Patty Wellborn



A person stepping on a scale to measure their body weight.

While many people may try the do-it-yourself approach when it comes to dieting, new UBCO research says a paid program could yield better results.

For people trying to improve their health and lose weight by themselves—privately tracking and journaling meals and exercise—new research from UBC Okanagan suggests it is time to call in the professionals.

Dr. Lesley Lutes’ latest research paper, published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, suggests people trying to make lifestyle changes are more successful when they use a commercial weight loss program compared to those trying to do it on their own. She is the Director of UBC’s Centre for Obesity and Well-Being Research Excellence and studies behavioural change programs aimed at improving physical and emotional health and personal happiness.

“Given the prevalence of obesity, accessible and effective treatment options are needed to manage obesity and its comorbid conditions including heart disease and pre-diabetes,” she says. “Evidence-based commercial weight management programs are a potential solution to the lack of available treatment and considerably cheaper than a clinic-based approach.”

But, she notes, very few commercial programs have been rigorously evaluated, making it difficult for doctors to refer patients to for-profit programs due to a lack of evidence-based success rates.

While there are hundreds of commercial weight loss programs available—only six meet the United States Preventive Services Taskforce criteria—the quality and success rate, along with behavioural and nutritional components, isn’t well known by health-care providers.

Even fewer of these programs integrate cognitive, affective and behavioural factors—seen as critical elements of care and supported as the basic standard of any care.

As a result, she says, doctors are reluctant to refer patients to commercial programs.

The Canadian Medical Association clinical practice guidelines released in 2020 state that obesity care should be based on evidence-based principles of chronic disease management and must validate patients lived experiences.

“Essentially, obesity care needs to move beyond the simplistic approaches of ‘eat less, move more,’” she says. “To be successful it must address the root drivers of obesity.”

Dr. Lutes was one of the lead investigators who conducted a year-long study in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. More than 370 participants were randomly assigned into two groups—half to a commercial weight management program and the remaining to a do-it-yourself (DIY) group.

The DIY participants were provided with common weight-loss approaches—including strategies, diet tracking, self-monitoring apps, meal plans and physical activity—then essentially left to their own devices.

Those in the commercial program were encouraged to attend weekly workshops that included a private weight assessment and discussed successes, problem-solving and topics related to weight loss and behaviour change. Participants also had access to an app, which included minimal self-monitoring of intake, activity and weight along with articles, around-the-clock support and an online community.

“One of the features of the commercial program used in this study was that self-monitoring was simplified to be less burdensome,” Dr. Lutes says. “Participants did not need to weigh, measure or track more than 200 foods, simplifying the process as much as possible.”

At three and 12 months, participants in both groups were assessed. Those randomized to the commercial weight management program lost more than twice as much weight and reduced their waist circumference by a greater percentage compared to those in the DIY group.

There were also secondary benefits for both groups including improvements in blood pressure, heart rate, aerobic stamina, flexibility and sleep.

Dr. Lutes emphasizes two key takeaways. First, the researchers determined adults assigned to a globally available commercial weight management program had greater success at three months. And, importantly, they felt supported and were able to maintain and continue that weight loss across 12 months. Those using the DIY approach had fewer successes.

She also notes this research provides a tool for care providers and policy-makers who see obesity as a serious health concern.

“This information can help me advocate the government about one of the many ways they can support patients in our province to improve health and wellbeing,” she says. “Perhaps our leaders can think about subsidizing access to commercial weight-loss programs that are proven effective. It could be a major step in helping achieve desperately needed improved health outcomes.”

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A photo of the Canadian flag looking over Ottawa

The UBC Centre for Constitutional Law and Legal Studies will offer a speaker series, workshops and conferences geared towards students, faculty members and the legal community.

What: The Charter at 40: Landmark Cases in Four Decades of Supreme Court Jurisprudence
Who: Supreme Court of Canada Justice Suzanne Côté
When: Thursday, September 8, from 4 to 6 pm
Where: University Centre Ballroom (UNC 200), 3272 University Way, Kelowna, or via livestream

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms turned 40 this spring. To honour its anniversary and celebrate the recent creation of the UBC Centre for Constitutional Law and Legal Studies, UBCO will host its first public lecture on Thursday, September 8.

