A PhD student who works with live models of COVID-19 to find a cure. A doctor who founded one of Canada’s largest pediatric research networks. A student driving policy changes for HIV and monkey pox care.

The 7th annual Research Month Awards honoured outstanding individuals who show their commitment to Unity Health’s values.

“These Research staff, students and scientists have exceeded expectations and made a special impact on the institute,” said Dr. Ori Rotstein, vice-president of Research and Innovation at Unity Health Toronto.

The Awards were also an opportunity to celebrate the community’s achievements. For the first time ever, Unity Health surpassed $100 million in Research spending, representing a 23 per cent increase over five years.

“I’m truly inspired by what we’ve been able to achieve together during these challenging times,” said Dr. Patricia O’Campo, executive director of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute.

We caught up with some of the recipients who shared their reactions and what they value most about Research at Unity Health.

Qinghong Dan, wearing a lab coat, works in a laboratory.
Qinghong Dan

Qinghong Dan, a research technician in Critical Care and a recipient of the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science (KRCBS)Culture of Discovery Award for a staff member

“I am so honoured to be selected as a winner of this year’s Culture of Diversity Award. It means the encouragement of my past research work, but also a responsibility for my future work. I value most about the culture of research are collaborative, open-minded discussion, and share good practice.”

Headshot of Jesse Knight
Jesse Knight

Jesse Knight, a PhD candidate at the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions and a recipient of a Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute (LKSKI) Excellence Award for a trainee

I am very honoured and grateful to be selected for this award, which represents the contributions of so many individuals: from questions identified by public health professionals, data provided by communities, code shared by other modellers, thoughtful discussions among our team and wider collaborators, and front-line clinicians & program implementers who graciously translate our modelling scenarios into real-world impacts.

Research at Unity Health always puts equity at the fore. People here are not only incredibly kind and genuine, but passionate about fixing broken systems and raising up communities experiencing marginalization.”

Headshot of Jady Liang
Jady Liang

Jady Liang, a PhD candidate at the KRCBS and recipient of the KRCBS Excellence Award for a trainee

“I am completely honoured to be selected as the excellence award winner this year. I am grateful that my principal investigator (PI) Dr. Haibo Zhang, colleagues and collaborators recognize the work and effort I put into driving research success in Unity Health especially in the field of COVID-19. I look forward to continuing my education and training at Unity Health and strive to be a better student, mentor, colleague and collaborator.

I value the diverse, supportive, and collaborative environment at Unity Health. One of the things I really appreciate is the amazing core facility specialists with a variety of skills and expertise in multiple research techniques that provided and will continue to provide support to trainees, staff and PIs.”

Headshot of Dr. Jonathon Maguire
Dr. Jonathon Maguire

Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a scientist at the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions and the recipient of the LKSKI Legacy Award for a Scientist

It was an honour to be nominated and a real privilege to have been selected for this year’s award. One of the important attributes of the culture of research at Unity Health Toronto is that research mentorship is recognized and encouraged. The future of applied health research, particularly for vulnerable populations, depends on training new researchers with empathy and compassion to carry on the incredible work that our institution is committed to doing.”

Headshot of Dr. Asad Naveed
Dr. Asad Naveed

Dr. Asad Naveed, a post-doctoral fellow in Trauma Research and a recipient of a LKSKI Excellence Award for a post-doctoral fellow

“Receiving this award is an acknowledgment that I am on the right track. It means that my team values me. It has set the bar high and energized me to do better. My mentors inspire me, care about my well-being and correct me when I go wrong. My work is designed to align fully with my future goals and aspirations.”

Headshot of Dr. Pamela Plant
Dr. Pamela Plant

Dr. Pamela Plant, a genomics specialist and adjunct scientist at the KRCBS, and a recipient of the KRCBS Culture of Discovery Award for a staff member

“It is absolutely an honour to be recognized by my colleagues. Our Research Core Facilities team works tirelessly to maintain the high quality of research and training at the KRCBS. Our work often goes unseen, so receiving this award feels like acknowledgement and validation for the hard work we do.

I am grateful that our hospital/leadership continues to value and support research. Research is vital to innovation in health care and at Unity Health/KRCBS we are poised for such impactful discoveries owing to the translational nature (from ‘bench to bedside’) of the research. I particularly value the unique structure of our Institute on the wet bench side (KRCBS) with the centralized core labs (that our team oversees). It is a very unique structure for research institutes in Canada and it facilitates the translational aspect of Unity Health’s research.”

Headshot of Jordan Sam
Jordan Sam

Jordan Sam, a data science specialist in Genomics Health Services & Policy Research and a recipient of a LKSKI Culture of Discovery Award for a staff member

“I am very honoured and thankful to be selected as a Research Award winner. This award means a lot to me because it is an acknowledgement of the hard work that my colleagues and I do on a daily basis to improve patients’ access to genetics medicine.  

I value Unity Health’s dedication towards fostering a collaborative environment across different research specialties and disciplines. This empowers our researchers, staff, and trainees to conduct cutting-edge and innovative research to improve the care of patients in our community and across the country.”  

Headshot of Samar Saneinejad
Samar Saneinejad

Samar Saneinejad, senior director of Strategy and Commercialization and a recipient of a LKSKI Culture of Discovery Award for a staff member

“I’m deeply honored to be a recipient of the Culture of Discovery award – it’s particularly special given this recognition comes from my colleagues and peers.

At this moment in time, I would say what I value most about the culture of research at Unity Health, is that we embrace positive change and collectively work towards it. The global research ecosystem is evolving, and it’s incredible to work with researchers, staff and students who are forward looking and committed to continuous improvement and growth.”

Dr. Katalin Szaszi, wearing a face mask, stands in her laboratory.
Dr. Katalin Szaszi

Dr. Katalin Szaszi, a scientist at the KRCBS, and recipient of the KRCBS Legacy Award for a scientist

It is an honor to be selected for this award, and an amazing feeling to be recognized for my work and contributions. I would like to thank the selection committee for choosing me. Progress in basic discovery science can be slow and uncertain, and I am very lucky to be sharing this sometimes-difficult journey with my great current and past team and collaborators. This award recognizes their hard work and resilience that is essential for our success.

Research is a team activity. The amazing professional community that provides crucial day-to-day support is the greatest asset of the Keenan Research Centre. The hard work of many, often less recognized individuals is the essential building block for all our achievements. I also have a smaller circle of incredible colleagues and friends, who are always excited about science and are willing to share their vast and diverse knowledge to discuss ideas, brainstorm, troubleshoot, or just listen. Their friendship is crucial for me to help overcome challenges and frustrations. I highly value the professional community of the KRCBS, and I am very grateful for their support.”

Headshot of  Changsen Wang
Changsen Wang

Changsen Wang, a research technician in Critical Care and a recipient of the KRCBS Culture of Discovery Award for a staff member

“Thanks to the Awards Committee for selecting me for this award. I am deeply honoured for this recognition of my work. In fact, this is one of the highlights of my professional career. it motivates me to continue to work hard.

I have been happily working in the institute for almost 13 years now.  I like the positive culture of research. This is a wonderful working environment for biomedical research. Working here, our team members are collaborative, friendly help with each other. I love the people here very much.”

Congratulations to all the winners of this year’s awards!

By: Ana Gajic