The REAL Issue: A Message From Our CEO

February 2019

NSHRF 2018-19 Awards Gala - Celebrating researchers matters

On February 26, nearly 200 members and supporters of Nova Scotia’s health research community gathered at The Prince George Hotel for the NSHRF 2018-19 Annual Awards Gala. Together we celebrated the grant and award recipients of the past year, the achievements of our vibrant research community, and the Foundation’s 19 years of working to improve the health of Nova Scotians. 

Support for researchers matters

One of the reasons why NSHRF hosts the Award Gala is because we want health researchers to feel supported. Year after year, the Gala has offered an opportunity for community members not directly engaged in research, including NSHRF Board members, university presidents and vice presidents, and policy makers, to demonstrate their support for health researchers, student trainees and the greater research community. This year’s Gala was a testament to that support, in attendance were five university presidents and vice presidents, and twelve MLAs, including five Ministers: the Honourable Randy Delorey, Minister of Health and Wellness, and Gaelic Affairs; the Honourable Mark Furey, Attorney General and Minister of Justice; the Honourable Tony Ince, Minister of the Public Service Commission, and African Nova Scotian Affairs; the Honourable Labi Kousoulis, Minister of Labour and Advanced Education; and the Honourable Leo Glavine, Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage, and Seniors.

For more than two years NSHRF has used the hashtag #ResearchersMatter on social media to promote video interviews and written articles highlighting the work of researchers across the province. With the pending transition of NSHRF to Research Nova Scotia, we decided to do something special for our final segment. At the Gala, I was proud to introduce a video featuring the current Minister and past Ministers of Health describing why they believe health research and researchers matter.   

The legacy of researchers matters

One of my favourite parts of the evening is presenting the recipients of the Foundation’s two most prestigious student awards, The Colleen Elliott Award and The Quest – The John Ruedy Award. Both are awarded to research trainees in Nova Scotia who demonstrate the greatest promise and potential for excellence in health research. The Colleen Elliott Award specifically honours excellence in cancer research, and The Quest is awarded to the applicant with the highest standings in the Scotia ScholarsOM Awards.

Knowing this would be our final Gala, we felt it was important that NSHRF go above and beyond to celebrate the award winners and commemorate the legacy of Dr.  Ruedy and the late Colleen Elliott, whose careers and volunteer contributions supported the advancement of the health research enterprise in Nova Scotia. For this reason, we chose to film the award presentations in advance and premier them at the celebration. 

The first video of the night featured Brendan Elliott, Colleen’s son, presenting the award to Emily Drake. Emily is a PhD in Health student at Dalhousie University, and like Colleen, she’s an advocate for people living with cancer. Her research is examining care delivery for young adults living with advanced cancer in Nova Scotia. As mentioned in the video, survival rates for young adults living with the illness haven’t changed much in the past 30 years, making this incredibly important work of which Colleen would be proud. 

In the second video, international student, Ksenia Kholina of Mount Saint Vincent University’s (MSVU) Applied Human Nutrition program was recognized for winning The Quest - John Ruedy Award. Ksenia was recognized for her research examining breastfeeding practices in Nova Scotia, specifically researchingwhether the method of feeding the breastmilk (breast vs. bottle) has an influence on health outcomes. It was a pleasure to watch Dr. Ruedy share in Ksenia’s excitement as the first winner of The Quest from MSVU. 

Since 2003, NSHRF has supported research excellence in Dr. Ruedy’s name. I’m proud that through The Quest, our organization has helped carry on his influence, impacting the lives of research trainees across Nova Scotia’s universities.  

Relationships with researchers matter

In 2010, NSHRF introduced the Decade Club as a way to recognize the significant contributions of our many volunteers to the success of health research in this province. Since it was founded,79 members have been inducted into the Decade Club, all of whom have contributed at least 10 years of support to the Foundation. Members include researchers and research supporters from across the province, the country, and beyond. This year, we were honoured to induct the three final members into the Decade Club: Dr. Christine Chambers, Dalhousie University; Dr. Fred Burge, Dalhousie University; and Dr. Diane Holmberg, Acadia University. We also used a video to capture this announcement; it featured the three new members, and me!  To quote what I said in the video, “NSHRF wouldn’t be NSHRF without the Decade Club members.”

I have looked forward to the Awards Gala every year as a time to reconnect with colleagues and meet the new faces of health research. As we gathered this time, for the last time, we also reflected on the past 19 years of our work together. On behalf of our Board of Directors and the staff of NSHRF, past and present, thank you to everyone who shared in this year’s celebration of the researchers and NSHRF.

It has been a real honour to work with and for the health research community and the broader health system over the past 19 years. I have been amazed at the progress we have made from that first competition where we had more money than applications, to the situation now, where we always have more quality research proposals than we can fund.  Your growth and successes have been ours.


Krista Connell 



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