The lecture will see Justice Suzanne Côté, appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2014, address landmark cases around defining rights and freedoms, reasonable limits and also define the scope of charter protections and remedies.

This public lecture is the first in a series of events hosted by the newly founded UBC Centre for Constitutional Law and Legal Studies. The centre is based in UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and includes affiliates from UBC Vancouver, the Allard School of Law and elsewhere.

“The UBC Centre for Constitutional Law and Legal Studies will offer a speaker series, workshops and conferences geared towards students, faculty members, the legal community and anyone else interested in legal issues,” says Dr. Andrew Irvine, Assistant Director of the centre and Professor in the Department of Economics, Philosophy and Political Science.

The centre will also serve as an intellectual home to UBC faculty and others working on research connected to constitutional law, constitutionalism, the rule of law, separation of powers, rights and liberties, the philosophy of law and related legal topics.

The event begins at 4 pm in UBCO’s University Centre Ballroom and is free and open to all, with pre-registration required.

To register, or learn more about the centre and upcoming events, visit:

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Healthcare Assistance in a home helping an Indigenous woman

A UBCO researcher is calling attention to a gap in health equality for Indigenous women who live off-reserve.

A UBC Okanagan researcher is calling attention to the looming gap in health equality when it comes to Indigenous populations living off-reserve in Canada.

Specifically, Indigenous women.

New research by Assistant Professor Dr. Min Hu confirms that a particular population group has the worst health outcomes of any resident in Canada.

“The statistics are clear. Indigenous males have better health outcomes than Indigenous females,” he says. “However, we already know Indigenous people have worse health than many other populations in Canada. And my research finds Indigenous women have the worst of the worst when it comes to health conditions.”

Dr. Hu, who teaches economics in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, calls this a serious gap in health equality.

For this paper, published recently in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, Dr. Hu compared data collected from four cycles of Aboriginal People Surveys (APS) collected from 2001 to 2017. Each APS is a large, nationally representative cross-sectional survey of more than 20,000 Indigenous peoples living off-reserve and participants were asked to self-assess their health with ratings from poor to excellent.

Dr. Hu then took that data and examined the answers between male and female participants.

“This is the first time a study investigates the difference in gender health of Canada’s Indigenous people,” Dr. Hu says. “And each survey presents the same—and quite clear picture—that Indigenous women who live off-reserve, do not have the same positive health outcomes as their male counterparts.”

What’s also concerning, he notes, is the statistics have worsened over time. The gap increased from 1.5 per cent to 5.3 per cent in 2012 and a further 2.7 per cent in 2017.

“As a nation, we seem to pay attention to the overall Indigenous populations and now I’m looking at the socioeconomic point of view of these statistics,” he says. “I’m hoping this paper gets the attention of policy-makers to look at this very real gap in health equality.”

There are other ways to indirectly close the health gap between genders, he says, specifically looking at educational and career opportunities for women that could improve their employment prospects and household incomes. These main socioeconomic factors will determine a person’s health.

He suggests federal leaders could explore employment opportunities for women, while also examining such policies as the Canadian Child Benefit and other tax credits or social welfare programs to help lessen the gap.

“As an economist, I look at how socioeconomic factors affect the health outcomes of Indigenous Canadians,” he adds. “We know increasing income would improve health outcomes, and we know improving employment opportunities would make a difference. Now we need to act on this knowledge.”

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A girl who is experiencing bullying at high school

New UBCO research confirms a brief text-based conversation with a trained counsellor can help users to feel safe and de-escalate a mental health crisis.

Can a text conversation provide the support needed when someone is seeking help during a mental health breakdown?

New research from UBC Okanagan is saying yes, crisis text lines are useful and effective.

Dr. Susan Holtzman, who teaches psychology in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, explains that mental health crisis services have expanded recently beyond telephone hotlines to include communication methods such as live chat and texting.

Dr. Holtzman notes there is growing pressure in Canada to create one three-digit suicide crisis hotline which would be similar to the one launched recently in the United States. If implemented in Canada, not only would it be easier for Canadians to immediately access help, it would also confirm that Canada sees mental health care and suicide prevention as serious matters of concern.

“Every year, millions of people all over the world reach out to crisis text lines,” Dr. Holtzman says. “However, because crisis text lines are anonymous, very little is known about the user experience. And despite rising mental health problems worldwide and a high uptake of crisis text line services, they remain understudied.”

