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COVID-19 Research at SPPH

May 15, 2020 |


As communities around the world grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, research into public health, infectious diseases, epidemiology, and our collective health and safety has never been more relevant or important. At the School of Population and Public Health, we’ve been conducting groundbreaking research in these fields for decades – so it’s no surprise that our researchers, students and staff have answered the call of our time. Read below to learn more about how faculty and graduate students are applying their expertise to solving the medical, public health, social, and policy challenges of COVID-19.

If you believe that investing in our health matters, consider contributing to the SPPH Public Health Fund. Every contribution – regardless of the amount – pushes us closer to better health.


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  • Dr. Michael Brauer, Professor, UBC School of Population and Public Health, Occupational and Environmental Health (OEH)
    Dr. Brauer has applied his expertise in the relationship between the built environment and human health to COVID-19 by looking at how our surroundings impact infection control and disease course. He has also contributed important commentary to the public discourse through columns, Q&As, and media interviews. Dr. Brauer has previously written about the global health disparities in access to handwashing, a key component in reducing risk of COVID-19 transmission, and is working with UN Environment on a commentary to make structural changes to a more sustainable economy in the post-pandemic recovery.

  • Dr. Mariana Brussoni, Associate Professor, UBC School of Population and Public Health, Pediatrics
    As a leader of Outdoor Play Canada, Dr. Brussoni has detailed the ramifications of COVID-19 on children’s outdoor play and has looked to highlight how children can play within physical distancing guidelines. Her work is increasingly relevant as the province seeks to open up while continuing to practice social distancing and limit infections. Echoing the advice of British Columbia’s Public Health Officials, including Dr. Bonnie Henry, Dr. Brussoni encourages families to spend time outdoors responsibly to strengthen their immune systems and maintain their physical and mental health.

  • Dr. Lawrence Frank, Bombardier Chair Professor, Transportation & Health, Schools of Population & Public Health & Community & Regional Planning Director, Health and Community Design Lab
    Dr. Frank measures and predicts the health impacts of the built and natural environment, and has recently been evaluating the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on active forms of transportation. As an expert in transportation planning and health, he has been a regular commenter in both domestic and international press.

  • Dr. Paul Kershaw, Associate Professor, UBC School of Population and Public Health, MPH Director
    The founder of Generation Squeeze and a familiar face in Canadian media, Dr. Kershaw is applying his expertise in advocating for the financial, social, emotional and physical well-being of Canadians to the COVID-19 crisis. He is compiling financial support information as public health measures being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 disrupt the livelihoods and homes of Canadians across the country, and his organization is updating their website daily with new government support being announced at all levels, as well as clarification on the requirements for each funding.

  • Dr. Louise Mâsse, Professor, UBC School of Population and Public Health, Scientist Level 3, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute
    Dr. Masse, a Behavioural Scientist with expertise in children’s health behaviours and transitional periods – an area that is increasingly relevant during this time of uncertainty and change – is focused on the future impacts of COVID-19-related social and physical distancing measures on families with children. Dr. Masse is extending her current HABITs study with the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Waterloo to address how the pandemic is influencing children’s lifestyle behaviours, and what this means for their health in the long-term.
  • Dr. Maureen Mayhew, Clinical Professor, UBC School of Population and Public Health, Health in Populations (HiP)
    Dr. Mayhew is a clinician with experience in cross-cultural medicine and public health since 1988, serving immigrants, refugees, Inuit, Metis and First Nations in Canada and abroad. She, along with SPPH alumnus Angeli Rawat and Faculty of Medicine graduate students have created a series of posters and infographics to share practical COVID-19 tips with the general public. For more information and to access these posters, click here.

  • Dr. Farah Shroff, Associate Member, UBC School of Population and Public Health, Health in Populations (HiP)
    Dr. Shroff has been an active commentator and expert in Canadian media, discussing issues that include the sensitivities around collecting race-based COVID-19 data, gender divides in the response to COVID-19, and the effects of COVID-19 on marginalized communities. She is actively working on several COVID-19 policy issues including a policy paper on housing and health; a report card on Canada’s response; and on-going research questions about the mental health aspects of the crisis, women’s issues related to COVID-19, and climate justice.

