Who We Are

NGDI’s Raquel Baldwinson wins Killam Doctoral Award

NGDI Congratulates Raquel on her Killam Scholarship and continued work and support for NGDI.

Research Topic
Ongoing research on methods for engaged Science and Technology Studies scholarship

Research Description
The work that I am engaged in could be described, at one level, as that of sorting out my methodologies of choice as I develop my approach to scholarship. I know I seek to be a scholar whose work contributes to issue-amelioration – but finding and developing methods for doing so is a process. Currently, I am experimenting with elements and degrees of auto/ethnography, and I am exploring the various ways in which rhetorical theory and analysis can anchor and structure my approach to inquiry. Critically, I am also learning how to adapt my work to appropriate venues for communication – and this sometimes means engaging with my scholarly methods in a modified, and maybe even distant or implicit way. I’m also learning how to go about working with partners in scientific, technical and medical fields who may not initially be aware of what humanities research has to offer to these fields, due to the forces of epistemological and disciplinary divisions. Finally, I am learning how to conceive of goals for a project’s outcome; this involves learning to design multi-stage projects that are productive towards a concrete goal.


What Aspect of Your Graduate Program do You Enjoy the Most or are Looking Forward to With the Greatest Curiosity?
Within the community of Science and Technology Studies scholars and students here, there is an emerging interest in “making and doing” things with one’s STS research. Professor Alan Richardson’s “Public Engagement with Science” course took up such themes. The course has been over for a long time, but many class members still meet weekly. We have formed an ongoing project we call “Critical Digital Exhibits”. Together, we are making virtual art exhibits that explore certain practices in public science education. This special form our projects take is meant to facilitate the communication of our ideas with community partners and related publics. Our core team members are Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Shoshana Deutsh, Jordan Howell, Adrian Liu, Alan Richardson, and me. We have collaborators across the campus community, and support from the Centre for Community Engaged Learning. The project has become something we are all excited about.

What is it Specifically, That Your Program Offers, That Attracted You?
I am interested in the possibility of using language as a way of understanding, analyzing – and even as a starting point for ameliorating – complex, intractable issues in science, technology and medicine. The Rhetoric emphasis in the Department of English, and the Science and Technology Studies specialization, are programs that together support and mobilize my language-based, humanities approach to various critical issues that matter to me – whether I’m examining issues related to the Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits program, or studying issues around collaboration practices among neglected disease researchers.

What Do You See as Your Biggest Challenge(s) in Your Future Career?
There are deep divisions that separate humanities and social sciences disciplines from scientific, technological, and medical disciplines, and that separate academic work from social or political action. These divisions are constructs, but they are constantly reified – in language, and in institutional structuring, for example. For this reason, they can be hard to overcome. Thus, in addition to addressing the complex challenges that I call my main subjects/objects of study, it will remain a parallel challenge for me to bridge these divisions – to do interdisciplinary work that engages with people and practices from different disciplines, and to do work that leads to meaningful doings.

UBC Global Health Online Network

Logo 580x300Do you want a place to connect with other UBC members interested in Global Health?
Do you have a question that you’d like to ask an expert?

Then look no further because there is a new UBC specific online network coming your way!

This private network (CWL password protected) for UBC students, physicians, residents, researchers, and staff will be the connection point you’ve been missing!

More than merely a discussion forum, it is an expert-led thematic platform that connects you to other members working in global health research, education, field work and more.

Find out who’s passionate about the same topic and engage in timely discussions about the discovery and development of interventions and the delivery of quality health care to those who need it most.

Create your own discussion posts and receive email updates (with direct links) on a daily or weekly basis for as many themes as you like. Create a profile that reflects your interest in global health and engage with others simply and quickly.

Each of the themes are led by Moderators who are experts in their respective fields. They work to identify a community’s mission and topics. Moderators guide their communities and keep discussions and resources relevant and up-to-date, and they encourage participation through inviting peers to discussions.


Click the button above or follow this link: (you will be asked for your Campus Wide Login)  http://ghon.ubc.ca/

What to do if you don't have a Campus Wide Login: 

For students, staff and faculty, create a CWL account here.
Current Students or Alumni - Will need student number.
Staff and Faculty - Will need employee number.

