Oct. 19, 2022

2022 O’Brien Institute Award winners exemplify research excellence, community service and collegiality

Five awards presented to members who are advancing public health through research excellence at various stages in their careers
O'Brien Awards 2022

For their commitment to creating meaningful change in population health and healthcare, and for outstanding contributions to public health research, five O’Brien Institute for Public Health researchers are being recognized with O’Brien Institute Awards.

The 2022 award recipients epitomize the dedication, expertise and hard work of O’Brien Institute members to advance public health through research excellence, says Dr. Tom Stelfox, MD, PhD, O’Brien Institute scientific director.  

“Thanks to their impactful work and dedication, the O’Brien Institute is leading creative solutions to solve today’s biggest public health challenges. Congratulations to the 2022 recipients on their well-deserved success,” he says.

The 2022 O’Brien Institute Award recipients are:

Dr. Nauzer Forbes, MD, The O’Brien Institute Emerging Research Leader Award
Assistant professor, departments of community health sciences and medicine

Just five years into his first faculty appointment, Dr. Nauzer Forbes is excelling in all areas of his career. He has been described as incredibly gifted with a tireless work ethic, a fantastic clinician and endoscopist, and is highly respected among colleagues. He is also an active and acclaimed educator, having won several teaching awards over the past few years.

Career highlights include:

  • He has published 73 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 38 of which have been published since the start of 2021 alone. He has served as corresponding/senior author on 23 of his most recent publications, to accompany 28 as a first author. He has led several projects to completion with publication in prestigious high-impact journals.
  • Dr. Forbes has also been incredibly successful at acquiring peer-reviewed funding as a principal investigator, having already been awarded over 1.1 million dollars in competitive peer-reviewed research funding.
  • Dr. Forbes is recognized internationally due to his development of CReATE, the first prospective high fidelity endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) database of its kind.
  • He was invited to be an active member of the prestigious American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) Standards of Practice Committee in 2020. This invitation was particularly noteworthy given that he is the first Canadian to ever sit on this committee.

Dr. Tolulope Sajobi, PhD, The O’Brien Institute Mid-Career Research Leader Award
Associate professor, Department of Community Health Sciences

Dr. Tolu Sajobi leads a large research team of undergraduate and graduate trainees, statistical analysts, and postdoctoral fellows to develop innovative ways to enhance the accuracy of health data analysis. His focus is on cutting-edge analytical tools for analyzing data reported by patients themselves. These data are inherently messy, complex, and subjective and traditional biostatistics models do not perform well. The novel models that his team are developing appropriately account for this complexity and produce accurate, unbiased estimates. This is increasingly important as patients and their voices are integrated into clinical and policy related decisions.

Career highlights include:

  • As principal investigator, his research has been funded by both NSERC and CIHR. In total, he has secured over $3 million to support his own research program and over $19 million as a biostatistics lead.
  • He has authored 148 publications in peer-reviewed international scientific journals. His research papers have appeared in top-tier statistics and medical journals.
  • Given his data analytics expertise, he provides statistical leadership, analytics advice and design clinical studies for teams, including the Methods Hub at the O’Brien Institute for Public Health, University of Calgary Biostatistics Center, and the Alberta Provincial Project on Outcomes Assessment in Coronary Heart Disease (APPROACH).
  • He led the methodological design of the ground breaking Endovascular Treatment for Small Core and Proximal Occlusion Ischemic Stroke (ESCAPE) trial. The findings from this study has influenced the clinical guidelines for treating stroke patients in Canada and internationally.

Dr. Irene Ma, MD, PhD, The O’Brien Institute Research Excellence Award
Professor, departments of community health sciences and medicine

Dr. Irene Ma is an internationally-recognized medical education scholar. Her scholarly work in the novel area of POCUS (point of care ultrasound) has had clear impact on medical education and health-care outcomes both nationally and internationally. Her innovative scholarly work is significantly impacting the provision of evidence-informed medical education and directly improving outcomes for patients. POCUS is a recent innovation that is dramatically changing patient care, and Dr. Ma is an International leader in this area.

Career highlights include:

  • Dr. Ma led in the creation of a national consensus-based curriculum for both undergraduate and postgraduate medical education. These curricular recommendations have been published in peer-reviewed journals and have informed medical curriculum across the country.
  • She has led in the creation of numerous procedural teaching manuals on POCUS. She is a task force member and co-author for the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine Curriculum for Fundamentals of Ultrasound in Clinical Practice.
  • She recently collaborated with a number of CSM faculty on a Canadian multi-center learner needs and barrier assessment in an effort to support medical schools in effectively implementing POCUS into their training programs.
  • Dr. Ma has made significant contributions to the development of tools to assess POCUS competency that are being used internationally. She has led a number of clinical studies focused on further refining how POCUS should be appropriately integrated into medicine.

Dr. Lara Nixon, MD, The O’Brien Institute Societal Impact Award
Associate professor, Department of Family Medicine

Dr. Lara Nixon is a tireless campaigner for the specific needs of older people with experiences of homelessness (OPEH), a group that is growing rapidly. Dr. Nixon has dedicated herself to participatory research with older adult communities to explore evidence-based and community-endorsed solutions to advocate for OPEH. She uses her voice to ensure this group is represented in policy decisions.

Career highlights include:

  • Dr. Nixon has provided outreach clinical care for the residents of Peter Coyle Place for 15 years. Peter Coyle Place provides permanent supportive housing for older adults with experiences of housing instability, mental health challenges, and problematic substance use. In 2015 and 2018, she was awarded Catalyst grants from the O’Brien Institute to explore the impact of Peter Coyle Place’s integrated primary care and harm reduction model on health outcomes and quality of life. This work secured Health Canada Substance Use and Addictions Program funding in 2019 to pilot a suite of holistic health promoting supports at Peter Coyle Place that included enhanced on-site primary care staff, therapeutic recreation, and peer support.
  • Dr. Nixon is a member of several working groups and committees where she represents the needs of OPEH. Throughout 2021, she was a member of Alberta Health Services’ Vulnerable Populations COVID Response Working Group. She is also a member of Alberta Health Services’ province-wide Harm Reduction and Housing Community of Practice.
  • In 2021 she joined the Technical Advisory Group for the City of Calgary’s initiative to revise an affordable housing plan to better meet the needs of Indigenous Calgarians. She is also a member of the Aboriginal Standing Committee on Housing and Homelessness , including the Indigenous Health, Housing, and Homelessness Sub-Committee. At the national level, Dr. Nixon co-leads the Local Advisory Committee for the Calgary arm of the Aging in the Right Place project, which is part of Canada’s National Housing Strategy.

Dr. Ronald Sigal, MD, The Lynn McIntyre Outstanding Service Award
Associate professor, departments of medicine, kinesiology and community health sciences

Dr. Ronald Sigal, MD,  is awarded the 2022 Lynn McIntyre Outstanding Service Award for his significant contributions of time, expertise, and collegiality to the O’Brien Institute Internal Peer Review program.

Internal Peer Review is one of the key services provided by the O’Brien Institute and Dr. Sigal meaningfully contributes to the success of this program through his outstanding reviews. Dr. Sigal is a dedicated peer reviewer who over the past year conducted three times as many reviews as the second most involved Institute member.

Dr. Sigal is a practicing endocrinologist, active in clinical medicine, teaching and research.