WINDSOR, ON, April 21, 2020 - WE-SPARK Health Institute with additional funding from the Office of Research and Innovation at the University of Windsor has awarded 21 research grants totaling $143,000 to tackle local COVID-19 public health challenges.
Over 100 people are working together to roll out these research projects: recipients include 21 Principal Investigators, 50 co-applicants/collaborators, 28 students and over 20 volunteers. Each of the four WE-SPARK partner organizations – Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Windsor Regional Hospital, St. Clair College and the University of Windsor are involved in multiple grants, along with an additional 16 academic, community and industrial partners.
These 21 projects will involve thousands of participants and range from designing Personal Protective Equipment, to optimizing rapid detection of COVID-19, to examining the psychological and physical impact of the pandemic.
“The University of Windsor Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation is delighted to support the WE-Spark Health Institute Igniting Discovery Rapid Response to Covid-19 Grants program” states Michael Siu. “The seed funding provided through this important initiative enables researchers, clinicians, healthcare professionals, and community members to collaborate in the fight against COVID-19 in our region by accelerating the innovation and implementation of crucial medical and social solutions to this global challenge.”
Grant recipient Dr. Jessica Summerfield, a family physician and member of the COVID-19 Assessment Team at Windsor Regional Hospital expressed her gratitude for supporting the local medical community. “I am so pleased to accept this grant. One of Windsor’s best attributes is its “small community feel” and the support the medical community has felt from the citizens of Windsor and Essex County has been palpable. This grant is a clear demonstration of this support. Thank you for this opportunity to improve the health outcomes of our community!” Dr.
Summerfield and her team are working on a home-monitoring program which will enable COVID-positive patients to remain at home while it is safe to do so.
“The world is facing unprecedented challenges. These grants will allow some of the most talented and passionate experts in our region to help us minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our patients, team members and the community,” said David Musyj, President and CEO of
Windsor Regional Hospital. “Working together we will meet the challenge of this unprecedented situation. Together we stay strong.”
“All health care employees are facing unique challenges due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and these challenges will, undoubtedly impact their well-being over time” said Janice Kaffer, President and CEO of Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare. “These WE-SPARK grants will allow us to engage with health care providers across Windsor Essex to determine how we can best support, promote, and restore their emotional well-being during, and after, the pandemic. This work is a great example of how the WE-SPARK Health Institute’s ongoing support of local researchers and health care providers will fundamentally improve healthcare in our area.”
Dr. Ken Drouillard, a grant recipient, is collaborating with multiple partners to create a quality control program for homemade personal protective equipment for use in health care institutions. Collaborators include the St. St. Clair College School of Fashion Design, a University of Windsor geospacial learning specialist, a Formulations Specialists in R&D at Jamieson Labs, and the Windsor Essex Sewing Force (WESF) - a volunteer community network with more than 500 volunteers who have produced and donated over 1000 masks to local healthcare institutions.
“St. Clair College appreciates the opportunity to contribute research efforts to address the Covid-19 pandemic. WE-SPARK funding has provided the seed of opportunity for researchers and enhanced collaboration efforts in the Windsor-Essex community”, said Dr. Peter Wawrow, Director, Applied Research and Development.
“The ability to participate in a WE-SPARK Igniting Discovery grant was key to helping me translate my skills and research expertise from an Environment-focused program to one that now includes Health. WE-SPARK also helped to foster new contacts between myself and other colleagues at the University of Windsor. I view the grant process as an important nucleating agent in helping me to demonstrate success in health-related research” said Dr. Drouillard, Professor, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER) and School of the Environment, University of Windsor.
"Right now, like no other time in our history, we depend on research to tackle this global health challenge” adds Dr. Lisa Porter, WE-SPARK Executive Director. “Locally WE-SPARK is committed to mobilizing our research expertise and supporting new ideas and teams to ensure that the needs of the people in Windsor-Essex are met".
Funds for the 21 projects were provided by WE-SPARK Health Institute in the amount of
$79,000. The University of Windsor Office of Research and Innovation provided matching funds for 18 of the grants, in the amount of $64,000.