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Welcome to the Division of Medical Sciences

Division of Medical Sciences faculty and students

About us

The Division of Medical Sciences was established to promote scholarship and innovation in medical education at the University of Victoria and to support the university's ongoing commitment to an integrated and multidisciplinary approach to health research. It is the academic and research structure that underpins the Island Medical Program, part of the UBC MD Undergraduate Program.

Faculty, clinicians and students in the Division are working with other UVic departments and research centres and contributing to breakthroughs in medical sciences that will impact the prevention and treatment of cancer, neurological disorders and diseases, genetic disorders and other medical conditions. Plans are underway to develop the university's first interdisciplinary graduate program in neuroscience based in the Division.

Please explore our site and learn what the Division of Medical Sciences has to offer.

DMS News

Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research 2014 Scholar Award

The UVic Division of Medical Sciences is pleased to announce that Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne was selected as a recipient of a prestigious 2014 Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) Scholar Award, jointly funded in partnership with the BC Schizophrenia Society Foundation.

Her proposal entitled "Ion channels: molecular determinants of health and disease in the head and neck" was one of eight basic biomedical scholar awards granted. Her basic science work on proteins is of relevance to heart conditions, stroke, and neurodevelopment disorders such as Schizophrenia and Autism spectrum disorder.

Dr. Swayne is excited to receive this MSFHR Scholar award as it recognizes the importance of her research program. This prestigious award is intended to support promising scientific careers and to allow awardees to "focus on research activities; train the next generation of investigators; attract additional funding from national and international sources; and generate high-quality knowledge economy jobs", according to the official MSFHR announcement.

Dr. Swayne is quick to credit her colleagues in the Division of Medical Sciences: "This type of award doesn't just reflect the qualities or abilities of the individual, but also the richness of their research environment and support system. The Division of Medical Sciences is a world-class research group in a world-class research facility. My colleagues have been tremendously supportive and our collaborations have significantly strengthened my research portfolio. Furthermore, the supprot I receive from Dr. Oscar Casiro, our former Regional Associate Dean, was absolutely critical".

Having trained in Guelph, Calgary, Montpellier (France) and Ottawa, Dr. Swayne brought a breadth of experience and expertise to the Division when she set up her lab in January 2011. She is passionate about her research and also about nurturing the career development of the trainees under her supervision. Dr. Swayne also believes in the importance of engaging with and educating the broader community on the importance of basic science and has been involved in a number of science outreach activities involving the Division, UVic and the greater Victoria community. "We work very hard on really difficult, fundamental questions. Our end goal is always to translate our findings into improving lives. With basic science, the returns back to the community aren't always immediately obvious, but history has shown that supporting basic science has tremendous long-term benefits for everyone".

With this MSFHR award, Dr. Swayne's resolve to achieve important research objectives has certainly been strengthened. Congratulations Dr. Swayne!

Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne

New Division Head starts July 2, 2014

Dr. Bruce Wright

A warm welcome to Dr. Bruce Wright, MD, CCFP, FCFP, who joins us today as the new Head, Division of Medical Sciences, University of Victoria and Regional Associate Dean, Vancouver Island, UBC Faculty of Medicine.  Dr. Wright comes from the University of Calgary, where he was a professor in the Department of Family Medicine with a specialty in geriatric medicine (and a particular interest in neuroscience and aging) and Associate Dean, Undergraduate Medical Education.

Prior to beginning his career in medicine, Dr. Wright completed a Bachelor of Arts in Economics at the University of Calgary and a Master of Arts in Political Economy at the University of Toronto. He received his medical degree and completed residency training at the University of Calgary. Dr. Wright has a keen interest in international medical education and serves as a consultant on curriculum development projects in Tajikistan, Tanzania, Nepal and Laos.

As Head of the Division of Medical Sciences Dr. Wright will lead the ongoing development of research capacity within medical sciences at UVic.

