Our Team

Our Team

Our network is multidisciplinary with expertise in patient engagement, epidemiology, genetics, microbiology, immunology, neurobiology, health economics, and knowledge translation. The group also engages many disciplines including gastroenterology, psychiatry and psychology that encompasses both adult and pediatric disease with researchers that have international reputations in the study of IBD, IBS and psychiatric disorder.

Executive Leadership

Executive Director

Aida Fernandes is the current Executive Director of the IMAGINE Network – a patient-oriented research initiative in gastrointestinal diseases. Aida has over 15 years of experience in research administration and strategic partnerships in the health charitable sector. Aida was the Vice-President of Research & Patient Programs at Crohn’s and Colitis Canada (CCC) where she oversaw the organization’s research, patient education and advocacy programs for the Canadian IBD community. Prior to her time at CCC, Aida worked at Cystic Fibrosis Canada in several different capacities, including Manager, Chapter Relations; Director, Volunteer & Personnel Resources; and Director, Medical/Scientific and Community Programs.

Aida also has served on a number of governing bodies in the voluntary health sector including: Public Health Agency of Canada’s Respiratory Diseases Surveillance Advisory Committee, HealthPartners Board of Directors, Health Charities’ Coalition of Canada Research Committee, Canadian Genetics Coalition, CIHR’s Institute of Infection and Immunity Institute Advisory Board, and the Canadian Blood Services’ National Liaison Committee.

Aida holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology from the University of Toronto and a Master of Business Administration in Non-Profit Management & Leadership from York University’s Schulich School of Business.

Principal Investigator
Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. MacQueen is the Vice Dean, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary. She earned her PhD in Psychology and her medical degree from McMaster University, where she also completed her residency in psychiatry.  In 2008 she moved from McMaster to the University of Calgary where she is currently Vice Dean in the Cumming School of Medicine and a member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education.  Her research interests have focused on mood disorders. Dr. MacQueen is an associate editor of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry and the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience.

She currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Palix Foundation, the Strategic Advisory Boards of the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the Royal’s Institute for Mental Health Research as well as the Scientific Advisory Board of the Integrative Health Institute at the University of Alberta.

She was the 2011 recipient of the Douglas Utting award for studies in depression and is the 2014 recipient of the Heinz Lehmann award from the Canadian College of Neuropsychopharmacology and the 2017 recipient of the JM Cleghorn Award for excellence and leadership in clinical research from the Canadian Psychiatric Association.

IBS
Research Lead

Dr. Vanner received a undergraduate degree in Life Sciences and a concurrent MD and MSc degree from Queen’s University. After completing his Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology training at Queen’s and he carried out post doctoral research training in enteric neurophysiology at the Vollum Institute in Portland Oregon. Since returning to Queen’s University in 1991 he has been an attending staff in Gastroenterology at the Kingston General and Hotel Dieu Hospitals and cares for patients with gastrointestinal disorders in both the inpatient and outpatient departments. He performs a full range of endoscopic procedures including ERCP.

He has subspecialty expertise in gastrointestinal motility disorders involving the lower GI tract including the small intestine, colon and anorectum and is director of the anorectal motility laboratory.

He has an established translational research program that examines mechanisms underlying pain signaling and motility in the gastrointestinal tract.

Research Lead
Patient Lead

Megan Marsiglio is a communications manager, lifestyle blogger and a digestive health advocate based in Toronto. In 2006 Megan began experiencing abnormal digestive issues, which lead to a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease and IBS in 2008 – her first year at university. While she was there she realized there wasn’t any support on campus for students dealing with digestive issues, so she started a support group and launched a blog – www.thegutgazette.com. Creating awareness and advocating for digestive disease understanding became one of Megan’s passions and has lead her to become a patient representative for the IBS studies for IMAGINE.

IBD
Research Lead

Dr. Charles Bernstein, a graduate from the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine, and the UCLA Division of Gastroenterology Fellowship Training Program is Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Bingham Chair in Gastroenterology Research and Director, Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinical and Research Centre at the University of Manitoba. He is a fellow of both the Canadian Academy of health Sciences and the Royal Society of Canada, Science Division

Dr. Bernstein has developed among the largest validated population based databases of IBD. He has received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and its forerunners (the MRC and NHRDP) since 1995. His main research interests are primarily related to IBD; in terms of optimizing management approaches; exploring predictors of clinical outcomes; and disease etiology. More recently he has been actively involved in exploring the biological and clinical intersection between different chronic immune mediated inflammatory diseases. He has also helped develop ground breaking work in the epidemiology of Helicobacter pylori infection among Canada’s Aboriginal populations, colorectal cancer screening and outcomes of gastrointestinal endoscopy and biopsy. He has published over 400 peer reviewed papers.

