Calgary research chair’s program one of many to benefit from $12-million in Ottawa funding

The head of a University of Calgary research program says a multimillion-dollar funding announcement from the federal government bringing money to her program will be a tremendous help in their work.

Dr. Brandy Callahan, whose brain ageing program is working on better understanding diagnosis of diseases impacting mental functioning, added she wouldn’t be able to conduct the program if it wasn’t for the announcement.

“It means a tremendous amount,” she said.

“This investment is going to mean I have a little more funding to do my research, lots of protected research time. I think my program is quite ambitious.”

Her work includes looking at dementia, something Callahan said isn’t very common in research programs.

“My research program aims to figure out how psychiatric illness interacts with ageing and neurodegenerative disease so we can provide better assessment and treatment services,” Callahan said.

“For a variety of reasons these people are not typically included in research studies looking at dementia. They have conditions that are common and can alter the presentation of dementia, mimic signs of dementia (and) increase risk of dementia.”

Dr. Brandy Callahan, PhD, Canada Research Chair in Adult Clinical Neuropsychology, speaks to an audience at the University of Calgary on Feb. 13, 2018. (Riley Brandt/University of Calgary)

In total, 12 Canada research chairs including Callahan will see more than $12-million invested into their programs — five of which will be at the University of Calgary.

Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan made the announcement at the university Wednesday morning, where she said these chairs are helping train the next generation of researchers.

The funding will help to boost equity, diversity and inclusion in research in the province, Duncan said.

“Canada research chairs are an example of how we all benefit when we promote equity, diversity and inclusion in research,” said Duncan.

“Our government is returning science and research to their rightful place while embracing equity, diversity and inclusion in the lab. Efforts to promote science are important for a forward-looking and welcoming research community that leaves no one on the sidelines.”

Under Callahan’s tutelage, she has eight people working on the project — the first of which she’s done on her own.

“I’ve been a new investigator for only 18 months, so this is my first time leading the way,” she said.

“It’s been very exciting … a lot of work, but I have to say I’ve really gotten good support from the University.” | @zjlaing