Please fill out this form if you are affiliated with UBC (see list below) and Jocelyn will provide you with a Campus Wide Login.

Professors Emeriti
Clinical Faculty without a UBC employee number
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Exchange students

Let’s get talking!

New weapon in the fight against malnutrition

Important Murine Model Developed by Dr. Brett Finlay Laboratory


Sorghum at Sawla market in Ghana’s Northern Region. Credit: Neil Palmer

UBC scientists have opened the doors to new research into malnutrition by creating an animal model that replicates the imbalance of gut bacteria associated with the difficult-to-treat disease.

Malnutrition affects millions of people worldwide and is responsible for one-fifth of deaths in children under the age of five. Children can also experience impaired cognitive development and stunted growth.

The problem arises when people don’t have enough food to eat and their diet lacks proper nutrients. The disease also has a lot to do with environmental factors and it has been a challenge to develop treatments to reverse malnutrition.

Brett Finlay

Dr. Brett Finlay

“Everyone thought that you simply needed to feed people and they’d be fine, but it didn’t work,” said Brett Finlay, a professor of microbiology and biochemistry at UBC. “The gut bacteria model allows us to figure out what’s going on and to think about ways to fix it.”

According to Finlay and UBC PhD student Eric Brown, malnutrition can be difficult to treat because it affects the good bacteria that live in the gut. People suffering from malnutrition often show signs of a disease known as environmental enteropathy, which is an inflammatory disorder of the small intestine and is likely caused by ingesting pathogenic fecal bacteria early in life from a contaminated environment. This shifts the balance of the original healthy bacteria in the gut and leads to poor absorption of nutrients.

The study, published today in Nature Communications, explains how the research team developed a mouse model to reproduce the symptoms of environmental enteropathy and malnourishment.

“We were able to see how a malnourished diet has a strong, measurable impact on the microbes in the small intestine,” said Brown. “This new model gives us the opportunity to examine the impact of malnutrition on gut microbiology and assess the role of infections.”

Pathogenic bacterial infections like salmonella and E. coli are huge problems in developing countries because they are much more harmful to people suffering from malnutrition, leading to chronic diarrhea and inflammation.

“Treatments and vaccines created in developed nations and tested on healthy people often don’t work in malnourished populations,” said Finlay, distinguished professor at UBC’s Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies. “People suffering from malnutrition respond differently.”

With an animal model, Finlay said researchers will be better able to test treatments and understand how malnutrition impacts a child’s development.

Note: Brown and Finlay are away from Vancouver and only available by phone for interviews.


Heather Amos
UBC Public Affairs
Tel: 604.822.3213
Cell: 604.828.3867

NGDI awarded Peter Wall International Roundtable 2015

Ethical Implications in Ebola Research and Development: Does This Change Everything for Neglected Diseases? 

Peter WallThe West African Ebola Outbreak of 2014 has presented a daunting challenge to the three countries affected, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the global health community at large. While the number of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) cases has ebbed considerably in the 2015, full elimination of the disease will take time, resources and effort. A critical part of these efforts will be the continued rapid development and testing of potential therapeutics, vaccines, convalescent blood therapies and rapid diagnostic tests.

A WHO report on year one of the epidemic, released electronically on January 15, 2015, stated that “accelerated work on new medical products for [EVD] shows how scientists and the pharmaceutical industry are compressing into a matter of months work that normally takes 2 to 4 years.”  The WHO held at least 17 high-level meetings to evaluate the ethics, principles, coordination, clinical trial protocols, and regulatory mechanisms needed to rapidly provide “the African people and their health authorities the best product that the world’s scientists, working collectively, can offer.”

NGDI-logo2The “Ethical Implications in Ebola Research and Development” Peter Wall International Roundtable will investigate the repercussions of the West African Ebola Outbreak for research and development ethics, international law, and regulatory changes that have occurred during this acute EVD crisis.  We will determine whether or not there has been precedent for responding with equal effort and urgency to more chronic crises that have equally high mortality rates such as several of the neglected global diseases: for example, Visceral Leishmaniasis or Tuberculosis.

