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The sky’s the limit: PHSA-led research continues to innovate and inspire

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​The pursuit of big ideas can make the world a better, brighter, healthier place. Big ideas are being generated and pursued by PHSA researchers every day, leading to high impact outcomes that are improving the health of patient populations here in B.C., as well as across the country and around the globe. For the first time this year, Research and Academic Services has published a consolidated summary report that integrates both research and practice education metrics, in addition to separate, detailed Research Metrics and Practice Education Metrics supplementary reports. Here are a few highlights from this year’s reports.

A growing research enterprise
External research funding for PHSA research entities grew from $131.5 million in 2016/17 to $152.4 million in 2017/18 – an increase of approximately $20 million – largely due to success in Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) infrastructure competitions. We received a total of $25.9 million in CFI and matching BC Knowledge Development Fund funding. The breakdown is as follows:

  • BC Cancer: $23.2 million
  • BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute (BCCHR): $2.5 million
  • Women’s Health Research Institute (WHRI): $154,000
Building research capacity
We’ve also seen an increase in the number of researchers and research trainees since last year: 807 researchers and 1,970 trainees in 2017/18 (compared to 790 and 1,697, respectively, in 2016/17).

New tests, enhanced results
This year, PHSA researchers developed, introduced and implemented innovative tests and procedures that will help improve diagnosis and treatment. Check out some of these advances in medical testing:

  • A new test that identifies the risk of breast cancer reoccurrence, approved for use in Canada and the US, recommended in several independent international guidelines and health care assessments and now being used in B.C. and 13 countries around the world.
  • New tests for lung cancer patients that avoid the need for invasive and costly tissue biopsies and improve test turnaround time, thereby enabling new treatment options.
  • Genetic tests that predict the risk of serious side effects to common chemotherapy drugs, now introduced into practice at BC Children’s Hospital.
  • A non-invasive prenatal blood test in B.C. and Quebec that has higher sensitivity and lower false positive rates compared to conventional screening, leading to fewer invasive diagnostic tests that are associated with a risk of miscarriage.
Change makers in policy and pathways
PHSA researchers also use their findings to inform and guide policy decisions and clinical pathways, helping to apply technology, testing and health promotion programs to various patient populations on home soil and around the world. This year’s examples include:

  • BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) research informed the selection of the 2017/18 influenza vaccine strain by the World Health Organization (WHO) and informed provincial, national and international guidelines on use of the 2017/18 seasonal influenza vaccine. 
  • Research undertaken by BC Cancer in collaboration with the First Nations Health Authority informed the recently launched Indigenous Cancer Strategy for B.C.
  • WHRI research influenced the federal policy decision to allow pharmacists and nurse practitioners to prescribe Mifepristone, leading to improved access to medical abortion for women living in rural and remote locations across the country.
  • New Zealand has adopted BC Children’s Live 5-2-1-0 program, which promotes healthy eating and physical activity for children by advocating five or more fruits and vegetables, no more than two hours of screen time, one hour of active play, and zero sugary drinks each day.
Training tomorrow’s health care providers today
PHSA is one of Canada’s largest integrated academic health science organizations, with research, patient care and practice education at its core. Full reporting of medical students is available for the first time this year and shows PHSA provided the following:

  • 1,717 placements for 454 MD undergraduate students
  • 3,498 placements for 793 postgraduate MD residents
  • 255,382 hours of training to nursing and allied health students

Additionally, over the past five years, the number of clinical trainees seeking practice education placements with PHSA has increased by 39 per cent, while the percentage of declined placements has decreased.

The sky’s the limit
The landscape of health care in B.C. and beyond is constantly changing – for the better – thanks to PHSA researchers and their pursuit of big ideas. The above facts and figures only tell part of the story and the future can only get brighter as we forge ahead on our path of excellence in patient care, innovative research and training the next generation of health care professionals. For further details, please see this year’s consolidated summary report and the supplementary Research Metrics and Practice Education Metrics reports. 

For more information on PHSA's Research and Academic Services, visit

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