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Good Health is a Fine Art – Michael Smith Foundation and NCCAH partner on a scholar award in the North for Dr. Sarah de Leeuw

November 2012 – For the first time in its history, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR), has partnered with two other organizations to support three scholar awards. Scholar awards allow researchers to initiate an independent research career, build a leading research program, make significant contributions to their field of research, and attract additional funding to advance knowledge on a range of critical health issues. Since 2001 the MSFHR has allocated 315 of these awards. Through collaborative relationships, three additional scholars have been supported this year, increasing the breadth of health research and knowledge translation in the province and more broadly.

The NCCAH is very proud to announce their inaugural partnership with the MSFHR on the scholar award granted to Dr. Sarah de Leeuw on health, creative arts and northern communities. The first ever MSFHR scholar to be based in northern BC, Dr. de Leeuw is an Assistant Professor in the Northern Medical Program at the University of Northern British Columbia and a Research Associate with the NCCAH. Her research and knowledge translation agenda address health inequalities lived by people in northern BC and by Indigenous peoples, especially as compared to people in urban areas in the south of the province. She will examine how the creative arts and humanities can improve health inequities and attend to social determinants of health, particularly as they manifest in specific geographies.

“Good health is really quite a fine art,” said Dr. de Leeuw. Her approach includes an understanding that “the arts and humanities can teach us about good health practices, they can be modes of exploring and researching different expressions of health and wellbeing, they can be used in the training of health care professionals, and they can also be used in individual lives and in community contexts to make people feel better or to address new ways of figuring out why people don’t feel well.” Dr. de Leeuw’s research and knowledge translation activities will explore the “untapped and unexplored link between creative arts, humanities and health and wellbeing.” In addition, Dr. de Leeuw is excited for her MSFHR/NCCAH work to unfold in the north, the landscape where she grew up and has been living and working for many years. “The north is filled with really creative people looking at different ways of understanding both health inequalities and health and wellbeing,” she said.

The allocation of a MSFHR scholar award for the north in partnership with the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health, demonstrates the collaborative potential of national and provincial partnerships in addressing the health and well-being of British Columbians, particularly northern British Columbians. Dr. Margo Greenwood, Academic Leader of the NCCAH said, “the NCCAH with its national platform and commitment to creativity, collaboration, and innovation is ideally positioned to support MSFHR partnered health awards to share research findings beyond BC’s borders to all Canadians. Dr. de Leeuw is worthy of this honor and we hold great promise in her ability to reveal unexplored terrains that can be used to support the optimal health and well-being of the people of the north and beyond.”

Cathy Ulrich, CEO of the Northern Health Authority, noted that “we are better collectively than as individuals and this is a good example of how multiple agencies partner in the north to do more than they would independently.” The work undertaken by Dr. de Leeuw will be relevant to the NHA because it will be about the populations it serves and cares for. “Dr. de Leeuw is a worthy recipient of this award and has a unique way of bringing together story telling and scientific knowledge and representing this in a compelling way,” said Ms. Ulrich. “She is very deserving and will contribute tremendously over the time of this award to our knowledge of the north and northern realities in a way that people outside of the north will really pay attention to.”