This proposal is significant and timely for two reasons: 1) unprecedented crises such as Ebola and previously HIV/AIDS have the power to change or at least sufficiently challenge the status quo introducing beneficial change to intransigent systems and, 2) we have a moral imperative to investigate these sudden changes in regulatory systems and to advocate for the extension of protocols that save time and money in research and development to neglected diseases and other conditions of the poor.

The Neglected Global Diseases Initiative (NGDI) at UBC is well positioned to organize and host such a meeting at the Peter Wall Institute. The NGDI mandate is to develop interventions for NGD’s and ensure their delivery to those in need. This Peter Wall International Roundtable will advance knowledge and provide valuable instruments in the advocacy of neglected disease research and development worldwide. Specifically, the development of a framework outlining changes to regulatory and legal mechanisms, if supported, would provide a new tool for advocacy groups and global health organizations in their work.

The roundtable has been funded for $28,975 and will take place in early 2016. For more information contact Jocelyn Conway.

NGDI Honours the Closing of Truth & Reconciliation Commission

Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools reaches ceremonial end


Today, June 3, 2015 marks the official close of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on residential schools in Canada. The following are excerpts from the Summary Report: Honouring the Truth; Reconciling for the Future (available here). The report contains 94 Calls to Action divided under legacy and reconciliation (full list here).  Calls to Action number 18 through 24 deal with health issues from the legacy of the residential school system. The following excerpts of the report outline the Health Calls to Action that are recommended.


For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as “cultural genocide.”

Residential schools endangered the health and well-being of the children who attended them. Many students succumbed to infectious disease, particularly tuberculosis. Sexual and physical abuse, as well as separation from families and communities, caused lasting trauma for many others. The effects of this trauma were often passed on to the children of the residential school Survivors and sometimes to their grandchildren. Residential schools also posed a threat to the mental health of students through the pervasive assumptions and assertions they made about the inferiority of Aboriginal peoples, cultures, and languages. This disregard for Aboriginal health and well-being was consistent with the long-established patterns of colonialism: the introduction of new diseases, the disruption of traditional food sources, and the concentration of people on unproductive land and the housing of them in cramped, unsanitary dwellings.

The schools undermined Aboriginal health by failing to feed and clothe the children properly and housing them in poorly constructed and dangerous buildings. The schools did not properly screen out sick and infectious children, and often lacked adequate treatment facilities. As Ruby Firth, a former student at Stringer Hall in the Northwest Territories, told the Commission, those conditions had a lasting effect.

The children in residential schools were powerless to take healing measures. They were denied access to traditional foods and to families, traditional healers, and communities who could have helped them, according to Aboriginal ways, to deal with the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual elements of ill health. Because of the isolated location of many of the schools, students were also often denied access to ‘Western’ doctors and nurses. This double denial of health care, based in government policy, continues to this day, due to the relative isolation of many Aboriginal communities, many of which have no road access, and limited access to local health resources.

Health care is a right enshrined in international and constitutional law as well as in Treaties. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes that Indigenous peoples have the right to physical and mental integrity, as well as the right to equal enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. In taking measures to achieve these goals, states are obligated to pay particular attention to the rights and special needs of Elders, women, youth, children, and persons with disabilities. Indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing, determining, and administering health programs that affect them. Indigenous peoples also have the right to traditional medicines and to maintain their traditional health practices.

The Numbered Treaties also established additional legal obligations concerning Aboriginal health and wellness. The right to medical care was recognized in Treaties 6, 7, 8, 10, and 11. Treaty 6 explicitly included provision of a “medicine chest” and relief from “pestilence.” However, the right to health is not limited to these Treaties. The Treaty negotiations included many references to the protection of, and non-interference with, traditional ways of life.

Call to Action 18
We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to acknowledge that the current state of Aboriginal health in Canada is a direct result of previous Canadian government policies, including residential schools, and to recognize and implement the health-care rights of Aboriginal people as identified in international law and constitutional law, and under the Treaties.

