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Dawn Kingston (RN PhD), associate professor at the Faculty of Nursing, is the recipient of The Lois Hole Hospital for Women Cross-Provincial Chair in Perinatal Mental Health.

Photo by Adrian Shellard 

The Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation in Edmonton and the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Nursing have joined to fund research into anxiety and depression in pregnant women and the long term outcomes on their health and the health of their children.

The Lois Hole Hospital for Women Cross-Provincial Chair in Perinatal Mental Health partners academic research in Calgary with clinical care at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women, and brings together the areas of nursing, obstetrics and psychiatry. Researchers attached to the chair will look at mental health issues that can arise during pregnancy and postpartum — known as perinatal mental health — and the impact this can have on families and communities. They’ll also work with couples dealing with fertility challenges and women coping with pregnancy loss.

“The University of Calgary is committed to advancing meaningful research in the communities we lead and serve, and is dedicated to working with community partners to make a significant impact in the lives of Albertans,” says University of Calgary Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Dru Marshall. “Academic research is not accomplished alone. We’re grateful to the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation for their vision and commitment to advancing research in women’s health, specifically the area of perinatal mental health.”

Faculty of Nursing Dean Dianne Tapp agrees. “Our five research chairs have been created through trusting partnerships with our community-collaborative community partnerships that fulfil our research mission and assist our communities in making Alberta a better, healthier place.”

Chair recipient, associate professor Dawn Kingston, is a noted researcher whose been working in the perinatal mental health area for more than 10 years. New evidence is shifting the understanding of perinatal mental health globally, she explains. “We used to think that the main mental health problem was postpartum depression. But the science doesn’t support that anymore, and how we set up our mental health system and direct our resources should follow the science.”

Kingston continues: “This gift offers the opportunity to continue building the science upon which we can found a universal system of perinatal mental health care so that all women can receive the care they need and so we can improve the lives of Albertan, and Canadian families.”

Andrew Otway, president and CEO of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, says donor support for the exciting and innovative work taking place at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women made the hospital a natural fit for the research opportunity.

“Mental health research and programs at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women have benefitted greatly from the support of Shoppers Drug Mart’s Run for Women, held each spring in Edmonton. This is the exciting next step in the evolution and growth of this research. Thanks to Shoppers Drug Mart, Lois Hole Hospital for Women is able to take part in this cross-provincial initiative. The Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation is so pleased to work with our community and the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Nursing to advance women’s health research across the province,” says Otway.

“We know that to build the best women’s hospital in Canada, research must be a strong component of our mission. Our decision to support the creation of this chair continues to emphasize our pledge to the Lois Hole Hospital for Women in support of its work as a research-integrated institution.”

Last June, the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation made a renewed commitment of $14.5 million to the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute (WCHRI), a formal institute of the University of Alberta.

“Research drives innovation and quality improvement so, as a learning organization, Alberta Health Services is pleased to be part of this important work,” says Dr. Verna Yiu, AHS President and CEO. “More than 55,000 newborns were delivered in our facilities last year and, if we can better understand how to support a mother’s mental wellness, we have the opportunity to improve the lives of tens of thousands of families every year.”