  • Dr. Patti Spittal, Professor, Head, Division of Health in Populations, Interim Associate Director—Research, Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health
    Dr. Spittal is an anthropologist with extensive experience working with marginalized communities living in both resource-rich and resource-poor countries. She is the co-principal investigator of the Cedar Project, which has received a research exemption to keep their doors open in the Downtown East Side (DTES) to support the indigenous community during COVID- 19. They are continuing their crucial work with participants in indigenous community – but also the DTES community at large – doing outreach and trying to distribute harm reduction equipment. Dr. Spittal and her team are working to fill the needs created by the high number of organizations that have had to close their physical spaces due to COVID-19, and normally serve the marginalized communities of the DTES.
  • Katherine White, MSc Student, Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (OEH) program, UBC School of Population and Public Health
    Katherine White is one of the many graduate students at SPPH who has worked to couple her education with practical experience by conducting innovative research during the global pandemic. She is Masters of Science student at SPPH who also works as a research assistant in the Health and Community Design Lab, where she is looking at how appeals that focus on benefits to the self versus benefits to others may influence people’s behavioural intentions around COVID-19 mitigating behaviors. Her study aims to look at potential moderators of this effect, including whether or not the appeal includes an advance gratitude statement, political identity, and moral identity.


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  • Dr. Peter Berman, Professor of the School of Population and Public Health
    Dr. Berman is a health economist with forty years of experience in research, policy analysis and development, and training and education in global health. At SPPH, he works on addressing COVID-19 through inter-jurisdictional collaborations. He is coordinating an International Network on Health System Responses to COVID-19, which is developing studies to examine the continuum from national political, economic, and social structures to public health and health systems organizations and on to interventions to address COVID-19. Dr. Berman and his colleagues are working to identify how jurisdictions can learn from the COVID-19 experience to improve preparedness in the future. Going forward, a key next step in the network is the development of “jurisdiction-focussed team” to do the work. A UBC team involving SPPH and SPPGA is developing collaborations in different jurisdictions in Canada, Asia (China, Hong Kong, and India), Latin America, Africa (Ethiopia).

  • Dr. John Carsley, Clinical Associate Professor, UBC School of Population and Public Health
    A committed public servant and former Medical Health Offier of Vancouver Coastal Health, Dr. John Carsley has returned from retirement to support BC CDC with their professional and public communications amidst COVID-19.
  • Dr. Corinne Hohl, Associate Member, UBC School of Population and Public Health, Associate Professor in UBC’s Department of Emergency Medicine and a Scientist at the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Evaluation.
    Dr. Hohl has an impressive background in emergency medicine, drug safety and effectiveness and adverse drug event surveillance. She is working on a Canadian COVID-19 Registry looking at health system capacity and health care service effects on clinically underrepresented populations, including marginalized populations and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Ultimately, Dr. Hohl aims to help characterize the burden, prognosis and resource allocation of ED COVID-19 patients in Canada, which in turn will have a significant impact on resource allocation and planning, allowing the province and health authorties to best respond to the current – and future – healthcare resource challenges.
  • Dr. Jason Sutherland, Professor, UBC School of Population and Public Health, Centre for Health Services and Policy Research and Program Head, Health Services and Outcomes, Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences
    Dr. Sutherland’s expertise in health systems’ efficiency, effectiveness, quality of care, and the policies that support them have long been in demand from governments across the country. He is now applying these skills and his extensive experience advising governments to policy questions around structuring health care systems to address COVID-19 and ensuring jurisdictions can appropriately care for COVID-19 patients.

