Spring 2015

Up Front

It was such a simple question: What should people eat while they are undergoing cancer therapy? But 10 years ago U of A nutritional scientist Catherine Field, ’88 PhD, had no good answers.

“Patients asked so many questions about nutrition during and after their treatment, but we had no science-based answers,” she told New Trail.

This simple question led Field, a registered dietitian and a professor in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, to look more closely at omega-3 fatty acids. Could omega-3s, long recognized as important nutrients, play a role in the treatment of breast cancer? The results of Field’s studies were groundbreaking: treating human breast tumours with the fatty acid before chemotherapy killed more malignant cells than the chemo alone.

Field’s team is now pursuing trials in pre-clinical models, and she is working to translate her findings into an answer to the original question: dietary recommendations for patients during chemotherapy.

It is an exciting development, and one that never would have come about if Field had not been part of a translational research collaboration with colleagues in oncology and physical education.

The solutions to today’s problems are bigger than one person, whether it is physicians and researchers working together to address the needs of a cancer patient (page 18) or scientists from every corner of the globe working together to find a better treatment for diabetes (page 30). The thorny problems of the 21st century cannot be answered by a lone researcher working late hours in a lab. They require a rich diversity of backgrounds, experiences and thought.

These are the kinds of challenges that are uniquely suited to the University of Alberta. Here we have philosophers, engineers, educators, scientists and doctors, all being asked to think in new and different ways. Each year the U of A produces more than 8,000 new alumni, ready to bring their own solutions into the world. These are the ways in which the university makes a positive difference in the world, and one of the reasons I wanted to remain connected to this institution and its alumni.

As you receive this issue of New Trail, my time representing the U of A’s quarter-million alumni is coming to an end. I am preparing to hand over the role of Alumni Association president to Mary Pat Barry, ’04 MA. The two years I have spent serving U of A alumni have been wonderful — thank you to each of you who have helped to make this such a rewarding experience. I encourage other alumni to get involved and experience the benefits of staying connected to the university.

As Mary Pat begins her new role at the end of this month, she takes the helm at a particularly inspiring time. This year we continue to celebrate the Alumni Association’s 100th anniversary with the association’s first Leadership Summit on May 22, featuring the Be a Difference Maker lecture by Rick Hansen, ’11 LLD (Honorary). Of course, we will have some extra reason to celebrate at this year’s Alumni Weekend Sept. 24-27.

Ours is a very active group of alumni — a group that cares passionately about the university and its role in our city and province — and there are plenty of ways for you to get involved. Come back to campus and see what is happening at the U of A; take advantage of alumni volunteer opportunities; share your experiences with potential students; or come to an alumni event where you can reconnect with your peers or your passion. Visit the volunteer page on the Alumni website for a list of upcoming opportunities to get involved. Mary Pat and I hope to see you soon.

Glenn Stowkowy

Glenn Stowkowy, ’76 BSc(ElecEng) 
President, Alumni Association