Patient Lead
Clinical Lead

Dr. Panaccione is a Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Calgary, Director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic, Director of the Gastrointestinal Research , and an internationally recognized expert in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). His special interest lies in the implementation and performance of clinical trials of new therapies in IBD. He also performs research in identifying new targets to develop new therapies in IBD. The University of Calgary IBD Clinical Trials Unit is ranked among the top five units in the world. He is the recipient of the Finkelstein award, the highest award  given out by Crohn’s and Colitis Canada for dedication and contribution to the field of IBD as well as the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology Visiting Professor award recognizing his expertise and excellence in education.

 

Psychiatry
Research Lead

Dr. MacQueen is the Vice Dean, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary. She earned her PhD in Psychology and her medical degree from McMaster University, where she also completed her residency in psychiatry.  In 2008 she moved from McMaster to the University of Calgary where she is currently Vice Dean in the Cumming School of Medicine and a member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education.  Her research interests have focused on mood disorders. Dr. MacQueen is an associate editor of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry and the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience.

She currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Palix Foundation, the Strategic Advisory Boards of the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the Royal’s Institute for Mental Health Research as well as the Scientific Advisory Board of the Integrative Health Institute at the University of Alberta.

She was the 2011 recipient of the Douglas Utting award for studies in depression and is the 2014 recipient of the Heinz Lehmann award from the Canadian College of Neuropsychopharmacology and the 2017 recipient of the JM Cleghorn Award for excellence and leadership in clinical research from the Canadian Psychiatric Association.

Patient Lead

Kim has had Crohn’s Disease for 20 years, having been diagnosed as a pre-teen. She has firsthand experience with many of the complications and challenges patients with Crohn’s disease face. After several particularly troubling years, Kim underwent small bowel surgery. Now in remission, Kim is eager to return to work as a dispatcher at Winnipeg’s 911 emergency centre.

Kim previously volunteered on the Winnipeg Ostomy Association board as well as a few patient advisory boards within Winnipeg’s Health Science Centre. Kim continues to be an active advocate for patients with ostomies and for ostomy awareness, to help end the stigma associated with ostomies. Kim meets with ostomates to alleviate their fears and to educate that there is a life after surgery.

Kim is a dedicated volunteer within her community, as a leader for the local Girl Guides chapter and an executive member of two boards within the community school. Kim enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. She is keen and honoured to be a patient representative on the IMAGINE network.

Patient Representative

Gail is a member of the Patient and Public Advisory Group (P2AG) at Clinical Trials Ontario, the Lived Experience Reference Panel of the Mental Health and Addiction Leadership Advisory Council, and CAMH Constituency Council.  She promotes improved access to mental health services, treatments and research, having spoken at conferences for the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario and Ontario Hospital Association, in addition to numerous television and print interviews.

Gail’s passion for helping others, and her goal of translating and disseminating her own knowledge and that of evidenced-based science, concerning the intersection of gut and brain health, was founded in her work in healthcare and research administrative support, as well as her own lived experience as a patient. Being a research participant in clinical trials improved the quality of Gail’s healthcare experience in both the realms of psychiatry and gastroenterology, increased her knowledge of her illnesses, and empowered her to become an active member in her care. Gail is excited to be a part of organizations aiming to transform healthcare and enrich research initiatives through the inclusion of patient engagement and patient partnership.

Pediatrics
Research Lead

Dr. Anthony Otley is a Professor of Paediatrics and Medicine at Dalhousie University. He is the Division Head of the Division of Gastroenterology & Nutrition at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The IWK Health Centre is the tertiary children’s hospital which serves the three Canadian Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Paediatric patients who require a liver transplant are followed pre and post transplant through the IWK, but the actual transplantation is carried out through the SickKids program.

