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Medical researcher gets $270,000 in funding

Dr. Rob Olson, a Northern Medical Program faculty member, will receive up to $270,000 in funding over three years from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) as part of its inaugural Health Professional-Investigator Program. Dr. Olson is one of 11 recipients for the 2017 awards, and the only researcher from northern B.C.

Through this grant, Dr. Olson will examine the use of new advanced radiation therapy techniques for cancer that has spread to the bone. The research will compare patients’ reported outcomes of both treatment benefits and side effects, and will compare differences in use and availability of these techniques across Canada, starting with a partnership in the three Atlantic Canadian provinces.

“We are interested in studying patient feedback about treatment received to help guide cancer service delivery,” said Dr. Olson, radiation oncologist and department head at the BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North; division head of radiation oncology, Department of Surgery, UBC Faculty of Medicine; and associate professor in the Northern Medical Program. “The focus will be on determining if efficiencies in service can be improved, while also helping to enhance care and quality of life by identifying patients most likely to benefit from advanced radiotherapy techniques, such as stereotactic ablative radiotherapy.”

Key partners include UNBC, UBC and the BC Cancer Agency. Dr. Olson will also work with stakeholders from across Canada, including the Canadian Partnership for Quality Radiotherapy, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, and various Canadian universities and cancer care health agencies.

“Clinically active health professionals have an intimate understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with improving patient care, but often lack the support required to apply that knowledge in a research setting. We developed the health professional-investigator award to help fill that gap,” said Dr. Bev Holmes, interim president & CEO, MSFHR.


  • The MSFHR Health Professional-Investigator Program supports health professionals who are actively involved in patient care to conduct and apply research relevant to health and/or the health system: It is part of MSFHR’s suite of new funding programs launched in 2016/17.
  • By using patient-reported outcomes, Dr. Olson’s research will be able to include input from rural and remote patients who would otherwise not have the opportunity to participate if a clinical trial based research approach had been used
  • This research will build on the Prospective Outcomes of Support Initiative Dr. Olson leads at the BC Cancer Agency, and research his team has performed on prescribing practices in radiation oncology across Canada.


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