For the third year in a row, WCH ranked as one of Canada’s top 40 research hospitals.

Women’s College Hospital

Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI) is a multidisciplinary research institute based at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) – Canada’s leading academic, ambulatory hospital and a world leader in women’s health. WCRI was established in 2006, building on a 100-year-long legacy of innovation in health for women at WCH. WCH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto and is a member of the Toronto Academic Health Science Network.

WCRI is one of only a few hospital-based research institutes worldwide to focus on health for women across the lifespan. Our scientists, all of whom have academic appointments at the University of Toronto, conduct research that improves the health of women, helps people prevent and manage complex chronic conditions, and delivers innovative health system solutions. Seventy percent of our scientists are also clinicians providing care at WCH; the same proportion are women.


  • For the third year in a row, WCH ranked as one of Canada’s top 40 research hospitals. It outperformed many larger institutions with respect to income intensity and research intensity.
  • We underwent a very successful external scientific review that has set WCRI on a path to continue growing its research quality and impact.
  • Our external awarded research funding grew by more than 30 percent compared to last year.
  • Our scientists were exceptionally productive, publishing 25 percent more papers compared to last year. These high-impact papers received extensive attention around the world.
  • Our cancer research team discovered a new breast cancer susceptibility gene – the first gene discovery ever made at WCRI.
  • We launched a pan-Canadian study on breast cancer in young women – research which is supported by the largest grant ever in Canada to study this issue.
  • The World Health Organization appointed Dr. Ophira Ginsburg to build policy and programming for women’s cancers.
  • The Frigon Blau Chair in Family Medicine Research at WCH, Dr. Onil Bhattacharyya, received a prestigious Harkness Fellowship from The Commonwealth Fund and Canadian Foundation for Health Care Improvement.
  • Dr. Paula Rochon was named the inaugural RTO/ERO Chair in Geriatric Medicine at the University of Toronto.
  • WCRI’s summer student program marked its twelfth year by attracting 40 students, most of whom were women.



Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI) is the only research institute in Canada wholly dedicated to science that advances the health of women.

Marilyn Emery

Marilyn Emery
President and CEO
Women's College Hospital

Dr. Paula Rochon

Dr. Paula Rochon
VP Research
Women's College Hospital

To us, this means we are asking important questions to better understand the health conditions that uniquely affect women. This research is integral to designing effective prevention and treatment strategies, addressing gaps in care, and developing health system solutions that improve patient experiences and outcomes.

This year is particularly special for us, as we are celebrating 20 years of cancer research at Women’s College Hospital (WCH). Over this time, we have been responsible for several breakthroughs in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer research. The work of our internationally renowned scientists has formed the backbone of new cancer prevention, screening and treatment strategies that will continue to save women’s lives. In fact, during this past year, WCRI scientists discovered a new breast cancer gene – the first gene discovery ever made at WCH and an exciting step towards understanding all of the genetic factors involved in hereditary breast cancer.

At WCRI, we pride ourselves on taking a comprehensive approach to advancing the health of all women. Our scientists are driving research aimed at improving mental health management during pregnancy and postpartum, preventing chronic conditions, and optimizing care for older women. We are also exploring the care needs of women with HIV – a growing demographic in Canada – and how to close the global cancer divide for women.

In addition, we are proud to announce that it has been another outstanding year for research at Women’s College in terms of attracting new funding and productivity. Our external research funding has increased by 30 percent, compared to last year – a remarkable feat given the competitive funding environment. Our scientists were exceptionally productive, publishing a record-breaking number of articles in high-impact journals. All of this growth has occurred with a consistent faculty size, meaning our scientists are working harder than ever before to impact health for women and address gaps in our health system.

It’s an exciting time for research at WCH. Recently, our research institute moved into the hospital’s new state-of-the-art facility. For the fi rst time ever, Women’s College research, clinical practice and education are located on a single site. This will serve to accelerate collaboration and ensure that our scientists continue to ask the questions that matter most to women and families in our community.



This year, we are celebrating two decades of groundbreaking hereditary cancer research at Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI) – science that has transformed the lives of women and families at our hospital and across Canada.

Dr. Steven Narod,Dr. Mohammad Akbari, Kelly Metcalfe, PhD, Joanne Kotsopoulos, PhD

The scientist under the spotlight for this work is Dr. Steven Narod, who has built a legacy at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) since he first arrived in 1995. After co-discovering the BRCA1 gene in 1994 and the BRCA2 gene in 1995 (both of which have been implicated in increasing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer), Dr. Narod was appointed as a scientist to WCRI and has since established an internationally renowned research program in cancer genetics.

