Making space for research

Introducing the Lois Hole Hospital Women’s Research Centre

The Lois Hole Hospital Women’s Research Centre began as a 4,000-square-foot shell located at the far end of the ground floor at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. Constructed alongside four outpatient clinics in the women’s hospital in 2010, the space spent the first seven years of its life waiting. Then it began to transform.

The massive cavity was given floors and a ceiling, sectioned off into interview rooms, exam rooms and lab space, and was outfitted with blood draw chairs and ultrasound machines. In 2018, the space opened as the Lois Hole Hospital Women’s Research Centre.

A partnership between the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, Women and Children’s Health Research Institute, the University of Alberta and Alberta Health Services, the centre was created to provide a designated space for women’s health research within the hospital environment.

“We’re trying to reduce the barriers for people to participate in research,” says Lorin Charlton, WCHRI’s research officer and dedicated Lois Hole Hospital for Women liaison. Charlton is a well-known face around the research centre; committed to nurturing collaborations and facilitating research activities.

With a localized centre, patients can easily participate in studies right down the hall from clinics they visit, and researchers no longer have to haul expensive equipment back and forth from the women’s hospital to their labs at the University.

By making women’s research more accessible for everyone involved, the centre aims to close the timeworn chasm between traditional research and women’s health outcomes. Historically, most research has avoided conducting trials on women since their hormonal systems are so complicated. But, Charlton notes, that’s exactly why it’s necessary. “Nothing changes without research,” she says. And with a space for clinicians, researchers and patients to collaborate, the rocks are already beginning to shift.

The centre is currently host to several women-specific research studies looking at topics like cardiovascular function during pregnancy, exercise in menopause transition and perimenopausal depression, with more about to begin. In the short year since the walls went up, the research centre has not only become a home for women’s health studies, but has stood as a totem for what is to come.

“Since it’s opened, there’s a lot of interest,” says Charlton. “People are just amazed that [this centre] exists.”

With the support of a sturdy partnership beneath it, this space transformed from a barren shell into an active research centre devoted to improving health outcomes for women. And it’s through the same collaboration and dedication that the landscape of women’s health research is about to blossom.