In The News

Gala To Award Excellence In Health Research

Ottawa, Ontario, October 25, 2002 – Two of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute's (OHRI) most respected researchers will be honoured October 26, 2002, at the Gala for Research, an evening of elegance and entertainment, held at the Westin Hotel.

Dr. Ron Worton, CEO and Scientific Director of the OHRI, and Vice-President of Research at The Ottawa Hospital, is proud to announce that Dr. Valerie Wallace will be presented with the Researcher of the Year Award, and that Dr. Ian Stiell will be the recipient of this year's Dr. J. David Grimes Research Career Achievement Award.

Dr. Valerie Wallace has dedicated much of her career to researching one of the great challenges in human biology – understanding the brain. Her research in molecular medicine has concentrated onto learn more on how the brain cells, or neurons, interconnect to transmit and store information. The retina, an important sensory organ, is a direct extension of the brain and its organization has a lot to teach us about brain organization and function. Dr. Valerie Wallace began studying the molecules that specify how the retina is organized while a post-doctoral research fellow in the UK at University College London. She was recruited to the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in the summer of 1998 where she has continued this important work on retinal development.

Several years of intensive research effort have paid off with Dr. Wallace’s discovery that a protein molecule named “sonic hedgehog” plays a critical role in the establishment of the organization of the retina into its distinct layers. The Wallace laboratory has demonstrated that in mice without any “sonic hedgehog” molecules the retina is totally disorganized and unlikely to be able to pass useful information to the brain. Since many human diseases involve disorganization of the retina, it is expected that Dr. Wallace’s work will have important implications for therapy aimed at the repair of injured or diseased retina and other regions of the brain.

Dr. Wallace is a scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and an Assistant Professor in the University of Ottawa Department of Ophthalmology and the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology. Researcher-of-the-Year is a fitting tribute to a “home-grown” scientist making international news with her ground-breaking work in one of the most complex areas of science.

The award for the career researcher is named after a man who was instrumental in developing hospital-based research in Ottawa, Dr. J. David Grimes. This year’s recipient of the J. David Grimes Research Career Achievement Award is Dr. Ian Stiell, one of Canada’s most distinguished Scientists. He is a Professor in the Departments of Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology, University of Ottawa and a Senior Scientist in the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

Dr. Ian Stiell began his career at the Ottawa Hospital in 1981 and soon began questioning the wisdom of conventional procedures. “To X-ray or not to X-ray” was a question he asked when confronted with acute ankle injuries. Not finding the answer in medical literature, he set out to learn the skills of a relatively new field, Clinical Epidemiology. He was able to determine what features of an injured ankle dictated the need for an X-ray and in 1992 published the results as the “Ottawa Ankle Rules”. These clinical decision rules are posted in emergency rooms around the world and dramatically reduce the time, effort and money spent on unnecessary and high volume procedures. Within four years, Dr. Stiell’s group had developed and validated a decision rule for X-ray of acute knee injury, and he has led a Canadian study to develop rules on when to do a CT scan for acute head injury and when to X-ray a cervical spine injury for trauma. These rules have the potential to save the Canadian health care system millions of dollars and to reduce emergency room over-crowding.

The Gala for Research is an evening of elegance hosted by The Ottawa Hospital Foundation. The research awards are presented and sponsored by Emond Harnden, Sun Microsystems, and Stantive Solutions. The Gala’s purpose is threefold: First, it provides an opportunity to acknowledge two researchers of distinction at The Ottawa Hospital. Secondly, it is a venue for the community to witness excellence in the Hospital’s achievements. And finally it raises over $140,000 to continue health-related research at The Ottawa Hospital.

About The Ottawa Hospital/OHRI:
The Ottawa Hospital is a 1,130-bed academic health sciences centre, affiliated with the University of Ottawa. Its services are concentrated on three campuses: the Civic (including The University of Ottawa Heart Institute), General (including The Rehabilitation Centre) and Riverside. Bringing health discoveries from bench to bedside, the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute is the research arm of the Hospital. The Ottawa Hospital is one of the largest teaching hospitals in Canada and one of the Ottawa area’s largest employers. It provides comprehensive, high quality, patient-focused health care services, in English and French, to over 1.5 million residents of eastern Ontario, and specialized and complex services for residents of northeastern Ontario. For more information, visit The Ottawa Hospital site at and the OHRI web site at

About the Ottawa Hospital Foundation:
The Ottawa Hospital Foundation was established on April 1, 2000 as a result of the merger of the foundations of the Civic and General Hospital. The Foundation is dedicated to enhancing patient care at The Ottawa Hospital’s three campuses – Civic, General and Riverside - and to supporting the outstanding research programs of The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. For more information, visit The Ottawa Hospital Foundation web site at

For more information, please contact:

Lise Blanchard
The Ottawa Hospital Foundation
(613) 798-5555, ext. 19821

Back to news