"Coming to WCH gave me the opportunity to pursue breast cancer research full-time and to develop a strong research group," says Dr. Narod, now a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Breast Cancer at WCH and director of the Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit at WCRI.

Over his 20 years at WCH, Dr. Narod has greatly expanded the world’s understanding of the factors that shape women’s risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, and he has learned how best to treat and prevent these cancers. This work has attracted worldwide attention. He has also been a mentor to a new generation of cancer researchers, including Joanne Kotsopoulos, PhD, Dr. Mohammad Akbari, Kelly Metcalfe, PhD, and Dr. Ophira Ginsburg – all of whom are now successful scientists at WCRI and continue to collaborate closely with him.

Dr. Narod and his team have documented more than a dozen factors that reduce inherited cancer risk, including medications and preventive surgery. Recently he demonstrated that ovary removal surgery greatly reduces death and cancer incidence in women with BRCA mutations. Kotsopoulos, Cancer Care Ontario Research Chair in Population Studies, is exploring how diet and lifestyle factors modify a women’s risk of cancer.

His team’s research has also influenced best treatment practices for women with cancer and BRCA mutations. As an example, he and Metcalfe recently showed that preventative, surgical removal of both breasts improves survival among breast cancer patients with BRCA mutations. In a separate study they demonstrated a similar effect with ovary removal surgery.

"We are now able to provide sound advice to high-risk women on how to prevent cancers and their best treatment options," says Dr. Narod.

Dr. Narod and his team also recently published a landmark article that illuminates the early stages of breast cancer and will likely guide treatment decisions in the future.

Dr. Narod’s work at WCRI has not been limited to the BRCA genes. He and his team are in pursuit of other genetic factors that play a role in cancer. This year, research led by Dr. Akbari identified a new gene that increases the risk of breast cancer by five-fold when it is mutated. The gene, called REQCL, is the first gene discovery ever made at WCRI.

"This was an exciting step for us in identifying all of the relevant genes associated with inherited breast cancer," says Dr. Akbari, who led the research in the team’s state-of-the­art laboratory. The team recently received funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation to enhance their lab with additional equipment, allowing them to expand their research program and pursue new questions.

"Dr. Narod’s history of achievements at WCRI has revolutionized cancer care for women internationally," says Dr. Paula Rochon, vice-president of research at WCH. "His research has saved lives and improved the well-being of so many women. We are proud to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of his work at WCH this year."

Vasily Giannakeas

In an effort to help women prevent ovarian cancer, Vasily Giannakeas – a recent Master of Public Health graduate supervised by Dr. Steven Narod – focused his Master’s project on developing statistical models that could one day be used clinically to assess women’s cancer risk and help women select prevention options. One of the models he created was a personal statistical model that can tell a woman her cancer risk based on unique characteristics, such as family and reproductive history and known genetic mutations.

"The most exciting thing about this risk model is its inclusion of preventative measures, like ovary removal, into a woman’s assessment, helping her make informed choices for her health," says Giannakeas. "More research needs to be done, however, to further develop and validate this model and others so that they may be used effectively by women and health care providers."



Our scientists are expanding knowledge about chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease that have unique implications for women. They are investigating the complexities of these conditions and finding new ways to prevent them.


Dr. Lorraine Lipscombe

Dr. Lorraine Lipscombe

Diabetes is on the rise in Canada and the number of people with the condition in Ontario has doubled over the last decade. Ninety percent of people with this disease have type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body can’t make enough or properly use insulin.

"The risk of someone developing type 2 diabetes can be reduced partly by making adjustments in their lifestyle, and as a clinician-scientist in the field, it is top of mind for me to find new strategies for prevention in high-risk individuals," says Dr. Lorraine Lipscombe, scientist, director of the Centre for Integrated Diabetes Care, and a staff physician at Women’s College Hospital.

Mothers with recent gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) – a condition during pregnancy in which women have high blood sugar levels – for instance, have a seven-fold higher risk for diabetes than women without GDM.

"Despite this link, there are few effective diabetes prevention programs for women with recent GDM," says Dr. Lipscombe. "The issue too is that new mothers have many competing demands and often have a difficult time keeping up with a prevention plan."

As a solution, Dr. Lipscombe and her team developed an innovative, home-based health coaching diabetes prevention program for new mothers with recent GDM. Certifi ed Diabetes Educators offer customized lifestyle counseling that accommodates parenting demands, with regular telephone follow-up to coach them on maintaining a healthy diet and exercise schedule.