UVic Research in the News

Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne attended the Advances in Stroke Recovery meeting in Ottawa earlier this month, organized by the Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery. Dr. Swayne was interviewed by radio 1310 News about her research involving the drug Probenecid which is commonly used to treat gout and how it may boost brain recovery after stroke.

3rd Annual CIHR Brain Bee

Victoria area high school students will be tested on their neuroscience acumen during the 3rd annual CIHR Brain Bee taking place this Saturday, May 17th in MSB 150 located in the Medical Sciences Building at the University of Victoria. This fierce competion begins at 9:00am to 12:00pm, with one winner moving on to the CIHR Canadian National Brain Bee held at McMaster University on May 31, 2014. Good luck to everyone!

Experimental Biology 2014

Brianne Lindsay (Nahirney Lab) won the Best Undergraduate Student Poster Presentation Award given by the American Association of Anatomists at the 2014 Experimental Biology Annual Meeting held in San Diego, CA on April 29, 2014. Her research presentation was focused on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and the effects that alcohol has on nerve cell bodies and synapses in the hippocampus. The results from this study have uncovered new insights into the microscopic changes that occur in the memory centre of the brain when exposed to alcohol in utero. Brianne, a 4th year biology undergraduate here at the University of Victoria, received an undergraduate NSERC award to support her studies and is planning to continue into graduate level research. Congratulations Brianne on a job well done!

Brianne Lindsay

CIHR Award

Congratulations to Kelly Tennant, Post Doctoral Fellow in Craig Brown's lab for her recent CIHR Fellowhip award for "Promoting thalamocortical plasticity to improve recovery of function after cortical ischemia". We wish you much success in this two year project!

Honours Fest

Two students from Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne's lab received awards during Honours Fest held on February 28, 2014. Scott Bell received Top Presenter award for his poster entitled "Effects of Probenecid on the Neural Precursor Response to Stroke" and a one year membership in a professional membership of his choice.

Ross Prager received Best Overall Honours Poster for all faculties with his poster entitled "Characterization of a novel Pannexin 1 channel internalization stimulus" and the "Boehm Family Award for Excellence in Science" plus $2000.

Scott (top) is pictured with Dean Lipson from the Faculty of Sciences. Ross (bottom) is pictured with Dean Lipson and Associate Dean Kathryn Gillis both from the Faculty of Science. Congratulations to both of you for a job well done!

Scott Bell and Dean Lipson from the Faculty of ScienceRoss Prager, Dean Lipson and Associate Dean Kathryn Gillis

Co-op Student of the Year

Congratulations to Ross Prager being named Co-op Student of the year.

Neuroscience Defenses

Several Neuroscience graduates successfully defended 2013 Summer term. Please join us in congratulating the following students on a job well done!

Anna Patten PhD: Replenishing what is Lost: Using Supplementation to Enhance Hippocampal Function in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Supervisor: Dr. Brian Christie (DMSC)

Angela Seto MSc: Role of the a4B2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in stroke recovery

Supervisor: Dr. Craig Brown (DMSC)

Andrew Sweetnam Holmes MSc: Diabetes exacerbates the loss of dendritic spines after ischemic stroke

Supervisor: Dr. Craig Brown (DMSC)

Kara Ronellenfitch MSc: Investigating the possibility of Notch signalling in the adult retina

Supervisor: Dr. Robert Chow (Biology)

Anthony Renda MSc: Chronic Pretreatment with Nicotine is sufficient to Upregulate a4nAChRs and Increase Self-Administration of Nicotine in a Two Bottle-Choice Paradigm in Mice

Supervisor: Dr. Raad Nashmi (Biology)

Concussion Treatment

Dr. Brian Christie's work, part of a collaborative effort with researchers across Canada to improve diagnosis and treatment of concussion, particularyly in youth atheltes, received extensive coverage on local and BC-wide TV. Read more.   CBC   CTV-VI 

Teaching Award in Medical Sciences 2013

Congratulations to Dr. Bruce Crawford, this year's recipient of the Teaching Award in Medical Sciences. Dr. Crawford and other award recipients from faculties across UVic will be celebrated at the annual Learning and Teaching Centre's recognition event in February 2014.

Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience

Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne is creator and co-editor of a research topic published in Frontiers of Cellular Neuroscience. To read more, click here.

New Publication for Swayne Lab

Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne and two of her graduate students, Leigh Wicki-Stordeur and Andrew Boyce recently published; Analysis of a pannexin 2-pannexin 1 chimeric protein supports divergent roles for pannexin C-termini in cellular localization. To learn more, click here.

Team Grant - CIHR

Dr. Brian Christie is part of a new Team Grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to study mild traumatic brain injuries in children. The incidence of pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) in North America is alarmingly high, and studies suggest that mild TBI (mTBI), also know as concussion, make-up 70-80% of all cases reported. Of particular concern is that there is very little consensus among clinicians and researchers on how to diagnose and treat mTBI. Furthermore, there is a dearth of research examining the long-lasting effects of sustaining multiple mTBIs. One factor that contributes to this lack of consensus is that many clinicians and researchers use different tools or methods to collect data, thus making comparisons across sites challenging.

The goal of the mTBI Team Grant is to create a culture of national collaboration, data collection and rapid clinical uptake of innovation in discovery. The overall goal is to enhance the ability to conduct multi-centre research and provide evidence-based care across Canada that will assist in diagnoses and treatment of pediatric mTBI.

To learn more about this project, go to the CIHR website.

News Archive

For past articles take a look at our News Archive

Research grants

Dr. Brian Christie

  • 2011 NSERC RTI Grant (17K) for stereology equipment

  • 2010 Opportunities Initiative Award (Principal Investigator) Project title: Using cardiovascular exercise to elevate levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor and enhance cognition in children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)

Dr. Leigh Anne Swayne

  • CFI - LOF/BCKDF:($30,000) Live and fixed cell neuro-imaging facility, PI: Swayne - funded confocal microscope (install April 2013)
  • Victoria Heritage Foundation: Fellowships for graduate students in the area of biomedical and neuroscience. Amount awarded:$6K (January 2012-June 2012)
  • NSERC Early Career Supplement (2012-2013, $10,000) Pannexin signalling in neural progenitor cells, PI: Swayne
  • NSERC Engage Grant ($25,000, 2013) in partnership with StressMarq - Generation of novel Pannexin antibodies, PI: Swayne
  • 2011 NSERC Discovery Grant (2011-2016, $180K) Project Title: Pannexin signalling in neural progenitor cells,PI: Swayne

Dr. Craig Brown

Dr. Stephanie Willerth

  • NSERC Early Career Supplement: Tissue engineeered scaffolds for controlling induced pluripotent stem cell behaviour. Amount awarded: $5K per year (April 2011 - March 2015)
  • Victoria Heritage Foundation: Fellowships for graduate students in the area of biomedical and neuroscience. Amount awarded: $6K (January 2012 - June 2012)


2013-2014 Teaching Award in Medical Sciences Recipient

Congratulations to Kurt McBurney, senior instructor and this year's recipient of the Teaching Award in Medical Sciences 2014.

The purpose of this award is to recognize and reward excellence in teaching and education in the Division of Medical Sciences at UVic. Nominees are full-time faculty who have completed at least three consecutive years of teaching at the Island Medical Program or the Division of Medical Sciences. The award is adjudicated by the Teaching Award in Medical Sciences Committee, chaired by Dr. Darlene Hammell.

Colleagues and students remarked on Kurt's professionalism and described him as a highly effective instructor, who brings energy, grace and fun into the classroom.

Kurt will be recognized for this award, along with other award recipients from faculties across UVic, at the UVic Learning and Teaching Centre's annual recognition event in February 2015.

Please join us in congratulating Kurt on this achievement.

Kurt McBurney

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Upcoming Medical Sciences events

Message from Division Head

Links of interest

Find out more about our FASD Research Study here

Job Opportunities

Funding Opportunities

Summer 2014 IMP/DMSC Newsletter

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