York grad student among Ontario Women’s Health Scholars Award winners

York kinesiology and health PhD student Kara Hawkins is one of eight outstanding women at Ontario universities being awarded more than $165,000 to improve the health of women through the 2013-2014 Ontario Women’s Health Scholars Awards. Hawkins received the award for her work on the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.

Hawkins uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to compare the brain structure and function of women at increased genetic risk of Alzheimer’s disease with “age-matched” healthy individuals or controls. Hawkins tracks the two groups as they perform exercises using a novel cognitive motor integration assessment tool. She hopes the research will produce a behavioural measure for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and provide insight into the underlying brain changes Headshot_KaraHawkins-187x300associated with the very early stages of this disease.

Kara Hawkins

Her research combines both practical and theoretical experience with neuropsychology, which is inspired by her past work experience gained with the neuropsychology department at Baycrest, a geriatric research and care centre located in Toronto.

The Women’s Health Scholars Award comes as she enters the home stretch of her research project and at the end of three years of funding she received from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. “It’s motivating,” she said, “and not just for me, but for others as well.”

Administered by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), the awards were established in 2001 to ensure Ontario attracts and retains pre-eminent women’s health scholars who excel in the creation of knowledge about women’s health and translate that into better health outcomes for them. The awards are valued up to $22,000 each.

“We are proud of the many talented women scholars at Ontario universities devoted to improving the lives of women by getting to the root causes of their unique health care issues,” says Alastair Summerlee, chair of COU and president of the University of Guelph. “The important work they do contributes to healthier lives for women around the world.”

The awards were announced May 30.