Dr. Lipscombe is leading a study to determine the feasibility and effectiveness of this program by recruiting more than 200 women with GDM from four hospital sites in Toronto. If shown to be successful, the intervention will be tested in a larger trial with more women.

"If it is effective, we would love to see this program roll out across the province, so that all new mothers with previous GDM and their families can benefit," says Dr. Lipscombe.


Dr. Jacob Udell

Dr. Jacob Udell

Heart disease and stroke cause about one death every minute in the United States and Canada, and one-third of those affected are women in the prime of their lives.

"Heart disease is the most common cause of premature death among women in Canada," says Dr. Jacob Udell, a scientist and cardiologist at Women’s College Hospital. "To address this, we need to get better at recognizing risk factors for cardiovascular disease and proactively managing women’s heart health."

One of Dr. Udell’s research focuses has been on exploring the impact of fertility drug therapy on women’s cardiovascular health. He and his team recently found that women who take fertility therapy are at an increased risk for short-term cardiovascular complications in pregnancy. Less is known, however, about the health consequences following unsuccessful fertility drug therapy.

With new funding from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, he is now exploring the long-term risks in women who are unsuccessful at becoming pregnant after treatment. His study will be conducted using health data from about 30,000 women in Ontario. This research will have important public health implications, given the increasing use of fertility treatment among Canadian women.

"Our hope is to clarify how failed fertility therapy is linked to future health and how we can provide better follow-up care for women taking these treatments," says Dr. Udell.



As in many developed countries around the world, our population is aging. Older adults – especially women – are also living longer and with more chronic conditions. There is a demand for research that aims to advance care for this population and help them maintain the quality and dignity of their lives.

Dr. Paula Rochon

Dr. Paula Rochon, VP Research

Lisa McCarthy

Lisa McCarthy, PharmD

That’s why Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI) has put a major emphasis on doing research that will improve our understanding of the aging process and optimize care for older men and women.

For instance, Dr. Rochon – senior scientist and vice-president of research at Women’s College Hospital, and the inaugural Retired Teachers of Ontario Chair in Geriatric Medicine at the University of Toronto – explores how to best manage the health of older adults with multiple complex and chronic conditions. In particular, she examines the benefits and risks of drug therapies commonly prescribed to older adults, and she develops practical and innovative strategies to improve prescribing practices.

"More than half of all seniors in Canada take several medications to manage their health, and while these drugs can improve quality of life substantially, they can also lead to drug-drug interactions and side effects," says Dr. Rochon. "The aim of my work is to find ways of making prescribing safer and more effective in all older people."

She and Andrea Gruneir, PhD, adjunct scientist at WCRI, along with a team of researchers, recently received funding from the Physicians’ Services Incorporated Foundation to take a deeper look at the adverse effects of cholinesterase inhibitor therapy for dementia. Dementia is a devastating condition that affects 500,000 Canadians and more than 35 million people globally. Although cholinesterase inhibitor therapy is widely used to manage dementia, evidence suggests that it provides modest benefits and that we may need to know more about the potential side effects.

"We’ll be among the first to explore the different effects that this therapy has in both men and women and what happens when the therapy is stopped," says Dr. Rochon. "I hope that our findings will inform decision-making by families, caregivers, and prescribers and lead to improved health and quality of life for older adults with dementia."

Collaborating on the project with Dr. Rochon is Lisa McCarthy, PharmD, research fellow at WCRI. McCarthy also conducts her own research program that aims to optimize care for older adults and maximize quality of life for this group.

For example, she is leading a team funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to figure out the best way to identify older patients in the primary care setting who are at a high risk for frailty and understand their care needs.

"This project is part of a bigger initiative that will equip primary care physicians with the tools and knowledge they need to help frail older patients maximize the quality of their lives and live independently at home for as long as possible," says McCarthy.

The research project will allow the team to select one or two practical strategies to identify frailty that can be used routinely in large, busy family practice clinics across the country. A cohort of older patients will also be established at Women’s College Hospital to inform future research projects.

Janice Du Mont, EdD

Elder abuse is a growing issue in the world’s aging population, particularly for women. And interventions that address the full range of problems associated with elder abuse are currently lacking, especially in healthcare. A project led by Janice Du Mont, EdD, scientist at Women’s College Research Institute, aims to change this. With funding from Women’s Xchange, Du Mont and her team (Sheila Macdonald, RN, provincial coordinator of the Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres; and Dr. Mark Yaffe, professor at McGill University) are developing an elder abuse curriculum and associated training manual that will be piloted and evaluated at the Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres.

“Our initiative could improve the quality of life of abused older adults, prevent re-victimization, and shape health services policy and practice,” says Du Mont.



Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI) is building a legacy of developing and evaluating health system solutions that improve care for women and their families at Women’s College Hospital and beyond.


Dr. Onil Bhattacharyya

Dr. Onil Bhattacharyya

Dr. Onil Bhattacharyya – Frigon-Blau Chair in Family Medicine Research and physician at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) – recently received a prestigious Harkness Fellowship in Health Care Policy and Practice from The Commonwealth Fund and Canadian Foundation for Health Care Improvement.

His fellowship will examine how information technology (IT) can enable patients, particularly those with complex needs, and their caregivers to meet their health-related goals. Patients with complex needs often receive fragmented and inefficient care that costs the Ontario health system billions of dollars every year.

"Though most health IT is not designed with these patients in mind, there is enormous potential to improve it by simplifying how care is accessed, integrating advice, tailoring to different subgroups, engaging patients, and using decision support tools to enhance self-management," says Dr. Bhattacharyya.

The knowledge he gains from his fellowship will inform the refinement and creation of health service incubators and provincial initiatives like Better Access to Care for Complex Needs (BeACCON), which is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and co-led by Dr. Bhattacharyya to develop models of care that integrate across sectors and use information technology to promote patient engagement.


Dr. Noah Ivers

Dr. Noah Ivers

Dr. Noah Ivers, scientist and family physician at WCH, recently received $3 million in new funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the Ontario SPOR SUPPORT Unit to lead two projects that will pave the way for better patient care and outcomes across the province.

One project will focus on improving treatment adherence among heart attack patients. Research shows that many heart attack patients do not stick to their doctor’s recommendations to take medications and participate in a cardiac rehab program to reduce their risk of another heart attack. In an effort to address this issue and reduce cardiovascular disease and mortality in Ontario, Dr. Ivers will test various strategies for reminding heart attack patients to continue their treatments.

"The goal is to see which approach is most effective and sustainable, so that we can learn what strategy to implement across the entire province,” says Dr. Ivers. “We will also get insights into how health interventions in general can be optimized to improve treatment adherence among all patients."

As part of another project, Dr. Ivers is partnering with Health Quality Ontario (HQO) and a diverse team of scientists, healthcare leaders, and patient partners to optimize the design and delivery of various quality improvement programs implemented by HQO. This work will advance health system performance and patient care and outcomes in Ontario.



More than two million women across the globe are diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer each year, yet most of the women who die from these diseases live in low- and middle-income countries. Disparities in cancer survival also exist within high-income countries.

Dr. Ophira Ginsburg

Dr. Ophira Ginsburg

To address cancer disparities and to reduce health inequities for women with cancer, Dr. Ophira Ginsburg, scientist at Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI), is leading an innovative program of population intervention research, education, and policy initiatives that is having a global impact. She has projects in North America, Asia and Africa, and she was recently appointed for a temporary post at the World Health Organization to help build policy and programming for women’s cancers.

"Where a woman lives and her socio-economic, ethno-cultural or migration status should not mean the difference between life and death from common cancers, for which cost-effective, life-saving interventions exist," says Dr. Ginsburg.

In North America, she leads research to identify disparities in access and use of cancer services and to improve outcomes for ethno-cultural minority and immigrant women. One of her recent studies exploring the relationship between ethnicity and breast cancer stage in Ontario found that South Asian women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a later stage and less likely to go for screening tests compared to Chinese women or the general Ontario population.

"Our findings stress the need to find better ways to educate and screen South Asian women so that they can live longer, healthier lives," says Dr. Ginsburg. "This will help to advance health equity in Ontario."

She also recently collaborated with Dr. Javaid Iqbal, Master’s student at WCRI, and Dr. Steven Narod, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Breast Cancer at Women’s College Hospital, on a study that found that there are disparities in breast cancer survival between ethnicities in the U.S. Their research revealed that black women have a higher risk of death after being diagnosed with stage one breast cancer compared to other groups.

"Studies like this are important because their results can inform awareness and screening programs for early detection in high-risk populations," says Dr. Ginsburg.

She is now leading a commissioned series for The Lancet on health, equity and women’s cancers. The series of papers will aim to address the global crisis of breast and cervical cancer in low- and middle-income countries. For this project, Dr. Ginsburg has recruited a multi-disciplinary, international team of more than 40 contributors from 18 countries. The series is due to come out in early 2016. Learn more about it at www.globalwomenscancers.com


Starting October 2015, Dr. Ginsburg will begin a one-year appointment at the World Health Organization Headquarters in Geneva. Stationed at the organization’s Department for the Management of Non-communicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, her role will include supporting and strengthening WHO’s work on access to breast and cervical cancer care, developing information and advocacy material for those cancers, supporting efforts to define and adopt breast cancer metrics, and supporting capacity building efforts in developing countries.