Dr. Holtzman’s team, led by clinical psychology doctoral student Alanna Coady, turned to Twitter posts to examine how crisis text lines users responded to their experiences with the crisis lines.

Analyzing 776 tweets the research team examined six main themes including approval, helpful or unhelpful counselling, service delivery issues, accessibility and whether the service suits multiple mental health needs.

Overall, results determined text-based crisis support works, as many users reported positive experiences of effective counselling including helpful coping skills, de-escalation and reduction of harm.

“The goal of this project was to gather first-hand accounts of people who use crisis text lines to better understand the benefits and limitations of these services,” explains Coady. “Many users preferred the discreetness of texting over calling a crisis line, and the majority of tweets indicated that users found the service helpful.”

However, she notes there are drawbacks to texting crisis lines, including long wait times. Users also noted that some responses from counsellors were described as cliché, overly scripted or invalidating. This could be somewhat related to the texting platform, she explains, which can be more prone to misunderstandings.

“While some people may encounter negative reviews of crisis text lines on social media, our findings suggest that positive experiences are much more common and users report a wide range of benefits, including feelings of validation and concrete coping strategies,” Coady adds. “Overall, crisis text lines appear to be a promising method of delivering crisis support.”

Dr. Holtzman notes the study, published recently in Internet Interventions, did not make a direct comparison between telephone and text-based crisis lines. The purpose of the research was to examine user response. Results also identified areas for improvement, particularly ensuring more timely service delivery and effective communication of empathy.

“Our findings highlight that more research is needed to understand how we can effectively communicate empathy and understanding through texting,” she says. “At the same time, this research suggests that even a brief text-based conversation with a trained counsellor can lead users to feel safe and supported during their darkest hours. Given the many barriers to mental health treatment in our society, as well as the further strain caused by the pandemic, text-based crisis lines warrant much more attention from researchers than they have been given in the past.”

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A photo of psilocybin mushrooms

A new UBCO study found that microdosing psilocybin demonstrated greater improvements in mood, mental health and psychomotor ability for participants.

The latest study to examine how tiny amounts of psychedelics can impact mental health provides further evidence of the therapeutic potential of microdosing.

Published in Nature-Scientific Reports this week, the study followed 953 people taking regular small amounts of psilocybin and a second group of 180 people that were not microdosing. This research, led by UBC Okanagan’s Dr. Zach Walsh and doctoral student Joseph Rootman is the latest study to come from the project.

For the 30-day study, participants were asked to complete a number of assessments that tap into mental health symptomology, mood and measures of cognition. For example, a smartphone finger tap test was integrated into the study to measure psychomotor ability, which can be used as a marker for neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson’s disease.

Those microdosing demonstrated greater improvements in mood, mental health and psychomotor ability over the one-month period compared to non-microdosing peers who completed the same assessments.

“This is the largest longitudinal study of this kind to date of microdosing psilocybin and one of the few studies to engage a control group,” says Dr. Walsh, who teaches in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. “Our findings of improved mood and reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress add to the growing conversation about the therapeutic potential of microdosing.”

Large doses of psychedelic psilocybin mushrooms have a long history of use among some Indigenous peoples and are prized in Western culture for their psychedelic effects, explains Dr. Walsh. They were also labelled an illicit substance during the American-led “war on drugs.” But recent interest has expanded from large dose psychedelic use—known for creating dramatic alterations in mood and consciousness—to the potential therapeutic application of smaller microdoses. Amounts so small they minimally interfere with daily functioning.

The project is conducted by an international team including Dr. Pam Kryskow from UBC Vancouver, Maggie Kiraga and Dr. Kim Kuypers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, American mycologist Paul Stamets, and Kalin Harvey and Eesmyal Santos-Brault of the Quantified Citizen health research platform.

Microdosing involves regular self-administration in doses small enough to not impair normal cognitive functioning. The doses can be as small as 0.1 to 0.3 grams of dried mushrooms and taken three to five times a week.

The most widely reported substances used for microdosing are psilocybin mushrooms and LSD. Psilocybin mushrooms are considered non-addictive and relatively non-toxic—especially when compared to tobacco, opioids and alcohol.

