers of the World’s Longest Baseball Game officially received confirmation that they are indeed the Guinness Book of World Records’ successful entry for staging the world’s longest baseball game in August 2019 in Sherwood Park. Money raised from the game is supporting the clinical trial of a new cancer drug—PCLX-001—at Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute.

CTV News Edmonton: Amid an expected shortfall, U of A releases proposed restructuring scenarios

The U of A is considering three options to save money, each of which would see faculties consolidated. Similar stories also ran on the CBC News Edmonton and the Edmonton Journal.