Honouring the people behind the research: This year’s Research Month Awards winners

By Ana Gajic

(from left) Dr. Ori Rotstein, Dr. Heyu Ni, Avinash Mukkala, Mirjana Jerkic, Barbara Keenan, Gwen Harvey and Dr. Tom Schweizer

Nov. 25, 2019 – As this year’s Research Month winds down, the fourth annual Research Awards honoured nine outstanding members of the Research community. For the first time ever, research volunteers were also recognized for their contributions in a new category of the awards.

“These awards are meant to recognize people who have contributed in a meaningful way within Research,” said Dr. Ori Rotstein, vice-president of Research and Innovation at Unity Health Toronto. “These people have lived and conducted their research according to our values and advanced our mission of: The best care experiences. Created together.”

The Research Awards were given out to volunteers, students, researchers, and staff from the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute (LKSKI) and the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science (the Keenan). Researchers, staff and students from across Unity Health who do not have a formal appointment were included in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute award categories.

Dr. Tom Schweizer, interim director of the Keenan, handed out the Keenan Awards. He was joined by Barbara Keenan and her daughter Gwen Harvey. The Keenan was named in recognition of their family’s generous contributions to the hospital and its research enterprise.

“We are dedicated to advancing research in basic science by establishing collaborations and facilitating knowledge exchange with research experts worldwide,” said Dr. Schweizer.

This year’s winners from the Keenan included one exceptional student, one staff member and one scientist:

  • Keenan Research Excellence Award: This award recognizes a student or trainee studying in the KRCBS who possesses significant potential as a scientist. This year’s winner is:
    • Avinash Mukkala, graduate student
  • Keenan Culture of Discovery Award: This honour is awarded to a staff member working with one or more KRCBS scientist(s), who is committed to investing in the future of research by supporting the development of staff, students and trainees. The winner is:
    • Mirjana Jerkic, research associate in Critical Care Research
  • Keenan Legacy Award: This award is given to a scientist who enhances the reputation of biomedical or translational research and their actions lead to a rich tradition of developing the next wave of great scientists. The winner is:
    • Heyu Ni, platform director, Hematological and Immunological Diseases

Before the awards ceremony, Dr. Denisa Wagner, the Edwin Cohn Professor of Pediatrics in the Program for Cellular and Molecular Medicine and the Division of Hematology and Oncology at Boston Children’s Hospital, gave the International Keenan Lecture.

Dr. Pat O’Campo, interim executive director of the LKSKI, awarded the recipients of the Li Ka Shing Research Awards, which included nominees from across Unity health, as the work that goes on at all three sites aligns with the LKSKI’s foundational goals.

“The Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute runs clinical trials, and specializes in research on health services and policy, population health, global health and knowledge translation research,” she said. “Our focus is on conducting research and disseminating knowledge that is relevant for our health care system and important to our patients.”

This year’s winners from the LKSKI were one outstanding student, staff and researcher:

  • Li Ka Shing Excellence Award: This award recognizes an exceptional student or trainee studying in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute or at Providence or St. Joseph’s. This year’s winners are:
    • Nazlee Maghsoudi, PhD student
    • Laura Chiavaroli, post-doctoral fellow
  • Li Ka Shing Culture of Discovery Award: This award is given to a staff member who works with one or more Li Ka Shing appointed scientist(s), or in research at Providence and St. Joseph’s. Candidates must be committed to the constant strengthening of our network. The winner is:
    • Megan Storey, research coordinator, Knowledge Translation Program
  • Li Ka Shing Legacy Award: This award is given to a senior scientist with the LKSKI. Candidates must exemplify the mission of the institute — generating new knowledge and translating scientific discoveries to improve patient health. This year’s winner is:
    • Nancy Baxter, scientist at the LKSKI

This year’s awards also featured a new category – the Engagement Awards, which recognize research volunteers who embody the values of Unity Health, and advance our mission to improve the lives of our patients and community through productive research, dedication and leadership. Congratulations to Dennis Wong and Shenhab Zaig, who were awarded the first-ever Engagement Awards.

This year, a total of 36 people were nominated by their colleagues, peers, classmates, supervisors and students for the Research Awards.

Congratulations to all the nominees this year:

Amalia Gil
Amanda Ceniti
Amanda Hignell
Ambreen Hayani
Amy Dionne
Anna Yeung
Anne Sorvari
Arlinda Ruco
Avinash Naraiah Mukkala
Changsen Wang
Chloe Mighton
Colin Sue-Chue Lam
Alice Ordean
Evie Gogosis
Fahima Dossa
Jaryd Te
Jeffrey Man
Karen Mcdonald
Kayee Tung
Kristine Antony
Laura Chiavaroli
Laura Nemoy
Lauren Gordon
Maria Cusimano
Mary Aglipay
Matt Castelo
Meaghan Kavanagh
Meghan Storey
Mirjana Jerkic
Mohamed Adam
Nazlee Maghsoudi
Sahil Gupta
Shelley Vanderhout
Tara Upshaw
Tauseef Khan
Zachary Bouck