FoMD in the News

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

Compiled by Ross Neitz - 26 February 2021

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.




CTV News Edmonton: Hope wins as final buzzer sounds at world's longest hockey game

University of Alberta oncologist John Mackey is quoted in this story about how 40 people took turns playing hockey on an outdoor rink 24 hours a day, seven days a week between Feb. 4 and 15 to raise $1.84 million for cancer research. Mackey, a medical oncologist at the Cross Cancer Institute said the effort will make a "huge difference" in the University of Alberta's research. Related coverage also appears on Global News, CBC News, The Canadian Press and the Edmonton Journal.

Postmedia: U of A leading study to see the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines on seniors, long-term care staff in Alberta

Xiaoli Pang, a professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at the U of A, said the study will involve collecting blood samples and comparing them against people who have been previously infected with the virus. She said the investigation will provide valuable information in order to better protect a segment of the population that’s at a higher risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19. Story runs in the Financial Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal/Sun. Coverage also appears on Global News Edmonton, CTV News Edmonton, CBC News, and CityNews. Chris Sikora, an associate clinical professor of medicine and member of the U of A’s School of Public Health, is also interviewed about the study on CBC Radio Active.

CTV News Edmonton: Childhood trauma can leave 'scars' on the brain: U of A study

Peter Silverstone, professor of psychiatry at the U of A, talks about a new study he co-led that shows traumatic or stressful events may lead to small changes in key structures of a child's brain. The story also runs on Global News, CBC Radio Active, CBC Edmonton News (broadcast) and CBC Edmonton News (web).



SciTech Daily: When Is Dead Really Dead? Results From the Largest International Study of Its Kind

Lori West, professor of pediatrics at the U of A and director of the Alberta Transplant Institute, is quoted in this report about a new study about the dying process and how that can help families considering organ donation.

Psychology Today: AI Machine Learning Algorithm Predicts Schizophrenia

Sunil Kalmady Vasu, a senior machine learning specialist with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, is named in this story about the development of a machine learning tool that analyzes brain scans to identify the risk of a schizophrenia diagnosis. Coverage also appears on Psychiatry & Behavioral Health Learning Network

CTV News: Stopping seizures could delay dementia: U of A researchers

Ted Allison (Science) and Hadeel Alyenbaawi, a PhD candidate in the FoMD’s Department of Medical Genetics are quoted as part of a team of U of A biologists who say that preventing seizures is the key to delaying the disease and can improve people's quality of life in the short and long term. Allison is interviewed on CHQR Radio.

Edmonton Journal / Sun: Edmonton Football Team holding online 50-50 raffle in support of World's Longest Hockey Game

The Edmonton Football Team held an online raffle with proceeds going toward the U of A’s cancer research clinical trial to benefit patients at the Cross Cancer Institute.

630 CHED: Vaccine candidates discussed

John Lewis, head of Entos Pharmaceuticals and professor of oncology at the U of A, is interviewed about the COVID-19 vaccine his company is working on. The company has two candidates moving forward toward clinical trials. 

CBC News Edmonton: Process of dying researched

Lori West, director of the U of A’s Alberta Transplant Institute, and Jim Kutsogiannis, professor of critical care medicine, are interviewed about research into the dying process that they hope will help reassure people about organ donation.

Global News: Alberta researchers want to improve transitional system for people with disabilities

Chester Ho and Adalberto Loyola-Sanchez, with the U of A’s Department of Medicine, are looking for ways to make the transition period smoother for outpatients with spinal cord injuries, by exploring a model of transitional care that works like a hub-and-spokes system, akin to Alberta’s system of major and minor airports. Story also runs on CHAT TV (Medicine Hat).

CBC News Edmonton: Doctors who contracted COVID-19 at a bonspiel dug into how they got it. Here's what they found

Christopher Fung, an assistant clinical professor with the Department of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging, helped co-author a study that doctors themselves conducted after they fell ill with COVID-19 following a curling bonspiel they all attended. It was one of Alberta's first COVID-19 superspreader events.

Canadian Press: Pucks shatter, blades break: Hockey players face off against bitter cold for cancer

Pucks shattered and skate blades broke in half as players endured frigid temperatures at the World’s Longest Hockey Game. The story references how the event was aiming to raise $1.5 million to fund cancer research at the U of A. The story appears in more than 100 newspapers across Canada.

