A 20-year journey of health research in BC: 20 years, 20 stories
5 October 2021
2021 is a year like no other for us at the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR). The world continues to deal with a global pandemic, which in turn is highlighting health, social and economic inequities that have existed for generations. While it may not seem the ideal time to celebrate this milestone, our 20th anniversary has provided a unique opportunity to recognize achievements to date, and to envision a future where health research — supported by funders like MSFHR — plays an even stronger role in improving people’s lives.
Our 20th anniversary campaign has a simple theme: 20 years, 20 stories. We went back in time looking through archives and reconnected with a few of the more than 1,600 researchers MSFHR has supported over the past two decades. The stories we have shared over the past year are just a small collection of the important work that BC researchers have done to improve health outcomes for people in BC and beyond.
“Thank you to everyone who participated and shared their stories and memories from the past 20 years,” says our president & CEO Bev Holmes. “It was wonderful to reminisce and hear from so many researchers who are still working in the province and committed to making a difference for the people of BC.”
MSFHR has supported so many researchers working on a range of research, from the sequencing of the SARS genome in 2003, to the use of 3D modelling to understand health impacts, to improving equitable and tailored health services for sexual and gender-diverse populations, to expanding the length of time between COVID-19 vaccines in 2021. We are so pleased to serve our community and help establish careers that have impacted our lives.
Bev acknowledges that MSFHR’s ability to support researchers is made possible with funding from the province of BC and our partners, some of whom were featured in the campaign. “We couldn’t do the work we do without their support, and it’s gratifying to see even small investments making huge impacts for people and communities across the province,” she says.
The pandemic has brought the importance of health research to the forefront of our daily lives but what has also become more apparent are the gaps in our health research system. We can address these gaps with: better co-ordination of funding, systems, policies and processes; streamlined and faster research and clinical trial approval processes; robust priority setting processes; more opportunities for patient and public involvement in research; and increased capacity to support a truly learning health system.
“It was wonderful to reminisce and hear from so many researchers who are still working in the province and committed to making a difference for the people of BC.” — Bev Holmes, President & CEO, MSFHR
Soon, we will be strengthening our commitment to health research and addressing the challenges in closing these gaps by consolidating with another strong health research organization, the British Columbia Academic Health Science Network (BC AHSN). The impetus for consolidating MSFHR and BC AHSN was synergy — which literally means the interaction or co-operation of two or more organizations (in this case) to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.
As one organization — and embracing a dual role of “doing” and “influencing” — we are in a much stronger position to work with our partners and stakeholders to strengthen research capacity across the province, support evidence-informed decision making in health care, increase the competitiveness of our life sciences sector, and maximize the social and economic benefits of health research in BC. Our interactions with BC’s health research community leaders and our organizations’ trusted advisors, and our experience of the pandemic, validate that initial thinking.
“Our consolidation with MSFHR, an organization with deep expertise in attracting, developing and retaining health research talent, is a testament to our shared commitment to provide ongoing support to our province’s health research community to achieve further success and impact.” — Dr. Stirling Bryan, President, BC AHSN
Reflecting on the upcoming consolidation, Dr. Stirling Bryan, President of BC AHSN says, “We have made important strides over recent years to strengthen BC’s health research environment in the areas of research ethics, clinical trials and patient-oriented research. Our consolidation with MSFHR, an organization with deep expertise in attracting, developing and retaining health research talent, is a testament to our shared commitment to provide ongoing support to our province’s health research community to achieve further success and impact.”
As we build on MSFHR’s and BC AHSN’s legacies of impact, collaboration and partnerships, we are looking forward to working with existing partners and forging new alliances to strengthen BC’s health research system. “We are excited to help write the next chapter for health research in BC that will further enable the province to attract national and international talent and funding, while supporting local researchers to stay in BC and see their work improve health outcomes,” she says.
On behalf of all at MSFHR, thank you to everyone who has supported the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research over the past 20 years. We look forward to continuing to serve our vibrant health research community and support its growth.