Vice President, Research and Senior Scientist
Our healthcare system is facing increasing pressure and critical system issues that require innovative solutions by looking at these problems in new and unprecedented ways. At Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI), many of our scientist are also clinicians, so they understand firsthand the difficulties that patients are facing and where the biggest health gaps are.
A large majority of our research focuses on improving care and outcomes for groups that have been previously underrepresented in research, including women and marginalized populations. Our scientists continue to investigate current problems and anticipate future challenges in healthcare, to inspire real change and innovations in patient care that impact clinical practice and improve health – both locally and globally.
At Women’s College Hospital (WCH), WCRI scientists have developed new specialized clinics informed by their research – such as the Hidradenitis Suppurativa Clinic and Cardio-Rheumatology Clinic – that are transforming care for complex patients whose needs are not currently being met within our healthcare system. Another very influential group first established at WCH is the Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit, which has been at the forefront of research on hereditary breast and ovarian cancers for over 20 years and has informed current prevention and treatment recommendations worldwide.
As vice-president, research at WCH, Dr. Paula Rochon is leading the scientists at WCRI in their quest to revolutionize healthcare. Informed by her experience as a geriatrician, Dr. Rochon’s research is helping address the unique needs of older adults – the most rapidly growing age demographic in Canada. A leading Canadian health researcher in geriatric medicine, Dr. Rochon’s work explores how to promote healthy aging in older adults, particularly women, by applying a sex and gender lens to aging research at the population level. Specifically, her work has informed initiatives to reduce the unnecessary use of drug therapy and has led to the development of the prescribing cascade concept.
In 2015, Dr. Rochon was appointed as the inaugural Retired Teachers of Ontario Chair in Geriatric Medicine at the University of Toronto and has built a diverse team of trainees and investigators dedicated to improving the health and wellness of older adults, while recognizing potential challenges such as loneliness and caregiving. By training the next generation of aging researchers, our healthcare system will be better equipped to tackle the challenges ahead in achieving healthy aging for all Canadians.
Dr. Rochon has also taken a key leadership role in furthering WCRI’s unique emphasis on the impact of sex and gender differences in ensuring health equity. WCRI promotes the use of SGBA+ (sex- and gender-based analysis plus) across all health research; acknowledging that both biology and society influence our health and well-being in distinct yet interrelated ways. The ‘plus’ in SGBA+ points to the many other social determinants like stable employment, safe housing and food security that can impact a person’s health. These ideas are at the heart of the work our team of WCRI scientists are doing – from research design to measurement, analysis and implementation.
“What many people don’t know, is that sex and gender influence our risk of developing certain diseases, how well we respond to medical treatments, and how often we seek care,” notes Dr. Rochon. “The more we understand about how sex and gender affect health, the more we can do to improve health and well-being for everyone.”
This equity-focused approach to research is helping us achieve our bold vision to create a healthier, more equitable world for everyone.