“Our findings of mood and mental health improvements associated with psilocybin microdosing align with previous studies of psychedelic microdosing, and add to them through the use of a longitudinal study design and large sample that allowed us to examine consistency of effects across age, gender and their mental health,” says Rootman.

The comparisons of microdosers to non-microdosers over the one-month period of the study indicated greater improvements among microdosers when asked about their mood, depression, anxiety and stress, he explains. Analyses of the finger tap test showed that microdosers demonstrated a more positive change in performance than non-microdosers, particularly among people over the age of 55.

“Despite the promising nature of these findings, there is a need for further research to more firmly establish the nature of the relationship between microdosing, mood and mental health, and the extent to which these effects are directly attributable to psilocybin rather than participant expectancies about the substance,” says Dr. Walsh.

The study was not designed to investigate the potential influence of participant expectancy on microdose outcomes, but the authors note this is a necessary advancement in the field.

“Considering the tremendous health costs and ubiquity of depression and anxiety, as well as the sizable proportion of patients who do not respond to existing treatments, the potential for another approach to addressing these disorders warrants substantial consideration,” Rootman says.

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Asian boy watching colorful bright tablet screen in dark

While it is recommended toddlers have less than one hour of screen time per day, UBCO researchers suspect that number might be higher. They are investigating how screen time might affect a child’s sleep.

Young children and the amount of screen time they enjoy has always been a controversial issue. And now, after living with COVID-19 for more than two years, a team of UBC Okanagan researchers is taking a second look at how much screen time young kids are getting and how this impacts their sleep and the family dynamics.

There’s no doubt screen time has increased in households across North America during the pandemic, says Associate Professor Dr. Susan Holtzman. After two years of living in isolation and dealing with remote work, home learning and socialization through video chats and gaming, it is time, she says, to take a fresh look at screen habits and how it’s impacting lives.

Dr. Holtzman, who teaches psychology in the Irving K Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and Dr. Elizabeth Keys, an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing have launched a new study to determine how screen time and sleep habits may have shifted during the pandemic. They want to know what this means for families now, and in the future.

Dr. Keys explains why this research matters and why parents should tune in.

According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, children between the ages of two and five should use screens for less than one hour per day. But you suspect screen time is much higher, especially since the pandemic began. What’s changed?

Many parents have shifted temporarily or permanently to working from home. While this has had a number of advantages, it has also put parents in the tricky position of balancing work with caring for children who could not attend school or daycare due to actual or potential COVID-19 symptoms.

As a parent myself, I know that everyone has been doing the best they can. But some young children may have gotten used to having more screen time. Now that restrictions are lifting significantly, this is a good time to take another look at the habits that may have formed over the past two years to see how we can better support parents of young children.

What is the connection between a child’s screen time and sleep?

How screen time impacts the sleep of children is a fascinating area of research that is relevant to so many families. Some studies have linked more screen time with less sleep. One reason is that screen time can delay bedtimes. Another possible reason is that screen time can replace daytime physical activity—and we know being more active during the day can help with getting better sleep at night.

This new research looks at mothers and children aged two to five. Why that specific age?

Early childhood is a critical period for physical, social and emotional development—as well as the development of healthy habits. My research focuses on improving sleep health to promote healthy relationships in children and their families, starting in early childhood.

Sleep difficulties are very common in families of children under the age of five. These sleep difficulties can often disrupt parental sleep. In particular, we know the COVID-19 pandemic has been quite hard on mothers, who are already at increased risk of having sleeping difficulties. We all know how important a good night’s sleep is for our mental and physical wellbeing.

Why now?

We did a similar study in 2019 and more than 450 local parents participated. We are doing the survey again to look at the impact that COVID has had on the lives of families with young children. We are especially interested in looking at changes to sleep, screen time and family relationships. Are people less concerned about screen time? Is it seen as more normative? Has sleep changed in children and their mothers, who have had to juggle so many stressors over the last two years? What has been the impact on our family relationships?

To help with our research, we are looking for about 200 mothers of children aged two to five in the Central Okanagan to fill out a brief online survey located at:

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A photo of Dr. Rob Shaw playing wheelchair tennis

Dr. Rob Shaw, one of Canada’s top wheelchair tennis players, is UBC Okanagan’s 2022 recipient of the Governor General Gold Medal.

