Research is at the heart of what we do at Women’s College Hospital. Women’s College Research Institute is one of the only research institutes worldwide that focuses on the health of women.
Most of our scientists are women and many are also clinicians. Treating patients helps our scientists understand the issues that need further study to design the best possible care.
A partnership for
better trans health
Women’s College Hospital (WCH) has established a partnership with Rainbow Health Ontario (RHO) that spans research and clinical care.
RHO, a program of Sherbourne Health Centre, works to improve healthcare for LGBTQ2S Ontarians. Educating and training healthcare providers to provide culturally sensitive care is a key component of RHO’s work.
This year, Dr. Janice Du Mont, EdD, a scientist at Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI), began a study to assess the need for more training around transgender sexual assault care. She assembled a Research Advisory Board including trans community members and their allies to help shape the study. Devon MacFarlane, the director of RHO, joined the Board.
He says the partnership is a natural fit.
WCH has provided sexual assault care for more than 30 years and conducted research in the area for nearly as long. “That combination of the research experience and the practice of providing that support is a vital combination,” Devon says.
Dr. Du Mont’s study surveyed forensic nurses from across the 35 Sexual Assault / Domestic Violence Treatment Centres across Ontario about their knowledge and their knowledge and skills caring for trans clients who have been sexually assaulted. Now she is analyzing the results.
In clinical care, WCH, Rainbow Health Ontario, Sherbourne Health and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health are partners on the Trans Health Expansion Project, which is working to improve access to healthcare services for transgendered individuals including access to transition surgery.
Through the partnership, WCH will become the first Ontario hospital to offer genital-reconstruction surgery. As a preliminary step to informing this care, WCH is collaborating with researchers in British Columbia and Ontario on a survey of experiences with transition surgeries and access to services.
Up to half of those who identify as transgender experience sexualized violence in their lifetime.1 It is critical to seek care as soon as possible after sexual assault, but more than a fifth of transgender people in Ontario say they have avoided the hospital emergency department because of past experience of discrimination or the fear they would face discrimination.2
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Dr. Janice Du Mont, EdD, in collaboration with the Ontario Network of Sexual Assault / Domestic Violence Treatment Centres, and an expert advisory group, is working to ensure that transgender survivors of violence receive care that meets their needs. Dr. Du Mont surveyed Network forensic nurses about their knowledge and skills caring for trans clients who have been sexually assaulted as part of a project funded by the Women’s Xchange, a women’s health knowledge translation and exchange centre based at Women’s College Hospital. Of the nurses surveyed, 95 per cent said they could benefit from more training. Next, the team will seek funding to develop training and roll it out across the Network.
This research builds on a long legacy of leadership in sexual assault treatment, research and prevention at Women’s College Hospital. The province’s first hospital-based sexual assault centre opened here in 1984 and the Network has since grown to 35 centres across Ontario – delivering evidenced-based care based on leading research from our scientists.
1 (Office for Victims of Crime, June 2014)
2 (Bauer et al., 2014)
Mental illness is one of the most common complications of childbirth but as few as one in five women receive effective treatment. The reasons vary from stigma to barriers accessing care and a lack of comprehensive services that meet the needs of busy mothers.SHOW MORE +
Dr. Simone Vigod, a scientist at Women’s College Research Institute, a psychiatrist, and the lead of the Reproductive Life Stages Program at Women’s College Hospital, is studying treatment methods and health system solutions to help women access mental health support when and where they need it. She uses her findings to develop better programs, like Mother Matters, an online support group for women with mood or adjustment challenges after the birth of their baby.
Dr. Vigod has developed an online patient decision aid to help women make difficult decisions about taking medications for depression or anxiety during pregnancy. She has also made these decisions easier with new evidence about the safety of antidepressants during pregnancy.