3DownNation: Edmonton Football Team nearly hits $400,000 mark for 50/50 in support of the World’s Longest Hockey Game

The Edmonton Football Team held an online 50/50 in support of the World’s Longest Hockey Game with fundraising efforts going towards cancer research. The total pot raised was just shy of $400,000. The fundraising was done to support the U of A’s clinical trial to benefit patients at the Cross Cancer Institute.

Edmonton Journal: Edmonton biotechnology company hopeful its COVID-19 vaccine will continue along approval process

John Lewis, U of A researcher and CEO of Entos Pharmaceuticals, said his company is currently working on two DNA vaccines and is waiting to start the next phase of its COVID-19 vaccine approval after the federal government announced tens of millions of dollars to support vaccine production. Story also notes that the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute at the U of A has developed a vaccine and quotes U of A virologist Michael Houghton.

Global News: Alberta’s Text4Hope campaign successful in reducing stress, anxiety amid COVID-19 pandemic: research

Vincent Agyapong with the Department of Psychiatry is interviewed about a new study showing that a free text-messaging program he created to help with stress, anxiety and depression during the pandemic has proven successful. After three months, “statistically significant improvements” were reported in all of the measures the researchers set out to evaluate, he said. Coverage also appears on CBC News.

International Clinical Trials: The Hundred-Year Quest

James Shapiro, Canada Research Chair in Transplantation Surgery and Regenerative Medicine, is researching the possibility of engineering stem cells to become the insulin-producing islet cells found in the pancreas.

Global News Edmonton: New Alberta program aims to solve children’s medical mysteries

A new U of A program aims to diagnose children with unexplained genetic conditions. Peter Kannu, a professor of genetics at the U of A, says current genetic testing can diagnose fewer than half of patients, but the team hopes to add more information to those tests, leading to a diagnosis and peace of mind for families. 


Global News: Double masking or 3-layer mask with filters? Experts weigh in as COVID-19 variants spread

Infectious-disease specialist Lynora Saxinger cautioned against blindly adding layer upon layer upon layer, saying people should pay attention to how well the mask fits and if there is proper breathability.

CBC Radio Alberta at Noon: Changing COVID restrictions

Lynora Saxinger discusses changing public health restrictions and says they'll need to be monitored carefully.

CityNews: Pandemic health measures have made this year's flu season virtually flu-free

Infectious-disease specialist Stephanie Smith said COVID-19 measures put in place by health authorities—think social distancing, masks and a lack of international travel—have basically stopped influenza in its tracks.

The New York Times: How the Search for Covid-19 Treatments Faltered While Vaccines Sped Ahead

Infectious-disease specialist Ilan Schwartz notes there was "no coordination, and no centralized leadership" when drug-testing first began for ways to treat COVID-19. 

660 News: Experts say Alberta needs to consider COVID variants before easing restrictions

James Talbot, an associate clinical professor of medicine at the U of A, comments on how the province needs to take the new COVID-19 variants into consideration as it decides when and how to ease restrictions.

CTV News Edmonton: COVID-19 long-haulers recount their 'horrifying' experiences

Infectious-disease specialist Lynora Saxinger and professor of medicine Ron Damant talk about the experiences of people with lingering COVID-19 symptoms, and how the condition is being treated. Saxinger is also interviewed by CBC Radio about the chances of COVID-19 infection from contact with shared surfaces and with CBC Calgary News about variant strains of the virus and what to be watchful for as public health restrictions ease. Infectious-disease specialist Stephanie Smith is also interviewed by CBC News Network about the spread of the variant.

CBC News: Canada hesitates to update public health guidelines on risk from variants

U of A infectious-disease specialist Leyla Asadi is interviewed in this story about whether national public health guidelines go far enough to protect Canadians. "When you look at Canada's response as a whole, clearly, there are many, many different things that we should be doing better," she said.

The Conversation: A dangerous path: Why expanding access to medical assistance in dying keeps us up at night

Heidi Janz, an ethics professor with the U of A’s John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre, co-authors an opinion piece expressing concern about Bill C-7, the proposed law to expand access to medical assistance in dying. She said she worries about the effect that the expansion MAID under Bill C-7 will have on kids and youth with disabilities.

National Post: When it only takes 'seconds' to become infected with COVID variants, how do you protect yourself?

Infectious-disease specialists Lynora Saxinger and Stephanie Smith are interviewed for this story. Saxinger said what aspect of general prevention is most important is not yet clear, while Smith said “the basic measures are still the things that are going to help to prevent transmission.” Story runs in Postmedia newspapers across Canada.