The health gap
There are troubling gaps in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians. For example:
• The infant mortality rates for First Nations and Inuit children range from 1.7 to over 4 times the non-Aboriginal rate.
•From 2004 to 2008, the “age-specific mortality rate” at ages one to nineteen in the Inuit homelands was 188.0 deaths per 100,000 person-years at risk, compared with only 35.3 deaths per 100,000 in the rest of Canada.
• First Nations people aged forty-five and older have nearly twice the rate of diabetes as the non-Aboriginal population.
• First Nations people were six times more likely than the general population to suffer alcohol-related deaths, and more than three times more likely to suffer drug-induced deaths.

The overall suicide rate among First Nation communities is about twice that of the total Canadian population. For Inuit, the rate is still higher: six to eleven times the rate for the general population. Aboriginal youth between the ages of ten and twenty-nine who are living on reserves are five to six times more likely to die by suicide than non-Aboriginal youth.

Measuring progress
Obtaining precise information on the state of health of Aboriginal people in Canada is difficult. The most complete information about comparative health outcomes is out of date, much of it coming from the 1990s. Unlike in other countries, the Canadian government has not provided a comprehensive list of well-being indicators comparing Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations. The lack of accessible data on comparable health indicators means that these issues receive less public, media, and political attention. In Australia, the government has set a timeline for closing the gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal citizens. The Australian prime minister reports annually on the progress being made to close the gaps in targets related to life expectancy and mortality rates for Indigenous children. Canada must do likewise.

Call to Action 19
We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal peoples, to establish measurable goals to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, and to publish annual progress reports and assess long-term trends. Such efforts would focus on indicators such as: infant mortality, maternal health, suicide, mental health, addictions, life expectancy, birth rates, infant and child health issues, chronic diseases, illness and injury incidence, and the availability of appropriate health services.

In 2003, the First Ministers’ Accord on Health Care Renewal recognized the obvious: that Aboriginal peoples face serious health challenges. The accord committed to making the reduction of the gap in health status between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples a national priority. More than a decade later, that gap remains. In fact, the federal government has moved backwards on issues of Aboriginal health since the signing of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and Canada’s apology to Survivors. It has terminated funding to a number of Aboriginal health organizations, including the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and the National Aboriginal Health Organization. These organizations were committed to models of research and treatment in which Aboriginal communities have ownership, control, access, and possession. Their loss significantly limits the development of accurate information about health issues and solutions under Aboriginal control. Health Canada has also cut funding for a number of Aboriginal primary health programs, including programs that address diabetes, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, youth suicide, infectious diseases, and maternal and child health. These cuts have had a serious impact on Aboriginal communities.

Health reforms often involve Aboriginal people in complex jurisdictional disputes and tripartite negotiations with both the federal and provincial or territorial governments. Such jurisdictional disputes have particularly affected Métis, non-status, and urban Aboriginal people, as the federal government insists that providing services to these groups is a provincial and territorial responsibility.

Call to Action 20
In order to address the jurisdictional disputes concerning Aboriginal people who do not reside on reserves, we call upon the federal government to recognize, respect, and address the distinct health needs of the Métis, Inuit, and off-reserve Aboriginal peoples.

Aboriginal healing practices
Aboriginal health practices and beliefs, like Aboriginal peoples themselves, are diverse. However, an holistic approach to health is common to many Aboriginal cultures and has also been increasingly validated by ‘Western’ medicine. A belief shared among many Inuit, Métis, and First Nation people is that a sacred connection exists among people, the Earth, and everything above it, upon it, and within it. For purposes of healing, this means activities such as “on-the-land” or “bush” healing camps where participants can experience the healing power of the natural world. Traditional practices can also include sweat lodges, cedar baths, smudging, the lighting of the Qulliq (a stone lamp used by the Inuit for ceremonial purposes), and other spiritual ceremonies. Best practices for Aboriginal wellness involve a range of services from mainstream health care to traditional practices and medicines, all under community leadership and control. Such an integrated approach has the power to improve the lives of all community members.

