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REF NO.: 191

SUBJECT: Three health research projects funded at Memorial University
DATE: May 17, 2007

Three health research projects at Memorial University received a total of $683,803 in the latest round of funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
Dr. Maria Mathews, Division of Community Health and Humanities, was awarded $185,871 for her study on hanging on to homegrown doctors. Homegrown physicians are an important source of doctors for a province, particularly in this era of physician shortages. It is unclear, however, how many physicians are working in their home province and what influences them to stay there. Dr. Mathews will study physicians who graduated from Memorial University and the University of Saskatchewan medical schools to find out where graduates are currently working, what influences them to work in their home province and whether these reasons change over the course of their career. She and her colleagues will also examine how frequently physicians change jobs and when in their career they are most likely to work in their home province. With this project, Dr. Mathews hopes to develop strategies to recruit, retain and repatriate locally trained medical graduates and help alleviate physician shortages in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as Saskatchewan.
A team led by Dr. Barbara Neis, Sociology, received $100,009 from the CIHR to continue work on creating a safer work environment in the seafood processing industry. This industry is expanding rapidly, both globally and within Canada, yet very little research has been done on the various health risks workers in this industry face. This funding is for the second phase of a SafetyNet Knowledge to Action (KTA) project focused on minimizing these health risks. SafetyNet is a CIHR-funded initiative aimed at increasing the safety of marine and coastal workers. In Phase One, Dr. Neis and her colleagues implemented strategies to reduce occupational asthma and allergies. In Phase Two, they will look for ways to make tasks specific to this industry, such as snow crab processing and knife-preparation of turbot, safer for workers. The tools and processes that result from this KTA project will be used across Atlantic Canada and in international, community-based initiatives. 
Meanwhile, Dr. Proton Rahman, Discipline of Medicine, was allocated $397,932 for his research on the genes behind psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis associated with psoriasis, a common skin condition, and is second only to rheumatoid arthritis with respect to prevalence. Despite receiving medical treatment, a large number of patients with psoriatic arthritis go on to develop severe complications, such as erosion and deformity of the joints. Right now, psoriatic arthritis is difficult to diagnose and treat. Dr. Rahman will identify genes that could be used to predict who will develop psoriatic arthritis and who among them will go on to develop its debilitating complications. He and his colleagues are currently evaluating two genes: SLC20A1 and BAT1. Fully identifying and characterizing these genes may lead to new treatments for psoriatic arthritis and better diagnostic methods.

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