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Four top scholars join prestigious Canadian Academy of Health Sciences

Inductees Herman Barkema, Norm Campbell, Nicole Letourneau and Samuel Weiss recognized for their substantial contributions
September 19, 2014
Clockwise from top left: Norm Campbell, Samuel Weiss, Nicole Letourneau and Herman Barkema have been named as inductees to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences for their substantial contributions to health science.

Clockwise from top left: Norm Campbell, Samuel Weiss, Nicole Letourneau and Herman Barkema have been named as inductees to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences for their substantial contributions to health science.

Four leading researchers at the University of Calgary have been named fellows of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, a national organization that examines urgent issues affecting the health of Canadians and provides conclusions and recommendations for public discussion and policy.

Herman Barkema, Norm Campbell, Nicole Letourneau and Samuel Weiss have each been named as inductees to CAHS, an honour that recognizes each of their substantial contributions to health science.

“These four scholars bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the CAHS, an organization that includes some of the best minds in the academic health sciences in Canada,” says Ed McCauley, vice-president (research).  “And it’s a tremendous honour for each of these researchers, as well as the university as a whole, to have them join the academy.”

CAHS examines evidence and collects expert opinions to assess a wide range of health issues affecting Canadians, from the country’s role in global health to oral care in vulnerable populations.

Herman Barkema, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Cumming School of Medicine

Herman Barkema, an internationally recognized researcher into infectious diseases in cattle, is a professor in epidemiology of infectious diseases with the Department of Production Animal Health in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Infectious Diseases of Dairy Cattle and professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences in the Cumming School of Medicine.

He studies Johne’s disease, an infectious, chronic inflammation of the gut caused by Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP). It’s a major health concern for cattle, bison and caribou and is estimated to cost the Canadian cattle industry $90 million a year. Barkema also studies mastitis, an inflammation of the mammary gland which reduces milk production and quality, and the main reason cattle producers use antibiotics.

Barkema’s work is aimed at ensuring a safe and sustainable food supply through control of infectious diseases in cattle. He has led several national and international research initiatives, including the Alberta Inflammatory Bowel Disease Consortium.

Dr. Norman Campbell, Cumming School of Medicine

Dr. Norman Campbell is a professor of Medicine, Community Health Sciences and Physiology and Pharmacology, member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta and Institute for Public Health in the Cumming School of Medicine, HSF CIHR Chair in Hypertension Prevention and Control and president of the World Hypertension League.

He is a leader in the effort to prevent and control hypertension in Canada where at least 25 per cent of the adult population has the disease. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can impair cardiovascular function and lead to heart attack, heart failure and stroke. Around the world, hypertension is the leading cause of disability and is attributed to almost one in five deaths.

Campbell’s research is helping increase awareness of hypertension and reduce its incidence through prevention strategies and better management of the disease in Canada. For example, in one landmark study, Campbell and his co-author helped identify segments of the population that are at greatest risk of developing health problems from high blood pressure.

He is actively involved with several national organizations developing programs aimed at preventing and reducing the incidence of hypertension in Canada. Canada now has the world's highest national rate of hypertension control.

Nicole Letorneau, Faculty of Nursing

Nicole Letourneau, professor in the Faculty of Nursing and Norlien/Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation Research Chair in Parent-Infant Mental Health, studies the physiological and developmental health of children and develops innovative methods to help at-risk children.

Her work examines the relationship between children’s caregiving experiences and their neural and endocrine systems in cognitive and social development. Letourneau explores interventions that help infants and children who are growing up in homes with toxic stressors including depressed or addicted parents, violence in the home and low incomes. It’s estimated these stressors put as many as 25 per cent of children in Canada at risk of developing emotional or behavioral problems.

Letourneau’s research program – Child Health Intervention and Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Studies Program – is aimed developing effective methods to help improve the health and development of at-risk children. She has described much of her research in a 2013 book, Scientific Parenting: What Science Reveals About Parental Influence.

Samuel Weiss, Cumming School of Medicine, Director, Hotchkiss Brain Institute

Samuel Weiss is the director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary whose mission is to translate innovative research and education into advances in brain and mental health care. He is also a professor and Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions (AIHS) Scientist in the Departments of Cell Biology and Anatomy and Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the Cumming School of Medicine.

As the inaugural director of HBI, Weiss has brought together a number of different departments and groups of neuroscience research to further work into the healthy and diseased brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves.

Weiss’ groundbreaking research has changed the fields of developmental neurobiology and neural regeneration. He helped discover the metabotropic glutamate receptor in the brain which has led to major advances in pharmaceuticals to treat neurological diseases. He also discovered neural stem cells in adult mammals, a breakthrough that allowed scientists around the world to investigate how to stimulate those cells and find new treatments for devastating brain diseases and spinal cord injuries.

His current research focuses on transformed brain stem cells that give rise to malignant gliomas, work that could shed new light on how to treat the currently untreatable malignant gliomas.

Weiss received a Gairdner International Award in 2008, is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and sits on a number of national and international peer review committees.