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  • Dr. Karen Bartlett, Professor, Program Director, MSc OEH
    Dr. Bartlett is part of an interdisciplinary initiative that includes faculty from UBC Mechanical Engineering, Barrelwise – a UBC spin off engineering think tank – and occupational hygienists in the health authorities. They are doing proof of concept work in improving the fit and efficacy of respiratory protection for healthcare workers in BC, who are on the front lines of fighting and treating COVID-19. The Mechanical Engineering group are testing the filter materials, and our laboratory manager, Matty Jeronimo, is coordinating the initiative to document the improved fit.
  • Dr. Annalee Yassi, Professor, UBC School of Population and Public Health, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Global Health and Capacity-Building
    Dr. Yassi is a member of a 20-person international ad-hoc community established by WHO bringing together the global experience of protecting healthcare workers. Locally, she is establishing surveillance and follow-up procedures for patient care workers on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19 as the new Physician Lead in Occupational Health at Vancouver Coastal Health.


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  • Dr. Patti Janssen, Professor, UBC School of Population and Public Health, Associate Faculty, Depts of Obstetrics and Family Practice, Adjunct School of Nursing
    Dr. Janssen is the founder of the lauded texting program SmartMom, a Senior Scholar at the Child and Family Research Institute and the leader of Optimal Birth BC, a consortium of clinician-scientists and public health practitioners who undertake both institutional quality improvement initiatives and the development of information resources for childbearing families in BC. She is applying her wealth of experience and leadership to the COVID-19 pandemic by conducting a national study of the safety of the influenza vaccine during pregnancy, which will help researchers understand the effects of a COVID-19 vaccine once available.
  • Dr. Deborah Money, Associate Member, UBC School of Population and Public Health, Health in Populations (HiP). Executive Vice Dean, UBC Faculty of Medicine, Professor, UBC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
    Dr. Money is a researcher and physician. You may recognize her name as one of the world-renound experts named by Dr. Bonnie Henry in the daily press conference on May 9th as a leading researcher in our province. She is working on the Canadian Surveillance of COVID-19 in Pregnancy: Epidemiology and Maternal and Infant Outcomes, a multi-provincial observational project on the influence of comorbidities on susceptibility and outcomes, Development of decision support treatment and guidelines.
  • Dr. Gina Ogilvie, Professor, UBC School of Population and Public Health, Health in Populations (HiP), Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Global Control of HPV related diseases and prevention, Senior Public Health Scientist, BCCDC, Senior Research Advisor, BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre
    In collaboration with other researchers, and led by Dr. Steve Jones, Dr. Ogilvie is working on a germline analysis of COVID-19 patients to determine if there are any genetic determinants of the severity of the virus in confirmed patients. You may recognize her name as one of the exceptional faculty members named by Dr. Bonnie Henry in her daily press conference on May 9th as a leading researcher in our province. Her aim is to help create a database of genetic variants that can be correlated with features of the virus and patient phenotype information that can be shared nationally and internationally to better understand the infection.
  • Dr. David Patrick, Professor, UBC School of Population and Public Health, Medical Epidemiology Lead for Antimicrobial Resistance, British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC)
    Dr. Patrick is an infectious disease modeller who has been instrumental in developing the modelling graphs shown at the daily provincial updates from Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Health Adrian Dix. He is also on the front lines of researching treatments for COVID-19. In collaboration with other UBC faculty, Dr. Patrick is working on a multi-provincial and multi-national study funded by the CIHR called CATCO: Canadian Treatments for COVID-19, focused on understanding more about the virus, as well as potential drug therapies through a randomized, controlled trial with hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19 cases.
  • Dr. Joel Singer, Professor, UBC School of Population and Public Health, Associate Director, MHSc Program
    Dr. Singer is on the front lines of researching potential treatments to COVID-19. In a CIHR-funded study led by Dr. Jim Russell, Dr. Singer examines the potential role of angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) in the treatment of COVID-19. The study evaluates similarities between the influenza virus and coronavirus and highlights the possibility of limiting lung injury in COVID-19 patients. If shown to be effective, ARBs would be an inexpensive and clinically available resource that would help immensely in the clinical treatment of COVID-19.




To view the most up to date information on the COVID19 research response in British Columbia, click here.