Some might think it’s a bit ironic that the winner of UBC Okanagan’s Governor General Gold Medal is already a gold-medal-winning athlete.

But Dr. Rob Shaw, who graduates this week with his Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies, can quickly explain how much hard work goes into earning an honour of this calibre. Dr. Shaw is a wheelchair tennis player who won a gold medal at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Peru. He is the highest-ranked member of the Canadian wheelchair tennis team and last summer he competed in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

He didn’t get there without a lot of hard work. The same could be said of his accomplishment at UBCO.

Dr. Shaw is the highest-ranked graduate student at UBCO, an honour that has earned him the Governor General’s gold medal.

“Looking at past winners I can’t help but feel humbled by this award,” he says. “Five years ago, my supervisor and I committed to completing a PhD that would make an impact beyond the silos of academia and extend into the community to benefit people living with spinal cord injuries. I’d like to think that this award reflects that we achieved that goal.”

While earning his doctoral degree, his research focused on how peer mentorship can improve the health and wellbeing of people who have incurred a spinal cord injury. While his supervising professor Dr. Kathleen Martin Ginis describes his research as exemplary, she notes he has also become an internationally respected scientist and a community leader.

Throughout his degree, Dr. Martin Ginis says he has embraced an interdisciplinary spirit, but his impact extends beyond the traditional walls of academia and into the community. His leadership and expertise are frequently sought out by local, national and international organizations, and he has an unwavering commitment to examining and resolving pressing societal issues.

“An excellent scientist can produce a lot of great research. But an excellent scientific leader finds the potential in people and has the courage to inspire and support them. Rob has achieved excellence and acclaim as both a scientist and scientific leader,” she adds. “Through his research and leadership, and his outstanding global citizenship, Rob is making the world a better place.”

Dr. Shaw, however, says this award is only possible thanks to the support from Dr. Martin Ginis and others he has worked with along his doctoral journey.

“I am extremely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish, and I owe this award to her, my lab mates, my community partners, and most importantly to my participants who allowed me into their world so that I could try to make a real difference in their lives.”

Dr. Shaw has been described by Dr. Martin Ginis as an outspoken champion of equity, diversity and inclusion.

“He consistently reminds and challenges all of us to think about inclusion and accessibility in how we conduct and share our research with others.”

The importance of inclusion is also reflected in both the name and the criteria of the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation. This week it will be presented to UBC Okanagan student Azzah Al Zahra Farras, who just completed her Bachelor of Arts with a joint major in philosophy, political science and economics.

Shortly after arriving at UBCO in 2018, Farras established a campus-wide chapter of Amnesty International and began hosting conferences and events to examine local and international issues. She coordinated weekly sessions where students could discuss international injustices, while creating a safe space for marginalized students to share their stories and discuss opportunities for students to engage in change.

“Through the Amnesty International chapter, we created opportunities for students on campus to share issues about human rights, protection, justice and conflicts that they care about from their own country,” says Farras, explaining the students had engaging conversations about many issues including the farmer’s protest in India, Tibetan rights to self-determination, the Palestinian rights, and democratic rights for people living in Thailand.

“I am surrounded by a very international community at UBCO and it’s something we should all look forward to in universities,” she adds. “I have a lot of friends from different countries that support me and also celebrate my culture and my beliefs and values as I celebrate theirs. That’s what I’m really happy about.”

In September 2021, she joined the UBC Okanagan Library team as a student representative of the UBC’s Inclusion Action Plan and Indigenous Strategic Plan, where she independently developed projects to highlight Arab, Muslim, Asian, Indigenous and Black voices in literature and academia. Farras built multiple book displays at the library and designed digital LibGuide sites that list resources based on each theme, granting students information and access regardless of their location during COVID-19.

Farras recalls the day when a student approached the service desk and tearfully thanked the library staff saying how encouraging it was to see students with hijabs represented at the library and it helped make her feel included.

“For me, this was a full-circle moment,” says Farras. “Although I did feel isolated in my first year, I was able to change that situation for younger hijab-wearing students. I believe these efforts transpired important representation at UBCO. It raises important conversations on institutionalized racism and discrimination against marginalized groups. I am honoured to be a part of that shift.”

