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Local student earns inaugural RVH research scholarship


Jessica Maher, the first recipient of RVH’s Laura E. Crook Scholarship for Community Health Research (right), is pictured with retired family physician Dr. Laura Crook (centre) and research supervisor, family physician and research co-director at RVH’s Family Medicine Teaching Unit, Dr. Matthew Orava (left).


Jessica Maher is spending her summer making an impact through local research thanks to a new scholarship from Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH).


Maher, a Tottenham resident and recent graduate of the Applied Life Sciences program at Lakehead University, is the first recipient of RVH’s Laura E. Crook Scholarship for Community Health Research.


Announced this spring, the inaugural scholarship worth $6,000 honours the 37-year-medical career of retired family physician Dr. Laura Crook. It reflects her passion for supporting exceptional family medicine, maternal care, and research. The scholarship provides an opportunity for students to be curious, ask questions and become actively involved in community-based research.


“I am honoured to be the first recipient and to have the opportunity to enter this field at such an early stage of my academic career,” says Maher. “I get to learn from amazing RVH mentors and role models to prepare me for a rewarding career as a clinician-scientist and in anticipation of attending University of Ottawa’s medical school this fall.”


Maher, along with her supervisor, Dr. Matthew Orava, family physician and research co-director at RVH’s Family Medicine Teaching Unit, will leverage health system information captured by the Healthy Barrie initiative, a community-based partnership among the Barrie Community Family Health Team, City of Barrie and Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. The project will focus on identifying and characterizing links between childhood or adult obesity and specific neighbourhood characteristics, such as walkability, green space, food security, transit accessibility, and air pollution, among others.


“As the old saying goes - an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” says Dr. Crook. “And that’s why I am excited to see the next generation strive to tease out the ways environmental circumstances affect the health of people, that as family doctors, we work with every day.”


The goal of the project is to help identify specific health disparities within the community that would allow for more focused interventions to boost the health of neighbourhoods across the community.


“I am so pleased to encourage Jessica’s passion for clinical research with this award, and I look forward to learning more about the ways our community could enhance the health and well-being of our population,” says Dr. Crook.


Each year, RVH’s Research Institute awards highly accomplished undergraduate and medical students the opportunity to participate in a summer research training experience and conduct applied health research alongside RVH employees and professional staff.


The scholarship is made available by the fundraising efforts of the RVH Foundation. For more information regarding RVH’s Research Institute visit www.rvhresearchinstitute.ca.


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