Global News: Alberta expands COVID-19 rapid testing program to asymptomatic continuing care staff

Lynora Saxinger is happy to hear Alberta is rolling out more rapid testing, but added that precautions must remain even if someone tests negative.

National Post: How does the brain break?; Almost one million Canadians live with Alzheimer's

Jack Jhamandas, a distinguished professor of medicine at the U of A, explains what happens to the brain when a person has Alzheimer's disease. (No link)

CBC Edmonton AM: How to save your dry winter skin

Jaggi Rao, a dermatologist and clinical professor of medicine at the U of A, talks about how to treat dry winter skin. 

CBC Edmonton AM: What we need to know about COVID variants

Infectious-disease specialist Stephanie Smith talks about COVID-19 variants that have arrived in Alberta and why they are so concerning.

Montreal Gazette: COVID vaccine priorities ignore people with disabilities, experts say

Heidi Janz, an ethics professor with the U of A’s John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre, said the pandemic has exposed disability-based discrimination across Canada, and the COVID-19 vaccine priority list is symptomatic of it. Janz is a member of the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group, assembled by the federal government in 2020.

CBC News: When the next pandemic hits, scientists aim to have a vaccine already. Here's how

U of A virologist Michael Houghton said it's not too late to have vaccines ready for future coronavirus pandemics, warning we need to be prepared.

Newsweek: Scientists Hope to Save World From Next Pandemic With Work on Universal Coronavirus Vaccine

U of A virologist Michael Houghton is quoted in this article about how researchers hope to develop a universal coronavirus vaccine to help prevent a new pandemic that could be even more deadly than the current global health crisis. He told CBC that "there's a high probability that we'll get a third strain of related coronavirus" and there is a "need to be better prepared right now."

Canadian Press: Skiers may be safe from COVID-19, but not those working to keep slopes open: experts

Infectious-disease specialist Ilan Schwartz says staff members at ski resorts are more likely than visitors to become infected because of the close proximity workers tend to be in. While skiers will generally be safe, those who wish to hit the slopes still need to be mindful of safety precautions, he added. Story runs in more than 60 media outlets.

CBC News: Changing how police departments respond to overdose calls could save lives

Monty Ghosh, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the U of A, suggests that changing current policies around police responses to opioid overdoses may save lives.

Global News Radio: Fit Cities Fit Towns Canada

Karen Lee, associate professor of medicine and director of the Housing for Health Initiative at the U of A, discusses how to plan for a “fit city” and the importance of such planning at a time when our normal routines have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

CBC News: B.C. researchers working to develop breath test for COVID-19

U of A virologist David Evans says research out of B.C. to develop a breath test for COVID-19 is “sound science” but “there is a big hill to climb before it becomes a widely adopted method."

CBC Radio Alberta at Noon: Delayed health care

Lee Green, professor of family medicine at the U of A, discusses health care that has been delayed due to the pandemic.

Edmonton Journal: David Staples: The one big reason why Canada failed to hit a home run on vaccines

Lorne Tyrrell, director of the U of A’s Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, is interviewed about why Canada lags behind on vaccine research, noting a lack of government investment. At the same time, he notes that the astonishing international scientific success means we will get safe and effective jabs by September.

CBC News: How do you know if your mask is working and if the air you are breathing is safe?

Infectious-disease specialist Lynora Saxinger gives advice on how to get a good fit on a mask and how to wear it.

CTV News Calgary: Could variant spread push back Alberta’s phased reopening?

Lynora Saxinger comments on the need for caution as the province begins easing restrictions.

Edmonton Journal: 'Kind of amazing' data should open doors for vaccinated care homes

Lynora Saxinger suggests the decline in cases at long-term care homes is an encouraging sign the vaccine is working.

BNN Bloomberg: A misstep now could result in longer, more stringent lockdowns later

Lynora Saxinger discusses the potential spread of COVID-19 variants and advises a "cautious approach" to easing public health measures.

CBC News: Military to send troops to U.S. in its largest international exercise of pandemic

Lynora Saxinger comments on the risks associated with Canada sending hundreds of military troops to the U.S for training.

CTV News Edmonton: Outbreaks to optimism: A look at Alberta’s long-term care turnaround

Lynora Saxinger says the lowered COVID-19 transmission in long-term care facilities validates decisions to prioritize the elderly population for the vaccine.

