Collaborative space builds relationships, boosts research in the north


On a quiet corner of Lakehead’s campus, the Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research has been operating successfully as an independently funded research centre since 2013, offering workspace and expertise for collaborative, high quality and high impact research.
Under the direction of Dr. Christopher Mushquash, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Mental Health and Addiction, the Centre focuses on northern and rural health issues and acts as a critical link between academia and community partners, including Indigenous organizations and several First Nations.
Offering research support and a physical workspace for collaboration and meetings, the Centre helps to launch and monitor 4–5 new multi-disciplinary research projects each year – work that provides important evidence to policy makers, planners and decision-makers for understanding and delivering effective, socially just health services.
“What we do involves a lot of relationship building, and we’re pretty proud of the success we’ve had making those links,” says Dr. Mary Ellen Hill, the Centre’s Senior Researcher and only full-time staff person. Working directly with a team of 9 part-time staff, 26 affiliated investigators, and 12 community partners, Dr. Hill plays a central role in developing and implementing the Centre’s large-scale collaborative projects.
With help from the Research Support Fund, the Centre is able to extend its capacity to develop high quality, large-scale funding applications on behalf of faculty co-investigators and community partners. In each case, over the span of several months, Dr. Hill supports these projects by bringing together the research team, partners and staff to develop research plans, methodologies, evaluation, and integrated knowledge processes for the health services under study.
“Mary Ellen’s role is essential in the development of high quality research partnerships and funding applications characteristic of the Centre,” says Dr. Mushquash. “The Research Support Fund allows us the financial flexibility to be able to support our partners in this research development.”
In addition to its research mandate, the Centre also provides part-time employment opportunities to current and recently graduated Master’s and PhD students, placing them in roles that further develop their practical skills in research and evaluation.
“The Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research is doing really valuable, really unique work to address the gaps in healthcare and delivery here in Northern Ontario and other underserved regions of the country,” says Anne Klymenko, Director of Research Services at Lakehead University. “The Research Support Fund is essential to ensuring that the Centre’s doors remain open so they can continue creating new and high quality opportunities for northern and rural research and communities.”
The Research Support Fund is a federal funding program for post-secondary institutions in Canada to support some of the costs associated with managing research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
In 2018/19, Lakehead University is receiving nearly $2 million in assistance from the Research Support Fund to support the indirect costs of research, including intellectual property, research management and administration, ethics and regulatory compliance, research resources, and research facilities.