Women represent one of the fastest growing demographics at risk for HIV, with one in five individuals living with HIV in Canada being women. Despite this shift, there is limited research focusing specifically on the health of women living with the condition.

Dr. Mona Loutfy

Dr. Mona Loutfy

To address the need for more knowledge about the health issues and care needs of this population, Dr. Mona Loutfy, scientist at Women’s College Research Institute, initiated the largest ever pan-Canadian national research collaboration focused on this issue.

"Women’s experiences with HIV are unique," says Dr. Loutfy, who is also a physician and the research director at the Maple Leaf Medical Clinic, which focuses on care for people with HIV in inner city Toronto. "Our research collaboration’s goal is to better understand these experiences and use what we learn to inform policies and services that can help women living with HIV in Canada achieve optimal health and well-being."

Working in collaboration with research teams in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and most recently Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Dr. Loutfy is leading a study that aims to better understand how women use women-centred HIV care in those provinces. The study is also assessing the impact of these services on health outcomes. The project is into its fifth year, and over 1,400 women have completed the interview-administered survey. The team has made specific efforts to include harder-to-reach, vulnerable populations and women from ethno-cultural and ethno-racial groups to ensure that the full range of women’s health issues and experiences are captured.

What makes the study so unique is not only its national scope, but also the fact that it involves HIV-positive women at all stages of the research process (known as community-based research). For instance, in Ontario alone, 23 women living with HIV are partners on the study and have been trained to work as research assistants, administering surveys to women across the province to gather data.

"If we want to meaningfully address the HIV epidemic, we need to engage the people and communities that are affected right from the beginning," says Dr. Loutfy.

The team recently received $1.5 million in renewed funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to continue their research for another five years. This new funding will allow the researchers to better understand HIV across the life course and how healthcare needs and priorities change over time as women living with HIV age.

To follow the progress of this study, visit www.chiwos.ca

"If we want to meaningfully address the HIV epidemic, we need to engage the people and communities that are affected right from the beginning."
– Dr. Mona Loutfy



Maternal mental illness is one of the most common health conditions during and after pregnancy, yet there is a gap in knowledge about how to provide optimal care for women with mental health issues during this period.

Dr. Simone Vigod

Dr. Simone Vigod

Cindy-Lee Dennis, PhD

Cindy-Lee Dennis, PhD

Scientists at Women’s College Research Institute are working to fill this gap to improve mental health for women and to ensure healthy developmental trajectories for children. For example, research by Dr. Simone Vigod, scientist and psychiatrist at Women’s College Hospital (WCH), is shedding light on how to best care for women with serious mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, during pregnancy.

"Bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability among women of reproductive age, yet science tells us very little about how to care for new mothers with this illness and their babies," says Dr. Vigod.

She recently conducted a study to examine pregnancy outcomes in women with bipolar disorder and found that these women are at a higher risk of having premature babies and other serious complications.

"Knowing about the potential impact of this disorder will help doctors provide the best treatment for these patients," says Dr. Vigod.

She also recently explored the effects of taking newer antipsychotic medications during pregnancy. Although antipsychotic drug use in pregnancy has increased in recent years, not much is known about the maternal or perinatal effects of the newer versions of these medications that are prescribed today. Her study, published in the British Medical Journal, found that the short-term effects of these drugs on mothers and their babies are minimal.

"This is reassuring for women who might be concerned about the effect of these drugs on their baby, at least in the short term," says Dr. Vigod. "However, we need to do more research to get a complete picture of the long-term impact of antipsychotic exposure."

There are also gaps in care for women with postpartum depression (PPD), and Cindy-Lee Dennis, PhD, Shirley Brown Chair in Women’s Mental Health Research at WCH, is set on addressing them.

“Many women experience PPD, but it often remains undetected or untreated, increasing the risk for poor developmental outcomes among children,” says Dennis.

While effective treatment tools like psychotherapy and antidepressant medication exist for PPD, less than 30 percent of all women with depression in the first year postpartum receive adequate treatment.

To address this issue, Dennis is now evaluating a collaborative care intervention that aims to ensure all women with PPD receive the treatment they require. The approach involves screening mothers with PPD in primary care settings, such as at their pediatrician’s or family doctor’s office, and then having a depression care manager (a nurse) and mental health specialist (a psychiatrist) collaboratively develop and coordinate a treatment plan and monitor progress to remission.