Global News Radio: Should Alberta care homes be more open to visitors now that residents have been vaccinated

Lynora Saxinger discusses the drop in COVID-19 infection rates in Alberta’s long-term care facilities in Alberta and if that will mean families can start visiting again.

Montreal Gazette: The hidden face of COVID-19: A growing number in it for the long haul

Ron Damant, a professor of medicine at the U of A, discusses the various symptoms of COVID-19 long-haulers, who suffer from the virus for weeks or months after the initial infection.

CBC News: Pregnant health-care workers weigh COVID-19 vaccine risks given lack of research

Sue Chandra, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the U of A, says pregnant people should weigh the likelihood of being exposed to COVID-19 and talk to their doctors. "Our job as providers is to give them the best information so they can use that to guide their decision-making," Chandra notes.

CTV News: Canada missed chance to help homegrown vaccines move quickly last spring: developers

John Lewis, U of A researcher and CEO of Entos Biopharmaceuticals, says Canada’s “careful, risk-averse” approach towards making homegrown vaccines has kept them from moving as quickly as international versions.

Global News: Addiction expert warns of drugs laced with opioids as 4 young Albertans die of apparent overdoses

Monty Ghosh, assistant clinical professor of medicine, discusses the disruption in the supply chain of fentanyl to Canada as four young Albertans die of apparent overdoses.



National Post: Alberta seeks federal government support for a domestic solution to vaccine supply issues

Michael Houghton's Nobel Prize win and research at the U of A’s Applied Virology Institute are cited by the provincial government in seeking support to improve vaccine-manufacturing capacity and swift approval of any made-in-Alberta COVID-19 vaccines.

Global News: ‘Connection to culture’: Maskwacis elder support program back virtually for expectant parents

Richard Oster, an assistant adjunct professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the U of A, talks about the revival of the Maskwacis Elder Mentoring Program he leads, which helps new moms connect with Elders. The program had been shut down by COVID-19.

University Affairs: The pain remains, one year after the downing of Flight 752

U of A president Bill Flanagan is quoted in this story that details how Canadian universities remembered the victims of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752. The story also mentions some of the U of A victims and the people who survive them. Among those who perished, 138 had connecting flights to Canada, including dozens of students, faculty and alumni from at least 21 Canadian post-secondary institutions.

Edmonton Journal: Anonymous donor matching up to $200,000 pledged to World's Longest Hockey Game

An anonymous donor matched up to $200,000 in donations to the World’s Longest Hockey Game in support of cancer research. The seventh iteration of the game began on Feb. 4 and had a goal of raising $1.5 million this year to support life-saving cancer research at the U of A to benefit patients at the Cross Cancer Institute.

CFWE: U of A dentistry school partners with Métis Nation of Alberta to improve access to oral health care

Suzanne Depledge, an assistant lecturer with the School of Dentistry, is interviewed about the new program, which encourages more than 46,000 members of the Métis Nation to use the affordable and high-quality pediatric, emergency, denture and other dental services carried out under faculty supervision by U of A students who are training to become dentists and dental hygienists.

Edmonton Journal: Edmonton psychiatry professor aims to treat mental illness with psychedelics through new company

Peter Silverstone, a professor of psychiatry at the U of A, aims to treat mental illness with psychedelics through new company, PsiloTec Health Solutions. Once the drug is legal to prescribe, his plan is to grow it, treat patients in a local clinic and run online clinics as a resource to empower doctors elsewhere.

Edmonton Journal: Medical schools across North America seeing unprecedented number of applications amid COVID-19 pandemic

Sita Gourishankar, assistant dean of admissions for undergraduate medical education, says the U of A is consistent with this trend, seeing a 20 per cent increase in the number of applications. The pandemic has also forced medical schools to adapt their entry processes, conducting interviews with prospective students online. Gourishankar expects this change will likely be one that sticks after the pandemic. Coverage appears in several Postmedia newspapers across the country.

CBC News Edmonton: Medical student equity program at U of A expanding to reach more underrepresented communities

A student-led medical program at the U of A is expanding eligibility to reach more communities that are underrepresented in the medical field. MD Admissions Initiative for Diversity and Equity (MD AIDE) started in January 2018 to help break down barriers for prospective medical students. It assists with mentoring, tutoring and interview preparation for the medical college admission test, or MCAT. Medical students Prachi Shah, Sherry Mahmood and Auriele Volk are quoted in the story.