Kovalchuk earns major funding boost

Objectivity is essential in the pursuit of scientific discovery. The science, after all, must guide the search.

But if the science is also supported by an underlying passion to achieve a solution, one fueled by personal experience, even greater things can be achieved. University of Lethbridge researcher Dr. Olga Kovalchuk has that passion and once again, those who fund the country's preeminent minds have recognized it.

Kovalchuk (Biological Sciences/Board of Governors Research Chair) is among six individuals in Canada to receive a prestigious Research Chair in New Perspectives in Gender, Sex and Health from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) and its Institute of Gender and Health (IGH). One of two Albertans named as a Chair, Kovalchuk's position comes with $750,000 in funding over five years.

"The chairs have already made significant progress in their respective fields to increase the profile of gender and sex in health research," says Dr. Joy Johnson, Scientific Director of the Institute of Gender and Health.

Kovalchuk's work uses animal models to examine how radiation induces secondary tumours in cancer patients; the different effects radiation has on women and men; and what can be done to protect the children of radiation-exposed parents from contracting cancer. In addition to teaching, her research program has allowed her to supervise numerous doctoral candidates and masters-level students at the University of Lethbridge.

"The Chairs are producing cutting-edge research with enormous potential to improve the health of Canadians, such as Dr. Kovalchuk's research on secondary tumours in cancer patients,"
Dr. Johnson adds.
"Dr. Kovalchuk's work was inspired by her experience as a high school student in the Ukraine in 1986, while living only 600 kilometres from Chernobyl, the site of the worst nuclear accident in history."

IGH created the research chair program to expand and strengthen research capacity relevant to gender (socio-cultural experiences) and sex (biological factors) and health in Canada. IGH expects that this program will lead to increased national capacity for excellent research and knowledge translation relevant to the health of women and men, girls and boys.

The research Chair program is intended for health researchers who have developed a reputation for excellence in research, and to support outstanding research programs that enhance the health of Canadians.

In addition to Kovalchuk, the Institute of Gender and Health (IGH) researchers are Dr. Sonia Lupien (University of Montreal), Dr. Marlene Moretti (Simon Fraser University), Dr. Olena Hankivsky (Simon Fraser University), Dr. Maureen Heaman (University of Manitoba) and
Dr. Lynn McIntyre (University of Calgary).