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How Ryerson University is contributing to global COVID-19 research

Funding has been secured through the Government of Canada rapid research funding competition
March 12, 2020
From left: Professors Josephine P. Wong and Lu Wang

Professors Josephine P. Wong (left) and Lu Wang will lead research projects about the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Ryerson University researchers from an array of specialist backgrounds are contributing to global efforts to address the COVID-19 outbreak after securing funding from the Canadian federal government.

Faculty members will lead studies at Ryerson examining resilience in communities affected by the outbreak and the subject of how risk perception influences behaviour. Ryerson researchers will also collaborate with universities across Canada on topics such as online misinformation, the psychological impacts of the pandemic, and how messages are presented by the media and public health agencies.

The research will produce tools to tackle emerging social and health problems, as well as supporting authorities and health care workers and establishing methods for dealing with future crises.

“Our researchers’ expertise in health care and a wide spectrum of key fields allows us to take the lead on these important research projects related to COVID-19 and collaborate with partners across Canada,” said Steven N. Liss, vice-president, research and innovation at Ryerson. “The depth of knowledge, skill and experience among our faculty enables us to respond quickly to this emerging health emergency and contribute to the global response.”

Research taking place at Ryerson

Building on lessons learned from the SARS outbreak and in response to increasing stigma, blame and racism against Chinese communities, professors Josephine P. Wong and Mandana Vahabi of the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing are working with Dr. Alan Li of the Regent Park Community Health Centre and Dr. Kenneth Fung of the University Health Network on the project PROTECH. This is a community-campus partnership to create an online resource hub that provides accurate and timely information on COVID-19 in Chinese and English. The hub also provides practical ways to cope with fear and anxiety. The team will develop and deliver an online intervention to reduce stigma and stress and promote resilience among affected groups, including individuals who have tested positive for the virus, health-care providers experiencing burnout and community leaders.

Professor Lu Wang of the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies will examine how risk perception and prevention behaviour affect individual movement among Toronto’s culturally diverse communities. The project will enhance our understanding of the social dynamics of transmission and inform public health responses and decision-making related to the identification of high-risk groups, setting vaccine priority and resource allocation.

In response to the significant toll that the COVID-19 outbreak is having on nurses and frontline health-care professionals, a multidisciplinary Ryerson team will collaborate with the University Health Network to create a tool that will help hospitals to manage staff workloads and care levels. The team includes professor Patrick Neumann, Sadeem Qureshi and Michael Grieg of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, and professors Nancy Purdy and Sue Bookey-Bassett of the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing. The researchers will work with nurses and health-care professionals to refine infection control routines. They will also develop a computer simulation that quantifies nursing workload and health-care delivery times during varying severities of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Ryerson faculty collaborations

In the area of social dynamics, communications and trust, professor Anatoliy Gruzd of the Ted Rogers School of Information Technology Management is a co-applicant on a project with Royal Roads University professor George Veletsianos. Professor Jordan Tustin of the School of Occupational and Public Health is a co-principal applicant for a study with University of Manitoba professor S. Michelle Driedger.

In the area of the public health response and its impact, professor Charlotte Lee of the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing is a co-principal applicant on a project with York University professor Aaida Mamuji, while Department of Psychology professor Lixia Yang is a co-principal applicant with Dr. Peizhong Peter Wang of Memorial University.

A total of 47 projects across medical, social and policy countermeasures research, including the Ryerson projects, are being supported by $27 million in funding.

The Government of Canada is providing the funding for this research through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) through the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and Genome Canada (GC).

Read more about the Ryerson COVID-19 research projects, external link.

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