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Gala honours research excellence at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Saturday, November 12, 2005 (OTTAWA, ONTARIO) - Two of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute's (OHRI) most respected researchers were honoured tonight at the Gala for Research, an annual event to celebrate research and to raise funds for the OHRI. This year's Gala, presented by Cognos, raised $150,000.

The Researcher of the Year Award went to Dr. David S. Park for his work to understand the causes and prevention of brain cell death, which leads to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Dr. Benjamin K. Tsang won the Dr. J. David Grimes Research Career Achievement Award for his research into reproductive biology-including contraception, infertility and cancers of the reproductive organs-over the past three decades.

"The OHRI at The Ottawa Hospital is at the forefront of medical research; here in Ottawa and across the country," said Dr. Ron Worton, CEO and Scientific Director of the OHRI. "Researchers like Drs. Park and Tsang are helping to further the understanding, prevention and treatment the leading causes of death and disability in our society today."

Well-known Canadian philanthropists Eric and Vizma Sprott were honorary co-chairs of this year's Gala for Research. The Sprotts have donated $2 million to stem cell research at the OHRI. Mr. Sprott announced to guests at the Gala that The Ottawa Hospital Foundation's Legacy Campaign has now reached the $73-million mark of its $100-million goal.

"Although Mr. and Mrs. Sprott live in Toronto, they understand that an investment in research in Ottawa will bring dividends for the health care of all Canadians," said Susan Doyle, President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation. "We are grateful for the support of the Sprotts and so many others like them in our community."

The Gala for Research is an annual black-tie event to recognize and support outstanding research at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, the research arm of The Ottawa Hospital. The event attracts more than 500 of Ottawa's business and community leaders.

For more information about this year's award winners, please see the biographies included below.

The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) is a multi-campus, academic health sciences centre, serving 1.5 million residents of Ottawa and Eastern Ontario, both in English and French. It provides care for more patients than any other hospital in Canada, and boasts specialty centres in cancer, heart, kidney and vision care, as well as rehabilitation services. Working together with the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, the University of Ottawa, and other partners, TOH is gaining national recognition for high-quality patient care, teaching and research. It ranks as one of the most efficient teaching hospitals in the country. For more information, visit The Ottawa Hospital Web site at

The Ottawa Hospital Foundation's mission is to inspire and enable people to support the highest quality health care at The Ottawa Hospital and world-class research at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. For more information, visit The Ottawa Hospital Foundation Web site at

For more information, please contact:

Carl Martin
Vice-President, Communications & Marketing, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation
Tel.: (613) 798-5555, ext. 17840

Jenn Paterson
Communications Manager, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Tel.: (613) 798-5555, ext.19691
Cell: 614-5253

Dr. David S. Park
Researcher of the Year Award

One of the most organized events in the life of a brain cell may, ironically, be its death. Dr. David S. Park's research has revealed that the death throes of brain cells are more like choreographed dances, with specific molecules furthering the death process in a defined sequence of events. This process is called apoptosis, which means programmed cell death or cell suicide. But what triggers a cell to commit suicide? And how can we prevent it? These are questions that inspired Dr. Park to abandon his parents' dream-that he become a physician-to become a scientist and study neuronal cell death at the molecular level in the laboratory.

Dr. Park's work has far-reaching implications. Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's are caused by inappropriate brain cell suicide. Dr. Park has become a leader in targeting scientific progress to help further the treatment of these diseases. In 2003, Dr. Park co-founded the Parkinson's Research Consortium, a unique collaboration among 11 Ottawa scientists with diverse expertise. Already, this consortium has made significant progress in understanding this disease, which affects approximately 100,000 Canadians.

While we don't know precisely what causes Parkinson's disease, Dr. Park is studying several genes that seem to play a role. At 38 years old, he has already published more than 60 scientific papers, an accomplishment that has drawn much attention and accolades. In 2003, he received the University of Ottawa Young Researcher Award and, the year before, was awarded the Young Investigator Award from the Faculty of Medicine, where he is an Associate Professor. Dr. Park has received many other awards, including the Ontario Government's Premier's Research Excellence Award (1999-2001), the Dr. Michael Smith Promising Scientist Award from the Ottawa Life Sciences Council (2000), and the GlaxoWellcome Award (1998-2004).

Dr. Park completed his PhD in Biochemistry at Rutgers University and did his postdoctoral training at Columbia University. He was recruited to the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in 1998, where he is now a Senior Scientist. He has received grants from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Parkinson's Disease Foundation U.S.A., and many other agencies.

Dr. Benjamin K. Tsang
Dr. J. David Grimes Research Career Achievement Award

Dr. Benjamin K. Tsang has worked tirelessly for more than 30 years investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms that govern the process of ovulation. He has made key discoveries about the factors that control whether ovarian cells live or die and he has found that these factors play a role in infertility and in determining the responsiveness of ovarian cancer to anti-cancer agents. He is currently studying ways to develop drugs or techniques to overcome chemo-resistance, a major therapeutic problem for ovarian cancer patients.

Ottawa is a hub of reproductive biology largely because of Dr. Tsang's incredible leadership. He is the Director of the Reproductive Biology Unit in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Ottawa, and a Senior Scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. Since his appointment 25 years ago, Dr. Tsang has organized the annual Ottawa Reproductive Biology Workshop, an important meeting place for reproductive biologists from across Canada and the United States. He is also the President of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society.

In addition to being an outstanding scientist, Dr. Tsang is considered a captivating teacher and generous mentor. He is committed to giving back to the University of Ottawa, where he received his PhD in 1976, and is now a cross-appointed professor in two departments: Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Cellular and Molecular Medicine. Throughout his career, he has trained 19 graduate students and 39 postdoctoral fellows and visiting scholars. He has also acted as a mentor for several scientists starting their careers, and many of his students have won awards for their work under his mentorship with several going on to become independent researchers. In addition to being a recipient of the University's Faculty of Medicine Award of Excellence for his research, Dr. Tsang was recently honoured for his teaching efforts with a Recognition Award for Outstanding Contributions in Medical Education.

Dr. Tsang is an ambassador for the University and the Research Institute. He was Director of Research at the former Ottawa Civic Hospital and worked with Dr. David Grimes to create the Loeb Medical Research Institute at the Civic. In addition to his extensive research collaborations abroad, he has been instrumental in establishing bilateral institutional collaborative programs and research consortia involving several universities in Canada, China and Japan. He is also an Honorary Professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and at Jinan University in China.

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