"The primary care setting is ideal for identifying women with PPD because providers have multiple opportunities to interact with new mothers throughout the first year of postpartum,” says Dennis. “By systematically monitoring women, we are much less likely to miss mothers who are experiencing PPD."

Dennis is conducting a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effect of the intervention on managing PPD and other diverse maternal and infant outcomes. The trial also includes a full economic evaluation. If proven to be effective, the intervention could become a new model of care and the first primary care approach in Canada for treating mothers with PPD.


Hilary Brown, PhD

Research by Hilary Brown, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at Women’s College Research Institute supervised by Dr. Simone Vigod, aims to improve the lives of pregnant women and mothers with developmental disabilities and their infants.

"Women with developmental disabilities face many social and health disparities and tend to suffer from a variety of poor pregnancy outcomes," says Brown.

To investigate the health outcomes among women with developmental disabilities during pregnancy and childbirth and get a better understanding of their care needs, she is using linked provincial health data from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

"I hope that my work inspires medical professionals and social workers who care for these women to work together to combine resources and create programs and services that can provide the support that these women need during and after pregnancy," says Brown.



Although there are many similarities between men and women, there are also a lot of differences too, particularly when it comes to health and well-being. For instance, depending on your sex and gender, you may be at risk of developing certain diseases, respond differently to treatments, and interact differently with the health care system.

Robin Mason, PhD

Robin Mason, PhD

Stephanie Lagosky

Stephanie Lagosky

Research has already revealed some of these differences, but there is still a lot to learn. Having a better understanding of how sex and gender influence health will make the health system better equipped to improve the well-being of all Canadians.

This starts with ensuring that the impact of sex and gender is considered and captured in all health research.

"Integrating sex and gender into all health research will lead to more meaningful findings that can benefit both men and women and more opportunities for innovation and impact," says Dr. Rochon, vice-president of research at Women’s College Hospital and lead of Women’s Xchange.

Recognizing that researchers may need advice and support on how to integrate sex and gender factors into their studies, Women’s Xchange at Women’s College Hospital recently launched a consultation service.

"We help investigators think about how sex and gender influences can be considered throughout the research process – starting from the research question, to the data collection plan and analysis, to the dissemination of the findings," says Robin Mason, PhD, scientific lead of Women’s Xchange. "Our service is unique and the only one of its kind in Ontario."

As one of 12 research centres collaborating with the Ontario SPOR SUPPORT Unit, Women’s Xchange makes its service available to researchers engaged in patient-oriented research. The centre is already involved in several research projects across Ontario.

Women’s Xchange’s catchphrase for their initiative, "Sex and gender: the key to better research," says it all. By integrating sex and gender into health research, science is more rigorous, ethical and complete, and it has greater potential to generate evidence that will improve health for all.

"The mission behind the Women’s Xchange is to create a more equitable and sustainable health care system for all Ontarians," says Dr. Rochon. "Encouraging scientists to consider sex and gender variables in their research will definitely get us closer to that goal."

Women’s Xchange

Women’s Xchange is a women’s health knowledge translation and exchange centre that was created at Women’s College Hospital in 2013 with funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. It was designed to promote the development of women’s health research across Ontario. The centre has been doing incredible work since it was first launched to build the capacity of women’s health researchers, to enhance research in the community and to support the uptake of women’s health research findings across Ontario. Learn more at womensxchange.ca

"Integrating sex and gender into all health research will lead to more meaningful findings that can benefit both men and women and more opportunities for innovation and impact," says Dr. Rochon, vice-president of research at Women’s College Hospital and lead of Women’s Xchange.




As we reflect back on another extraordinary year of discovery at Women’s College Research Institute, our bold vision to transform the future of healthcare – for women and for all – is more sharply in focus than ever before.

Katherine Hay

Katherine Hay, President & CEO,
Women’s College Hospital Foundation

Together with our family of 22,000 donors, Women’s College Hospital Foundation is tremendously proud to support the institute’s life-changing work. Our community has provided over $70 million to help build the new home of Women’s College Hospital, which now fully integrates research, teaching, clinics and surgery under one roof. This has included significant funding to advance groundbreaking research that’s empowering women and our patients with new knowledge, new options and better choices – for their own health and the health of their families.

With the completion of our building campaign, we are now turning our focus to raising unprecedented support for Women’s College Hospital: global leadership in women’s health research, excellence in patient care and innovative new solutions for the health system as a whole.

The powerful vision that drives the generosity of our donors – to revolutionize the health of women – is a vision born from the bold values of the medical pioneers who built this institution, and who continue to guide us as we pursue new frontiers for healthcare.