Her latest studies will continue to inform new treatments. For example, she is studying the genetics of postpartum depression through the Postpartum Depression: Action Towards Causes and Treatment (PPD ACT™) study, which she launched in Canada in 2017.SHOW LESS -
READ MORE OF EVANA'S STORY
Since she was first diagnosed with HIV 17 years ago, Evana Ortigoza has fought to end discrimination against transgender women living with HIV. She is still fighting.
“I have the voice to speak for my people,” she says.
Her message is simple but important: women with HIV have the right to get help and live healthy, happy lives. Many years ago, it was Evana who needed the support she gives to others today.
Originally from Venezuela, she came to Canada 25 years ago. When she was diagnosed with HIV, she was involved in prostitution and drugs, and living on the street. She often went to Meal Trans, a program in Toronto that provides meals to trans women and men.
An employee encouraged her to become an activist. “He came to me and he said Evana, you have a gift. You can speak to people. You can change your life; you are different.” With his help, Evana learned how to support others in her community. Around the same time, she also met her future husband. She became clean and started working at Meal Trans.
Today, Evana has been running the Pride Toronto Festival’s Trans March for most of the last eight years and she is involved with community HIV research through Dr. Mona Loutfy’s Trans Women HIV Research Initiative.
“I don’t have stigma about myself or where I’ve been, or shame,” she says. “I’m proud to be who I am and surviving in this big jungle of concrete.”
Evana hopes to eliminate stigma against women with HIV through her activism and participation in research. She knows she is not alone in tackling the challenge.
“Everywhere I go, Women’s College is there to make sure that women are protected,” she says.
Women are one of the fastest growing populations at risk for HIV infection and they have worse clinical outcomes than men do. Dr. Mona Loutfy, a scientist at Women’s College Research Institute, is developing HIV care designed especially for women’s needs to close the health gaps they experience.SHOW MORE +
Dr. Loutfy leads the Canadian HIV Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Cohort Study (CHIWOS), a national study funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The study’s goal is to help women with HIV be as healthy as they can be in every way. For example, study findings have shown that women in Canada receive good treatment for their HIV but their overall women’s health needs — including pregnancy planning, Pap testing and mammograms — are often overlooked. To find and address these gaps, Dr. Loutfy engages women with HIV and their communities to ensure their concerns drive her research questions.
In addition to her research in Canada, Dr. Loutfy has an impact worldwide. She was part of the team that developed the World Health Organization Guideline on the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Women Living with HIV.
At the core of her research and practice is a powerful goal: to end HIV stigma.SHOW LESS -
This year, scientists at Women’s College Research Institute have continued to receive prestigious awards and accolades in recognition of their work and excellent scientific impact. The selection of awards below demonstrates the impact our scientists are having, closing health gaps by transforming clinical care and uncovering health system solutions.SHOW MORE +
We often think of science as deeply complex, but it possesses a simple truth: science changes lives.
That truth has never been more sharply in focus than through the work of the Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI) team of scientists and researchers, whose dedication to transforming healthcare for women is creating extraordinary global impact.
For our donor community, the vision and potential of WCRI’s work is inspiring generosity, engagement and commitment as never before. During the 2016-2017 fiscal year, the Foundation saw a record-breaking wave of support that included investments in research from every corner of our community. From Peter Gilgan's Tour de Bleu cycling fundraiser, which raised $3 million for breast and ovarian cancer research, to an anonymous investment of $1 million in research that seeks to advance equitable care for older adults by closing the sex and gender data gap, every dollar invested in research was a heartfelt wish for a better, brighter future for the health of women and everyone.SHOW MORE +
I speak on behalf of the entire Foundation team when I say it is a privilege to work alongside WCRI and our powerful donor community to change lives together. As we continue along this journey of growing impact for women around the world, we extend our enduring gratitude to the WCRI team, to the donors who help make this work possible and to the entire Women’s College Hospital community – a community of passionate, dedicated individuals who are changing lives, and the world.
President & CEO
Women’s College Hospital Foundation