Feb. 27, 2015

Hotchkiss Brain Institute to lead Brain and Mental Health strategy

Scholars from across the university build research strength
Speakers from left: Ed McCauley, vice-president (research), Samuel Weiss, director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the university’s Cumming School of Medicine, Brenda Mackie, chair of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute’s Strategic Advisory Board, Megan Lewis president of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute Trainee Organization, Jon Meddings, dean of the Cumming School of Medicine

Ed McCauley, Samuel Weiss, Brenda Mackie, Megan Lewis, and Jon Meddings.

The transformational research taking place in the Cumming School of Medicine’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) has already earned the University of Calgary a reputation for neurological and mental health research excellence. With today’s announcement that the HBI will lead the University of Calgary’s Brain and Mental Health research strategy, the university’s ability to lead on the research frontier of the healthy human brain will be made even stronger.  

The Brain and Mental Health research strategy will be launched on March 26, and is a key part of the Strategic Research Plan’s roadmap for achieving the University of Calgary’s Eye’s High vision. The HBI has been a critical part of the Brain and Mental Health research theme since 2013 when its director,  Samuel Weiss, was named theme leader. With HBI now also leading the Brain and Mental Health research strategy, the university will take an even stronger leadership role in bringing together scholars from across the campus community.

“The highly complex domain of brain health is an area of research in need of both depth and broad expertise,” says Ed McCauley, vice-president (research). “Given that the brain remains one of the least understood organs in the human body, and that one in three Canadians will be affected by a brain or nervous system disorder or injury in their lifetime, our current strengths and our strategic research focus fortifies our leadership nationally and internationally.” 

The University of Calgary joins an international movement to address the vast gaps in knowledge needed to deliver better care in the domain of brain and mental health, including efforts like President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative and the European Commission’s Human Brain Project. These efforts target the millions of people afflicted with brain and mental health disorders arising as a natural consequence of an aging population, as well as from traumatic brain injury and illnesses like schizophrenia, autism and epilepsy.

The University of Calgary’s Brain and Mental Health research strategy puts the university on the forefront of research and clinical applications, while also attracting competitive provincial and national funding. This growth allows the Brain and Mental Health team to deliver neuro-scientific breakthrough successes like the recent internationally acclaimed stroke trial, led by HBI researchers that demonstrated a clot retrieval procedure, known as endovascular treatment, can significantly improve patient outcomes after an acute ischemic stroke.

“The Brain and Mental Health Research Scholars committee with representation from institutes and faculties, along with the executive leadership team at the University of Calgary, recognized that the HBI’s success and dedication to brain and mental health research puts our university at a distinct advantage,” said McCauley. “With the HBI’s demonstrated excellence in collaborative brain and mental health research, the Institute’s new role as Brain and Mental Health research strategy leaders will help to unite researchers from across campus in multidisciplinary approaches to solving major challenges in the brain and mental health field.”

HBI’s new strategy launched

The more than 200 HBI members, fellows, students and staff, along with key collaborators and leaders from the Cumming School of Medicine and Calgary community gathered to celebrate the launch of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute’s new strategic plan on February 25. Built on broad consultations with senior leaders and brain and mental health researchers across the Cumming School of Medicine and University of Calgary, the new strategy was launched by Samuel Weiss, director of the HBI. He was joined by speakers Jon Meddings, dean of the Cumming School of Medicine; Ed McCauley, vice-president (research); Brenda Mackie, chair of the HBI’s Strategic Advisory Board; and Megan Lewis, president of the HBI Trainee Organization.

“The HBI’s new strategy launches our renewed mission — to inspire discovery and apply knowledge towards innovative solutions for neurological and mental health disorders,” said Weiss. “The plan builds on our considerable foundation of strengths – excellence, collaboration, integrity, impact, creativity and relevance — that have guided our work and contributed to our past successes.”

The strategy aligns HBI research within a forward-looking framework of NeuroDiscovery, guided by three themes: Brain & Behaviour; Neural Injury & Repair; and Healthy Brain Aging. Under the new themes, scientists and clinicians will work within nine new NeuroTeams that represent a translational continuum of basic to clinical to population health research excellence.

The comprehensive plan also includes concrete goals to direct the HBI’s educational, community and partnership activities. “Together, these goals culminate in the HBI’s new vision: healthy brains for better lives,” says Weiss.

The new HBI strategy will integrate its research goals with the University of Calgary’s Brain and Mental Health research strategy that will be launched by Vice-President (Research) Ed McCauley and the Confederation of Brain and Mental Health Scholars on March 26. 

Visit the HBI’s new strategic plan to learn more.  


BOLD RESEARCH VISION: The University of Calgary is uniquely positioned to find solutions to global challenges in health, energy innovation, earth-space technologies, and meeting the complex needs of growing cities. The Strategic Research Plan harnesses the university’s exceptional capacity in these areas by focusing on six priority research themes: Brain and Mental Health; Energy Innovation for Today and Tomorrow; Engineering Solutions for Health: Biomedical Engineering; Infections: Inflammation and Chronic Diseases in the Changing Environment; New Earth-Space Technologies; and Human Dynamics in a Changing World: Smart and Secure Cities, Societies and Cultures. See the research website to learn more about how the University of Calgary, under the Eyes High vision, aligns it research resources for the benefit of communities at home and around the world. 

The University of Calgary is leading a Provincial Post-Secondary Mental Health & Addictions Framework. This will help connect post-secondary institutions, government and community partners in a collaborative environment to establish a vision and action plan for supporting students on the collective issue of student mental health. The university is also developing a comprehensive mental health strategy for the entire campus community, focused on the well-being of students, faculty and staff. The UCalgaryStrong initiative is one of the most comprehensive programs of its kind at a Canadian university, integrating elements of student personal wellness, leadership and engagement, with an aim to welcome students into the campus community, reduce loneliness, foster resiliency and ultimately support personal and academic success.