Two York psychology grad students are among a group of 10 outstanding Ontario university scholars who will share more than $370,000 through the Ontario Women’s Health Scholars Awards to improve women’s health through research.
PhD student Komal Shaikh and Master’s student Shira Yufe were among the 10 researchers named by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) Wednesday morning.
“The Women’s Health Scholars Awards recognize researchers working to improve the lives of women across the province and around the world,” says David Lindsay, president and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), which administers the awards. “We thank the Ontario government for funding this research and helping to attract outstanding scholars to our universities.”
The 2016 recipients include postdoctoral, doctoral and master’s students from six Ontario universities. They each will receive scholarships of $25,000 to $50,000, along with research grants of $1,000 to $5,000. The awards were established in 2001 through funding from Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
Komal Shaikh is a PhD student in the Clinical Neuropsychology program here at York. Her research focuses on cancer-related cognitive dysfunction – cognitive difficulties, such as memory loss and lower attention span, experienced by some patients after cancer treatment. These cognitive difficulties are disproportionately felt in those cancers which mainly affect women, such as breast cancer and gynecologic cancers. Due to cognitive decline, women with these cognitive impairments often report difficulties returning to work and maintaining their relationships, which affect them economically, emotionally and interpersonally.
Women with these difficulties also often report a lack of compassion from the medical community and a desire to have their cognitive symptoms validated. Shaikh’s research will look at the effect of education-based therapy for cancer survivors with cognitive dysfunction to help treat and rehabilitate them. In a group setting, female participants with cognitive disorders following cancer treatment will learn more about the causes as well as cognitive and relaxation strategies to help manage the long-term effects of cancer treatment. Shaikh’s proposed intervention is the first group program combining rehabilitation techniques, strategies, homework and exercises with stress training for this condition.
Shira Yufe is a master’s student in the Clinical Psychology program. Her research will examine healthy lifestyle and weight management interventions for breast cancer survivors — a rapidly growing group in Canada. Breast cancer survivors who are overweight or obese are shown to have a lower quality of life and an increased risk of cancer recurrence. Yufe’s research will examine the factors influencing women’s participation in a healthy lifestyle and weight management program at the Odette Cancer Centre at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Through interviews with the participants, Yufe will investigate why some women are — or are not — successful in adopting healthier habits following breast cancer treatment. She hopes this research will inform the design and delivery of similar programs offered to women at Canadian breast cancer support facilities.
For more information on the Women’s Health Scholars Awards, see the Council of Ontario Universities announcement.