Official Canada Research Chairs Announcement (November 2013)

TWU Associate Professor awarded Canada Research Chair

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School of Nursing Associate Professor Rick Sawatzky has been awarded a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair. Sawatzky’s research program, Patient-Reported Outcomes, focuses on the complex healthcare needs and concerns of people struggling with chronic, life-limiting illnesses, from their point of view.

The Canada Research Chair in Patient Reported Outcomes is the first at TWU in the area of health and will further strengthen the research capacity of our Master of Science in Nursing program,” said Eve Stringham, Ph.D., Vice Provost, Research and Graduate Studies. “Dr. Sawatzky's research chair is timely. As the population ages, more individuals will be living with chronic conditions. Health care professionals and family caregivers need to be aware of their perspectives.”

Together with his team of students, trainees, healthcare providers, and researchers, Sawatzky will study the use of patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) to effectively and efficiently assess people’s health and quality of life concerns. The PROMs use questionnaires in several formats (paper, online, or via hand-held device), through which patients report on important aspects of their illness experiences.

“We hope that this research will enable the perspectives, experiences, and concerns of patients and their family caregivers to be more visible, so that they will inform all levels of healthcare decision making,” Sawatzky said.

The Canada Research Chair allows Sawatzky and his team to study how to best obtain, and use, information about the challenges people with chronic, life-limiting illnesses—who often have multiple conditions—face within the healthcare system.

“The patient’s perspectives are not always visible,” he said. “Healthcare decisions are often made based on information about health services; what’s missing is the actual patient’s experience. With this research, we hope to make that experience more visible—particularly for people with advancing illnesses who are in need of a palliative approach to care.”

To that end, the PROMs will provide valuable information, in a standardized language, that healthcare providers can use when treating their patients. “Nursing is very much about paying attention to peoples’ perspectives and experiences of their health and healthcare needs,” Sawatzky said.

Along with the Canada Research Chair funding, Sawatzky’s research is supported by his affiliation with the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences and the Initiative for a Palliative Approach in Nursing (iPANEL), and by other funding sources, including the Technology Evaluation in the Elderly Network.  “These types of research opportunities create a scholarly environment that is an essential part of university life,” Sawatzky said. “They provide valuable opportunities for students and trainees.”

Notably, Sawatzky’s passion for research may be genetic: his father, George Sawatzky, Ph.D., holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Physics and Chemistry of Nano-structured Materials, at the University of British Columbia.

The Canada Research Chairs program stands at the centre of a national strategy to make Canada one of the world's top countries in research and development. In 2000, the Government of Canada created a permanent program to establish 2000 research professorships—Canada Research Chairs—in eligible degree-granting institutions across the country.

“Our government remains committed to attracting and retaining the world’s best researchers, creating jobs and strengthening our economy,” said Minister of State Greg Rickford. “Through programs such as the Canada Research Chairs, we are supporting cutting-edge research at Canadian universities and fostering innovation by helping researchers bring their ideas to the marketplace, to benefit Canadians and improve our quality of life.”

Three other TWU professors hold Canada Research Chairs: Peter Flint, Ph.D., Dead Sea Scrolls Studies; Eve Stringham, Ph.D., Developmental Genetics and Disease; and Jens Zimmermann, Ph.D.,Interpretation, Religion and Culture.