One such pioneer was the late Dr. F.M. Hill – an exemplary leader whose life and legacy inspire a powerful understanding of what can be achieved at the intersection of leadership, compassion and generosity. Celebrated as the standard-setting former chief of medicine at Women’s College Hospital and a devoted long-time supporter, Dr. Hill’s inclusion of a transformational gift in her will has enabled the creation of two education and research chairs named in her honour, along with other significant support. As a beautiful reminder and celebration of her tremendous character and contributions, roses from Dr. Hill’s beloved garden will be re-planted at the entrance of our new Women’s College Hospital.

To all of our colleagues at Women’s College Research Institute, and to our incredible community of generous donors without whom none of this would be possible, we thank you – for your partnership, for the values we share and for your enduring belief that together, we can – and will – change the world.

The Late Dr. F.M. Hill


  • The Atkinson Chair in Women’s Health
  • The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Ontario Region, Chair in Surgical Breast Cancer Research
  • The Evelyn Bateman Cara Operations Chair in Ambulatory Anesthesia and Women’s Health
  • The F.M. Hill Chair in Academic Women’s Medicine
  • The F.M. Hill Chair in Health System Solutions
  • The Frigon Blau Chair in Family Medicine Research
  • The Phelan Scientist in Dermatology
  • The Shirley Brown Chair in Women’s Mental Health Research



In 2014-2015, Women’s College Hospital attracted a record-breaking amount in external awarded research funding, and our scientists produced the highest number of publications to date for the institution. This unprecedented achievement speaks to the leadership and productivity of our Institute in advancing health for women through science.

A total of 508 presentations delivered by WCRI’s core faculty scientists in Canada and across the globe, including in Australia, Europe, Africa, and Central and South America.
251 local
105 national
152 international

"Thank you to all our funding partners, including Women’s College Hospital Foundation, for their unwavering support of research at WCRI and their commitment to advancing the health of women everywhere."
- Dr. Paula Rochon, Vice-President of Research

Growth in external funding and growth in number of publications



Katie Armstrong
• Michael Decter Scholarship for Health Leadership and Policy Studies

Onil Bhattacharyya
• The Commonwealth Fund Harkness Fellowship in Health Care Policy and Practice

An-Wen Chan
• Rising Star Award from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto

Catherine Classen
• Fellow of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation
• Psychologist of the Year Award for the Traumatic Stress Section of the Canadian Psychological Society

Cindy-Lee Dennis
• 2015 Society of Reproductive and Infant Psychology Lecturer Award
• Global Bridges International Scholar with Karolinska Institutet (Sweden)

Ophira Ginsburg
• Appointed to the World Health Organization to guide programming for women’s cancers

Noah Ivers
• New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Lorraine Lipscombe
• Goldie Award for Research from the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto

Steven Narod
• Innovation Fund grant from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation

Paula Rochon
• Inaugural RTO/ERO Chair in Geriatric Medicine at the University of Toronto

Jay Udell
• Teacher/ Educator Award from Women’s College Hospital

Simone Vigod
• New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research



Core Scientists

  • Mohammad Akbari, MD, PhD
  • Sacha Bhatia, MD, MBA, FRCPC
  • Onil Bhattacharyya, MD, PhD, CCFP
  • An-Wen Chan, MD, DPhil, FRCPC
  • Catherine Classen, PhD
  • Cindy-Lee Dennis, PhD
  • Janice Du Mont, EdD
  • Sheila Dunn, MD, MSc, FCFP
  • Ophira Ginsburg, MD, MSc, FRCPC
  • Paula Harvey, BMBS, PhD, FRACP
  • Gillian Hawker, MD, MSc, FRCPC
  • Noah Ivers, MD, PhD, CCFP
  • Joanne Kotsopoulos, PhD
  • Lorraine Lipscombe, MD, MSc, FRCPC
  • Mona Loutfy, MD, MPH, FRCPC
  • Robin Mason, PhD
  • Steven Narod, MD, PhD, FRCPC
  • Paula Rochon, MD, MPH, FRCPC
  • John Semple, MD, MSc, FRCSC
  • Valerie Taylor, MD, PhD, FRCPC
  • Jacob Udell, MD, MPH, FRCPC
  • Simone Vigod, MD, MSc, FRCPC
Mohammad Akbari

Mohammad Akbari is uncovering new genetic markers linked to hereditary cancers and exploring how they alter cancer risk, response to cancer treatments, and mortality.

Sacha Bhatia

Sacha Bhatia is a health policy researcher focused on developing and testing new ideas, programs and approaches that will improve healthcare.

