Jenna Evanchuk

Supervisor: Catherine Field

Project: Iron status of women during pregnancy and lactation in Alberta


Edmonton, AB

Degree program:

Bachelor of Science General

What's been the best part of your experience so far?

I love the research project that I am exploring this summer because it involves components in both nutrition and immunology. This interdisciplinary research is largely reflective of the knowledge I have gained throughout my undergraduate degree and it coincides with my future career aspirations in community health. Getting to work directly with maternal and infant samples from representative communities in Alberta is a privilege because my work has the potential to advance understandings about diet, health and well-being in pregnancy and early life. Being involved with this WCHRI-supported research also enables me to meet and collaborate with multiple principal investigators and other young researchers who are also passionate about advancing nutritional screening and health interventions during pregnancy.

What has WCHRI's support through the Foundations for your studentship meant to you?

Receiving a WCHRI summer studentship with financial support from the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation and the Alberta Women's Health Foundation through WCHRI has been an absolute privilege and honour for me as a young researcher. The ability to conduct research on a topic that I am so passionate about has been truly incredible. Through WCHRI's Research Day, I will be given a prestigious platform to present my findings to professional members, supporting foundations and stakeholders. This will be an amazing experience for me to grow as a researcher and presenter. I want to express my sincerest thanks to WCHRI and their supporting foundations, especially the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation and Lois Hole Hospital for Women, for this extraordinary opportunity!

Lay abstract:

Recent nutritional data from a province-wide initiative called APrON (Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition) has suggested that approximately 60% of pregnant women in Alberta have insufficient body iron to support a healthy pregnancy (iron deficiency, ID). Another 15% of pregnant women are estimated to have too much body iron (iron toxicity, IT). For pregnant mothers, ID or IT are known to contribute to various life-threatening conditions, including elevated blood pressure or diabetes. Infants born to mothers with suboptimal iron nutrition may be born prematurely, have unhealthy birth weights or may not survive the pregnancy or birth. Despite global knowledge that deficiencies of this micronutrient are common, representative data of iron health in pregnancy and the postpartum period is absent in many developed regions, including Alberta. Dr. Field's lab is responsible for continuing iron analyses for the ~2,200 participants. Through this summer studentship at the Li Ka Shing Centre of Health Research, we will complete measurements of participant body iron using blood biomarkers to analyze the relationship between iron levels in Albertan pregnant women and their infants. The use of new descriptive iron biomarkers for clinical screening of this nutrient during pregnancy, postpartum and early life will also be studied.