UBCO Librarian Christian Isbister says Farras worked tirelessly to engage the campus community and bring awareness to diverse voices in the library collection. Her book displays were always popular and well-received, and her work on the Book Fairies project helped encourage reading of more diverse authors, including Indigenous, Black, Asian and Arab writers.

“Azzah has dedicated herself to the promotion of inclusion on our campus,” says Isbister. “At the library, she demonstrated great leadership in developing initiatives to highlight diverse voices in our collection, and foster a sense of welcome and belonging for students belonging to marginalized communities. It was a pleasure to get to work with Azzah, and her presence in the library will be greatly missed.”

Also, this week, Anna Bernath, who just completed her Bachelor of Science degree with concentrations in biochemistry and molecular biology, was awarded the Pushor Mitchell Gold Medal Leadership Prize.

The $10,000 prize is the largest donor-funded award available to graduating Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science students. The award recognizes a student who has excelled academically and demonstrated leadership while earning their degree.

Bernath joined Dr. Andis Klegeris’ Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology Lab as a volunteer research assistant, and contributed upwards of 250 hours in the facility. She also conducted research studying the role of microglia—immune cells of the brain—in Alzheimer’s disease. When not in the lab or studying, she worked as a teaching assistant, acting as a liaison between faculty and students.

“I have immense gratitude for the faculty, staff and UBCO colleagues who created invaluable opportunities for growth and leadership, and I hope I made a lasting impact on junior students and excited them about research endeavours,” says Bernath.

The Pushor Mitchell LLP Gold Medal Leadership Award has been presented to a student at UBCO since 2009, explains Andrew Brunton, Managing Partner at Pushor Mitchell.

“Pushor Mitchell is very pleased to see another deserving student receive this award,” says Brunton.  “Our firm has been supporting this prestigious award at UBC Okanagan for 13 years now, presented to students based on both academic excellence and community leadership. We applaud this year’s recipient Anna Bernath and wish her luck with her career in neuroscience research.”

Farras and Bernath will be recognized as they cross the stage at Thursday’s convocation while Dr. Shaw will receive his medal Friday morning.

Other University of British Columbia medal (top of class) winners are:

  • UBC Medal in Arts: Abhineeth Adiraju
  • UBC Medal in Education: Anica McIntosh
  • UBC Medal in Engineering: Rachel May
  • UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Amelia Ford
  • UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Kenedy Olsen
  • UBC Medal in Management: Jo-Elle Craig
  • UBC Medal in Media Studies: Jordan Pike
  • UBC Medal in Nursing: Camryn McCrystal
  • UBC Medal in Science: Megan Greenwood

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A photo of Associate Professor Christine Schreyer and fourth-year anthropology student Kayla Jakuboski.

UBCO’s Christine Schreyer works with fourth-year anthropology student Kayla Jakuboski on the Wikipedia page dedicated to Slavey Jargon.

For the past 20 years, people have turned to the online resource Wikipedia for the answer to almost anything. However, because Wikipedia is a site that can be modified by anybody, it has earned a bad reputation for being the wrong place to get the right information.

Dr. Christine Schreyer is an Associate Professor and linguistic anthropologist in UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. In her fourth-year course on language emergence, she teaches her students how Wikipedia works, why people think it’s an unreliable source and how to improve and edit Wikipedia articles.

Since 2017, her students have added 772 references to the 108 Wikipedia articles they have edited and also created nine new Wikipedia articles about minoritized—endangered and contact—languages. As an instructor, Dr. Schreyer discusses why Wikipedia deserves a second look, and why people should be comfortable adding and editing content.

Can you explain why many schools and universities tell students to stay away from Wikipedia?

Wikipedia articles are often not considered a reliable source since they can be edited by anyone and, at times, information is presented without citations. This lack of citation makes it hard for students to determine where the information comes from, if there are any biases and how to cite it in their academic papers. However, if students learn what makes a good Wikipedia article, they can use it as a starting point for further academic research.

Why do you teach people to use and edit Wikipedia? How does it help your students?

Many people use Wikipedia every day as their go-to source for quick information, but very few actually know how to read Wikipedia’s editing history or the conversations about the edits on the article on the “talk” page. By following Wiki Education tutorials and editing their articles themselves, students develop these skills along with critical thinking skills so they can judge if an article is a quality one or not. 

You’ve said your students have made impressive improvements to Wikipedia. How so?

