Research team recognized with award for their work helping firefighters

Group photo

From left, Dennis Brescacin, Regan Bolduc, Chief Greg Hankkio,
Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Dr. Kathryn Sinden, and Deputy Chief Dave
Paxton stand together after the event.

July 15, 2021 – Thunder Bay, Ont. 

A team comprised of individuals from Lakehead University and Thunder Bay Fire Rescue gathered together on Thursday, July 15 to celebrate the Research and Innovation Award of Excellence that was announced in March. 

Their research focused on developing occupational health and safety strategies to address on-the-job exposures linked to mental health concerns.

“Our results identified how critical incident exposure manifests in psychological injury and the impacts of delivering components of the Thunder Bay Fire Rescue Critical Incident Stress Management program on members of the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT), said Dr. Kathryn Sinden, Associate Professor in Kinesiology at Lakehead University.

Dr. Sinden has spent the last few years working on this research with Chief Greg Hankkio, Thunder Bay Fire Rescue, Division Chief of Administration Dennis Brescacin from Thunder Bay Fire Rescue and President of the Thunder Bay Professional Firefighters Association, and First Class Firefighter Regan Bolduc from Thunder Bay Fire Rescue, who is the Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus Technician. 

A significant impact of the research is that Bolduc, supported by Chief Hankkio and Brescacin, has led meetings with the CIRT and Joint Health and Safety Committee to discontinue defusing as a strategy to mitigate negative effects of high exposure calls.

“As the primary knowledge user on this work, Firefighter Bolduc collaborated with the various health and safety committees within TBFR and utilized the research results to inform changes to the role and mandate of the CIRT including development of a Psychological Health and Safety Committee,” Dr. Sinden said.

The committee has replaced the CIRT and redirected focus towards identifying and providing mental health resources as support for firefighters with Thunder Bay Fire Rescue.

“Our research has also had a positive impact on TBFR and indirectly, the communities they serve,” Dr. Sinden said.

“For example, our research focus on firefighter mental health has opened discussions in the fire stations, which has aided in reducing the long-standing stigma associated with mental health in the fire service.”

This research has also informed development of an evidence-based approach for managing firefighter mental health. Protecting firefighters’ physical and mental health ensures that they can continue to serve and protect in a way that ensures a safer wider community.

“Our research has demonstrated sustainable impact within TBFR particularly with modification to the CIRT and the subsequent proposal of the Psychological Health and Safety Committee,” Dr. Sinden said.

At the Research and Innovation Awards of Excellence ceremony held virtually in March, Dr. Sinden and her research team received the Community-Engaged Research Award for their project, “Protecting those who protect us: Supporting development of a mental health management strategy for Thunder Bay Fire Rescue.”

“Congratulations to Dr. Sinden and her partners at the Thunder Bay Fire Rescue and Thunder Bay Professional Firefighters' Association for receiving the 2021 Community Engaged Research Award,” said Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Lakehead University’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation.

“This award celebrates applied research with direct outcomes for community needs, an area of research that is core to Lakehead University research and innovation. This project is an excellent example of such research, and we are certainly pleased to celebrate the achievements of this partnership,” he said.

Dr. Sinden and her team conducted this research thanks to two grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. 


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Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has 10 faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked, once again, among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities in Maclean’s 2021 University Rankings; as well as included in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2020 World Universities Rankings for the second consecutive year, and in the top 100 out of 1,115 universities from around the world in THE's 2021 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit