head shot of Dr. Bruce Vallance
Dr. Bruce Vallance, Childhood Diseases Investigator, Director of Gut4Health, BC Children's Hospital; Professor, Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia

Dr. Bruce Vallance, a researcher at BC Children’s Hospital, is a joint principal investigator on a new national research training program that will support the next generation of trainees and early-career researchers specializing in digestive health. The team, led by Dr. Nicola Jones from SickKids Hospital, as well as Dr. Vallance and Dr. Derek McKay (University of Calgary), has been awarded $2.3 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

This CIHR grant will support the training program called “Training Researchers In The Next Generation in Gastroenterology and Liver (TRIANGLE),” in providing research and professional skills development, mentorship and experiential learning opportunities for trainees and early-career researchers in liver and gastrointestinal (GI) disease research from across Canada.

“GI and liver diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease impose huge economic costs on Canada, and they are increasing in prevalence. We are also learning more about how the GI tract, and the microbes it houses, can impact a number of other conditions, including diabetes and cancer,” says Dr. Vallance. “At the same time, our researchers and clinicians that work in these areas are ‘greying’.”

Dr. Vallance adds, “The BC Children’s community includes one of the strongest groups of experts in these fields in the country, so many of our future leaders will receive their training onsite.”

Dr. Kevan Jacobson
Dr. Kevan Jacobson, Childhood Diseases Investigator, BC Children's Hospital; Head and Clinical Professor, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia

BC Children’s investigators Dr. Kevan Jacobson and Dr. Laura Sly are also on the project steering committee.

The TRIANGLE Health Research Training Program will develop highly skilled researchers from diverse backgrounds to address knowledge gaps in gastrointestinal health and disease research. This will include summer students, PhD students, postdoctoral fellows and early-career faculty. The program will also provide training in conducting diverse and inclusive research, such as incorporating sex- and gender-based considerations in research design, analysis and translation.

Unique to the program, participants will be supported to explore a holistic spectrum of career paths related to the field such as in biotechnology, communications and policy sectors.

“Standard training at universities has largely focused on preparing trainees for jobs in academia, but

Dr. Laura Sly
Dr. Laura Sly, BC Children's Hospital investigator and professor in the division of gastroenterology in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia

only a fraction of our trainees will ultimately become academics. The other 80 to 90 per cent pursue other important careers, such as in industry, media and government. Our new training program will provide significant support for exploring these other career options,” says Dr. Vallance.

Additional funding support for TRIANGLE will be provided by the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver, and The Canadian Children Inflammatory Bowel Disease Network, a CH.I.L.D. Foundation initiative. Learn more about Health Research Training Platforms.

In addition to the TRIANGLE project, the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health and the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions announced an investment of $31.1 million over six years for a total of 13 training programs through the Health Research Training Platform. The program aims to increase Canada’s capacity to conduct research on specific disease areas and health challenges.

Credit: SickKids