In my courses, students write papers about minoritized languages, also known as pidgins and creoles. In many cases, very little academic research is available to the public about these languages. However, as the students have access to this information through UBC’s library, they can add these references to the Wikipedia articles, improving them immensely so that they become more reliable sources for other users.

Can you provide an example?

The article my students and I collaboratively worked on while learning the process of editing was the article formerly known as “Broken Slavey”—featuring a language spoken mainly by Indigenous Peoples in the 19th century. In class, we learned that descriptors such as “broken” are inappropriate and often come from colonial ideologies about language. We updated the article’s title to “Slavey Jargon,” which is what it is known as in the most recent academic literature. The article had a warning template on it before we began, which said, “This article includes a list of general references, but it remains largely unverified because it lacks sufficient corresponding inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations.”

This is exactly what we did. We removed plagiarism that had come from one of our own class readings, and we updated the article with more information and citations. Our work can be viewed at:

How would you recommend other instructors include Wikipedia in their courses?

I would absolutely suggest that instructors use the resources and expertise from Wiki Education. The tutorials provide instructors, as well as students, the resources they need to learn about editing Wikipedia. It is immensely satisfying for students to see how they are helping improve Wikipedia together through the stats that are tracked on the class dashboard. Students can see the impact they are having in real time, in the real world.

I encourage people to take a look at the work we edited on this Wikipedia page.

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Isolation Quarantine Covid-19 stock photo

UBCO experts discuss how society has coped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was March 17, 2020, just on the heels of the World Health Organization declaring the as-yet-un-named virus a pandemic, that BC declared a state of emergency.

Schools were closed, offices shuttered, stores locked and people were sent home to face isolation, uncertainty and a looming sense of fear and bewilderment. And now Zoom calls, masks, vaccines and mandates have become part of everyday life across the country.

How has society coped? What has been learned? Has anything changed?

Long before Dr. Bonnie Henry suggested people be kind to each other, Dr. John-Tyler Binfet, an Associate Professor with the Okanagan School of Education, was making the study of kindness part of his daily routine. Dr. Binfet is joined by six other UBC Okanagan experts, who can field questions ranging from vaccine equity, online shopping trends, the importance of exercise and the impact of so much screen time on children.

Dr. Binfet, Director of the Centre For Mindful Engagement and Director of Building Academic Retention Through K-9s

Availability: Noon, Wednesday and all of Thursday, PST

Dr. Binfet’s areas of research include the conceptualizations of kindness in children and adolescents, measuring kindness in schools, canine-assisted interventions and assessment of therapy dogs. His new book written during the pandemic, Cultivating Kindness, will be available this summer.

Related to the pandemic, Dr. Binfet can discuss:

  • University student wellbeing
  • Being kind
  • Why kindness matters

Kevin Chong, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies

Availability: Wednesday and Thursday, 9 to 11 am PST

Chong teaches creative writing, fiction, creative nonfiction, literary journalism, dramatic writing and different writing styles including short story, memoir, personal essay, and lyric essay. He is the author of six books, including The Plague, and wrote a book during the pandemic when the public reading of his play was cancelled due to COVID-19. Dr. Chong also established an online antiracist book club during the pandemic.

Related to the pandemic, Chong can discuss:

  • Writer’s block
  • Online book clubs
  • Antiracist associations

Mahmudur Fatmi, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering

Availability: Wednesday, most hours and Thursday, 8:30 am to noon PST

Dr. Fatmi is a transportation modelling expert. He can talk about how people’s travel and online activities such as work-from-home and online shopping activities have changed during the pandemic, and the implications of these changes.

Related to the pandemic, Dr. Fatmi can discuss:

  • Working from home
  • Changes to transit during the pandemic
  • Online shopping trends

Ross Hickey, Associate Professor, Faculty of Management and Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Availability: Wednesday, 2 to 2:30 pm PST and Thursday, 2:30to 3:30 pm PST

Dr. Hickey is an economist who specializes in public finance, fiscal policy, government expenditure and taxation. Related to the pandemic, Dr. Hickey can speak about:

  • Inflation

Susan Holtzman, Associate Professor, Psychology, Irving K Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Availability: Thursday, 9 am to noon PST