Call to Action 21
We call upon the federal government to provide sustainable funding for existing and new Aboriginal healing centres to address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harms caused by residential schools, and to ensure that the funding of healing centres in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is a priority.
Call to Action 22
We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health-care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients.

Overcoming the health legacy of the residential schools will require a long-term investment in Aboriginal communities, so that communities can revive their capacity to heal themselves. One key investment will be the training of more Aboriginal health and social service professionals. The work that Health Canada’s community cultural and traditional knowledge healing team members did in support of this Commission and other Settlement Agreement processes is but one example of the invaluable service these professionals can provide.

Call to Action 23
We call upon all levels of government to:
i. Increase the number of Aboriginal professionals working in the health-care field.
ii. Ensure the retention of Aboriginal health-care providers in Aboriginal communities.
iii. Provide cultural competency training for all health-care professionals.

Closing the gap in health outcomes will come about only as part of a comprehensive strategy of change. To be more effective in improving health outcomes, non-Aboriginal medical practitioners must develop a better understanding of the health issues facing Canada’s Aboriginal peoples and of the legacy of residential schools.

Call to Action 24
We call upon medical and nursing schools in Canada to require all students to take a course dealing with Aboriginal health issues, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, and Indigenous teachings and practices. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

Biomedical Engineering Student Team Public Debriefing

Team Debriefing on Fact-finding Trip to Africa

IMDI Kenya trip

From left, Andrea Marshall, Blake Henderson, Georgia Grzybowski, and Marysia Grzybowski.

The UBC Biomedical Engineering Student Team (BEST) held a public debriefing session on the evening of May 27, 2015 to a crowded room of enthusiastic supporters. This undergraduate student group was formed in 2012 is a multidisciplinary team of exceptional students spanning the engineering, science and business faculties. The group designs and builds innovative medical devices that give their team members the opportunity to gain technical and non-technical skills that will help them succeed as future biomedical engineers.


BEST’s International Medical Device Initiative (IMDI) Debriefing session.

On this evening, BEST’s International Medical Device Initiative (IMDI) was reporting on a recent fact-finding trip to Uganda and Kenya. Students Andrea Marshall, Georgia Grzybowski, Blake Henderson, and Marysia Grzybowski visited several hospitals to gather information on the specific needs of the hospital’s medical care teams. They also worked on building a framework for ongoing collaborations. They recognize the importance of building sustainable relationships and collaboration over time will help them build context appropriate medical devices for lower-resource settings and that this may enable easier adoption by the medical professionals. The main goal is to improve patient outcomes.

The trip was sponsored by three local industry professionals: Paul Geyer CEO, LightIntegra, Dr. Jim McEwen President, Western Clinical Engineering Ltd., and Dr. Ken Spencer President, SpencerCreo Foundation. And there was plenty of other support from UBC Engineering Design Team Council, the Faculty of Applied Science, and the Neglected Global Diseases Initiative.

Makere Biomedical Engineering program students

Meeting with students from the Makerere University Biomedical Engineering Program while in Uganda.

In Uganda, the team met up with students from Makerere University Biomedical Engineering Program and were given in-depth tours of Mulago National Referral Hospital and Kawolo District Hospital.  After a week on the ground they flew into Nairobi and were guided by WelTel International’s team member Jason Carmichael to view Nanyuki County Hospital and the Nyeri Regional Referral Hospital.

BEST Logo hi res

Mission: To build medical devices or systems that optimize the delivery of medical care and improve patient outcomes.

They brought home a large number of potential projects for improving the existing technology and solving some clinical challenges. They also discovered first-hand the systematic problems that donated equipment, its repair and maintenance can place on a over-stretched health care system. Medical device needs were identified in several areas: orthopedics, newborn health care, surgery, ambulance and laboratory equipment. They ranged in complexity from improvements on ear irrigation equipment to the ability to split one oxygen for several patients in a measurable and safe manner.

In fact, the trip was so successful that the UBC BEST team and it’s IMDI students will have inspiration for at least three years of future development opportunities.

Read a daily blog on the trip.

Watch a team interveiw on Global News BC1.



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