Onil Bhattacharyya

Onil Bhattacharyya applies principles from technology start-ups to design and test new models of care for patients with complex needs. His work aims to improve patient experience and reduce system costs.

An-Wen Chan

An-Wen Chan is shaping research policy and standards internationally to increase value and reduce waste in research.

Catherine Classen

Catherine Classen examines effective psychotherapeutic interventions that address the unique challenges faced by women who are dealing with major life stressors.

Cindy-Lee Dennis

Cindy-Lee Dennis conducts research that is focused on providing effective care to women and families impacted by postpartum depression.

Janice Du Mont

Janice Du Mont examines the impact of gender-based violence on women’s health, focusing on improving health services for those who have been sexually assaulted.

Sheila Dunn

Sheila Dunn conducts research on women’s reproductive health, including contraception and cancer screening, and explores innovations that will improve women’s access to reproductive healthcare.

Ophira Ginsburg

Ophira Ginsburg aims to improve access to early detection and treatment for breast and cervical cancer, among underserved populations in Canada and in lowand middle-income countries.

Paula Harvey

Paula Harvey is focused on understanding cardiovascular disease in women and finding new ways to improve their heart health and prevent cardiac events.

Gillian Hawker

Gillian Hawker is improving access to care and outcomes for people with osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis.

Noah Ivers

Noah Ivers is focused on systematically developing and evaluating initiatives that aim to improve quality in primary care.

Joanne Kotsopoulos

Joanne Kotsopoulos is uncovering novel strategies for the prevention, treatment and management of breast and ovarian cancer, especially among women with a genetic predisposition.

Lorraine Lipscombe

Lorraine Lipscombe focuses on improving prevention, care and outcomes of diabetes, particularly in women.

Mona Loutfy

Mona Loutfy is breaking down HIV-related stigma and improving the health of women with HIV.

Robin Mason

Robin Mason is improving health care practices and services for women who have experienced gender-based violence or abuse.

Steven Narod

Steven Narod has profoundly shaped current knowledge of how to assess breast and ovarian cancer risk and reduce its mortality among women with BRCA mutations.

Paula Rochon

Paula Rochon explores the complex challenges related to managing the health of older adults, particularly women.

John Semple

John Semple is focused on improving outcomes for women who undergo clinical breast reconstruction and developing innovative approaches to monitor the postsurgery recovery.

Valerie Taylor

Valerie Taylor examines the complex relationships between mental health, obesity and chronic disease, and is finding ways to help people manage their health more effectively.

Jacob Udell

Jacob Udell focuses on discovering novel risk factors and therapies to improve the lives of patients with or at risk of cardiovascular disease.

Simone Vigod

Simone Vigod is optimizing outcomes for women with mental illness during pregnancy and the postpartum period.


Adjunct Scientists
Izzeldin Abuelaish, MD, MPH
Geoffrey Anderson, MD, PhD
Tony Antoniou, PhD
Cornelia Borkhoff, PhD
Shannon Dunn, PhD
Gillian Einstein, PhD
Eleanor Fish, PhD
Sophie Grigoriadis, MD, PhD, FRCPC
Andrea Gruneir, PhD
Eva Grunfeld, MSc, MD, DPhil, FCPC
Susan Jaglal, PhD
Ava John-Baptiste, PhD
Carmen Logie, MSW, PhD
Kelly Metcalfe, PhD
Lori Ross, PhD
Leonardo Salmena, PhD
Lena Serghides, PhD
Mark Yudin, MD, MSc, FRCSC

About 150 trainees are supervised by WCRI scientists, including graduate students, research and post-doctoral fellows, and medical residents.*
In addition, WCRI hosts a highly sought after summer student program. In summer 2015, 40 students participated.
* Many of our scientists also serve as committee members for graduate students not based at WCRI.



We thank the members of our Research Advisory Board for their contributions over the past year:

Linda Rabeneck (Chair), MD, MPH, FRCPC
Vice-President, Prevention and Cancer Control, Cancer Care Ontario
Professor of Medicine
Professor, Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation; Dalla Lana School of Public Health
University of Toronto

Lori Ferris, PhD, CPsych, LLM
Associate Vice-President, Research (Oversight and Compliance)
Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

Alejandro Jadad, MD, DPhil, FRCPC, FCAHS
Founder, Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, University Health Network
Canada Research Chair in eHealth Innovation
Professor, Department of Anesthesia; Institute of Health, Policy, Management and Evaluation; Dalla Lana School of Public Health University of Toronto

Catharine Whiteside, MD PhD FRCPC
Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto



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