Dr. Holtzman conducts research in health psychology with a special interest in stress and coping, close relationships, depression and social relationships in the digital age. Related to the pandemic, Holtzman can discuss:

  • perceived increase in screen time for young children
  • digital relationships
  • breaking or keeping digital habits after two years of screen time

Jonathan Little, Associate Professor, School of Health and Exercise Sciences

Availability: Wednesday and Thursday, 9 to 11 am PST

Dr. Little’s main research interest is on how to optimize exercise and nutritional strategies to prevent and treat health issues including Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and chronic inflammatory conditions. He is also involved in interdisciplinary research within the Airborne Disease Transmission Research Cluster around mitigating risk of aerosol transmission in health-care settings.

Related to the pandemic, Dr. Little can discuss:

  • Physical activity/exercise during COVID-19
  • Impact of exercise and lifestyle on immune function
  • Aerosols and COVID-19 transmission

Katrina Plamondon, Assistant Professor School of Nursing

Availability: Wednesday, various times in the afternoon PST, Thursday, 7 to 8 am, 11:30 am to noon, 2 to 3 pm PST

Dr. Plamondon’s research focuses on questions of how to advance equity action and vaccine equity. Related to the pandemic, Dr. Plamondon can discuss:

  • Populism and social movements (e.g., convoy) and what this has to do with equity and rights
  • Vaccine equity, particularly the relationship between global vaccine equity and how we can navigate the pandemic
  • Equity considerations as we transition out of pandemic restrictions (e.g., lifting mask restrictions)
  • Equity impacts and health systems considerations

The post UBCO experts discuss what’s changed after two years of COVID-19 appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

Ketamine in a syringe

Researchers from UBC Okanagan and the University of Exeter have identified ketamine as a potentially powerful tool in the fight against mental illness.

First manufactured more than 50 years ago, ketamine is a fast-acting dissociative anesthetic often used in veterinary and emergency medicine. Ketamine also has a history of being an illicit party drug.

Now, ketamine is getting a closer look.

Researchers from UBC Okanagan and the University of Exeter have identified ketamine as a potentially powerful tool in the fight against mental illness.

In a recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the research team found ketamine to have significant anti-depressant and anti-suicidal effects. They also found evidence that suggests its benefits don’t stop there.

Led by Psychology Professor Dr. Zach Walsh and doctoral student Joey Rootman—both based in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences—the research team arrived at this conclusion after analyzing more than 150 worldwide studies on the effects of sub-anesthetic ketamine doses for the treatment of mental illness. The study was co-led by Professor Celia Morgan and doctoral student Merve Mollaahmetoglu from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

“We found strong evidence that indicates ketamine provides rapid and robust anti-depressant and anti-suicidal effects, but the effects were relatively short-lived,” explains Rootman. “However, repeated dosing appeared to have the potential to increase the duration of positive effects.”

Beyond these results, the study provides evidence that suggests ketamine may be helpful in the treatment of other disorders, including eating disorders, problematic substance use, post-traumatic stress and anxiety—though the evidence in these areas is scarce.

“What our research provides is an up-to-date overview and synthesis of where the knowledge on ketamine is at right now,” explains Rootman. “Our results signal that ketamine may indeed have a broader spectrum of potential applications in psychiatric treatment—and that tells us that more investigation is needed.”

This study serves as a foundation for fellow researchers looking to design ketamine-related projects and offers valuable data for clinicians considering using ketamine with their patients.

The results also help to satisfy the public’s appetite for information on innovative and emerging psychiatric treatments, says Dr. Walsh, explaining the review provides a relatively compact document with evidence regarding which ketamine treatments may be helpful for diverse diagnoses.

“As many as one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness this year, and the reality is that existing treatments don’t work for everyone,” he says. “As a result, many Canadians are curious about new approaches to help with these serious conditions.”

Overall, while Dr. Walsh acknowledges research into other treatment areas is just beginning, he finds the preliminary evidence encouraging.

“We need a lot more information on how these interventions could work—for example, administering the drug is only a part of treatment. We need to figure out what amount and type of psychotherapy would best compliment the drug intervention to really maximize potential benefits,” he explains. “With that being said, it is a truly exciting time for ketamine research. If it can deliver the relief that early evidence suggests it can, this could be among the most significant developments in mental health treatment in decades.”

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