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Mentorship awards salute health science researchers


Ottawa, ON – Three different mentorship awards have been awarded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). They were awarded to Bechara Saab (graduate/postdoctoral fellow), Dr John McLean (individual researcher) and Universite Laval’s Laboratoire d’Organegenese Experimentale or LOEX (research group).

The mentorship initiative, called Synapse – Youth Connection, acts as a scientific junction that brings together health researchers and young students. More than 2,000 CIHR-funded health researchers from across the country have already signed up to become CIHR Synapse mentors. Synapse, in collaborative partnership with national science outreach organizations, connects these mentors with high school students through hands-on training experience that will help create the next generation of Canadian health researchers.

Two of the awards are worth $5,000 (graduate/postdoctoral fellow and individual researcher categories), while one is worth $10,000 (research group). They all recognize the exceptional efforts of each recipient to promote health research among Canada’s high school students. Through mentorship, each recipient regularly motivates young Canadians to consider both the value of health research as well career opportunities that exist within various scientific fields. The recipient is nominated by someone who understands its direct scientific contributions to young people, and is ultimately chosen by the members of the CIHR Youth Outreach Advisory Board.

“I strongly encourage all researchers to engage young Canadians in the excitement of health research,” says Dr Alan Bernstein, president of CIHR. “The recipients of today’s Synapse awards provide direct, scientific engagement that encourages high school students to consider health research as a career possibility. Conveying the exciting benefits of health research is essential if we are going to awaken young people to the potential for science to change their lives.”

Synapse Award – Graduate/Postdoctoral Fellow:

Bechara Saab, a PhD candidate at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital (University of Toronto affiliated research centre), encourages youth to understand health research through both school visits and hands-on training workshops organized by the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute.

Synapse Award – Individual Researcher:

Dr John McLean, a CIHR-funded professor of anatomy and neuroscience at Memorial University of Newfoundland, encourages youth to develop an interest in neuroscience through the organization of two primary competitions: Brain Storm and Brain Art. As an oral challenge, Brain Storm tests a student’s knowledge of facts related to the brain. Brain Art acts as an artistic challenge and allows a student to creatively represent the brain using hand-drawn paint or ink.

Synapse Award – Research Group:

Universite Laval’s LOEX group, represented by researchers that include Drs Francois Auger, Lucie Germain, Veronique Moulin, Francois Berthod and Francine Goulet, encourage youth to develop an interest in health research through regular high school and college lectures, involvement at science fairs, and public events. LOEX has also allowed students the chance to visit their laboratory.