The main focus of Dr. Otley’s clinical research is the development and assessment of outcome measures used in paediatric gastrointestinal disease. He has been involved with the development of the IMPACT questionnaire, a disease-specific HRQOL tool for paediatric patients with inflammatory bowel disease. He was also a developer of the Pediatric Ulcerative Colitis Activity Index (PUCAI). He has an ongoing interest on the development of web-based tools to help in disease self-management and ultimately, to improve HRQOL and adherence to therapy.

Patient Representative
Patient Representative
Microbiome & Metabolomics
Microbiome Research Lead

Dr. Surette’s primary area of research investigates the role of normal flora-pathogen interactions in health and disease in the area of respiratory infections with a focus in cystic fibrosis. A polymicrobial perspective on these infections has lead to identification of overlooked pathogens in airway disease as well as synergistic interactions between avirulent organisms and pathogens. This is a fundamentally different view of airway infections and has lead to direct benefits to patients through altered treatment strategies.

Metabolomics Research Lead

Dr.  Richard Fedorak is Dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta, and professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology. In addition, he serves as director for the Centre of Excellence for Gastrointestinal Inflammation and Immunity Research, and director of the Northern Alberta Clinical Trials and Research Centre. Outside of the university, Dr. Fedorak is president of the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation and chairman of the World Gastroenterology Organization’s research committee. A recipient of numerous awards, research fellowships and grants, Dr. Fedorak is a recognized expert in inflammatory bowel disease.

Diet & Environment
Patient Representative

Sara Blake is a General Counsel for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General and is the author of a legal textbook, Administrative Law in Canada – the 6th edition to be published in 2017.

Sara has food intolerances and has lost the ability to digest 95% of the foods that others typically eat. The cause of her symptoms (primarily diarrhea) remains unknown but she’s made significant dietary changes and now, by living on a severely restricted diet with some herbal supplements, has stabilized her gastrointestinal health. She has written a book explaining everything she has figured out: www.foodintolerance.net. The purpose of writing the book was to help other sufferers figure out their own elimination diets and to encourage them share what they have figured out. Sara also hopes to encourage more scientific research into these problems. Except for this gastrointestinal problem, she is a fit and healthy 60 year old. Sarah will be joining the Diet & Environment Scientific Working Group as a patient representative.

Research Lead
Research Lead

Dr. Leo A. Dieleman is Professor of Medicine, clinician-scientist and the Director of IBD Clinical Research at the Division of Gastroenterology.

Dr. Dieleman is originally from the Netherlands, received his MD degree from Catholic University of Nijmegen in 1983, finished his Internal Medicine training at Leiden in 1989, and his clinical GI training at the Free University of Amsterdam in 1996. Between his clinical training he received a Fogarty Fellowship from NIH that formed the basis of his PhD studies on the role of cytokines in experimental and human IBD with Dr. Charles Elson at UAB Birmingham, Alabama and he subsequently received his PhD degree in 1995 at the Free University of msterdam during his clinical GI Fellowship. Dr Dieleman then emigrated to join the GI Division as Assistant Professor in Chapel Hill North Carolina. Under the mentorship of Dr. Balfour Sartor he received a KO8 and RO3 Award from NIH.

Since 2003 Dr Dieleman is at the University of Alberta. Dr. Dieleman is an internationally recognized scientist on the role of intestinal bacteria, probiotics, prebiotics and diets for the pathogenesis and treatment of IBD. He has been continuously funded by NIH, CIHR, Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada and Alberta Innovates since 1998 and has published over 100 original articles and book chapters in several high ranked journals.

Patient Representative

Shawn Reynolds is a Crohn’s disease patient living in Toronto. He’s married and has a two-year old son.  He has a degree in Human Kinetics and was an actor/producer for 10 years, working in TV/film and several theater productions and still dabbles in the industry periodically.

Most recently, Shawn has been spending my time as an entrepreneur.  He created kids’ sports camps which were recently acquired by Nike Sports Camps and is still involved as a leader. He is also the co-owner of family aluminum construction company.

Inflammation/Basic Science
Research Lead

Dr. Collins obtained his medical training at London University in England where he later specialized in internal medicine. He trained in gastroenterology at McMaster University in Canada before completing 3 years of research training in cell biology at the Digestive Diseases Branch, National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland USA. He has been on staff at McMaster University since 1981 where he was the Director of the Intestinal Diseases Research Unit from 1983-1993, and Head of the Division of Gastroenterology since 1993-2006. He is past president of the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology. His areas of interest include: the impact of inflammation on gut function, neuron-immune interactions, and the role of commensal bacteria in health and disease. He has over 200 publications including papers in Nature Medicine, Lancet, JCI, Gastroenterology and Gut. He has received continuous CIHR funding for over 20 years, has been a member of the MRC Science & Research Committee, and chaired the CIHR Experimental Medicine grants review committee for 5 years. He has also been an advisor to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and Chaired the Strategic Initiatives Committee for The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada. He was the Associate Dean for Research at the Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University and holds the title of Distinguished University Professor – the highest rank awarded by the University.

Research Lead

Dr. Bienenstock has published more than 380 peer reviewed articles and other publications. He has authored, edited and co-edited several books including the standard text on mucosal immunology, now in its third edition. He is known best for his work in mucosal immunity in which he pioneered the concept of a common mucosal immune system and developed the first full description of bronchus associated lymphoid tissue (BALT) and its involvement in the mucosa associated lymphoid tissue system of the body. His more recent work has related to an elucidation of mechanisms of allergy, mucosal immunology, and most particularly, the interactions between mast cells and other cells of the immune system with the nervous system.

Current work tries to begin to explain the mechanisms of action of probiotic organisms through study of their interactions with intestinal epithelial cells and uses many molecular and cell biological approaches in vitro and in vivo. Continuing study of communication pathways between mast cells and nerves in co-culture represents another long-term interest.

As Director of the new Brain-Body Institute at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Dr. Bienenstock is developing a group of neuroscientists and imagers together with several colleagues in Radiology, Psychiatry, Gastroenterology and Respirology. The BBI includes an unusual imaging facility (Imaging Research Centre) which has a functional 3T MRI and unique wide field of view PET. The objective of this new institute is to have an integrated approach to the study of the role of the brain and nervous system in regulation of somatic disease. Research interests include functional disorders, depression, asthma and irritable bowel syndrome. The BBI has purpose-built facilities in imaging and within the year will occupy new laboratory space in the new tower under construction at St. Joseph’s.

Genetics
Research Lead

John D. Rioux is a Professor of Medicine at the Université de Montréal and is holder of the Canada Research Chair in Genetics and Genomic Medicine. He is also a senior researcher at the Montreal Heart Institute and Director of its Laboratory for Genetics and Genomic Medicine as well as its Integrative Biology Platform. He has been a leader in gene identification for chronic inflammatory diseases (including Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Lupus, and multiple sclerosis) using genome-wide association approaches.

John’s work is supported by the NIH (NIDDK), CIHR, CFI, Genome Canada, Génome Québec and Crohn’s Colitis Canada.

Knowledge Translation, Education & Policy
Knowledge Translation Research Lead

John Lavis is relied on by policymakers and stakeholders in Canada and a broad range of countries internationally to harness research evidence, citizen values and stakeholder insights to strengthen health and social systems and get the right programs, services and products to the people who need them.

He founded and continues to direct the McMaster Health Forum and has now launched Forum+ to expand the Forum’s work into social systems and supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. He is committed to helping policymakers and stakeholders to: 1) learn how to make decisions based on the best available research evidence; 2) find evidence through the Forum’s own products and the best available sources of pre-appraised, synthesized research evidence (including the Forum’s Health Systems Evidence and Social Systems Evidence and the Forum-supported and citizen-targeted McMaster Optimal Aging Portal); 3) spark action through stakeholder dialogues, citizen panels and more; 4) embed supports for evidence-informed decision-making, by institutionalizing promising and proven approaches; and 5) evaluate innovations in supporting evidence-informed decision-making.

He is co-chair of the World Health Organization (WHO)-sponsored Evidence-Informed Policy Network (EVIPNet) Global Steering Group, and a member of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region’s Advisory Committee on Health Research. He holds an MD from Queen’s University, an MSc from the London School of Economics, and a PhD (in Health Policy) from Harvard University.

Admin Data Lead

Dr. Kaplan is a gastroenterologist and epidemiologist with a clincal and research interest in the inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). He graduated with a Masters of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health and completed an IBD Fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary with 80% protected time for his research program. He is a CIHR New Investigator and an Alberta-Innovates Health Solutions Population Health Investigator. Dr. Kaplan is the Director of the Environmental Health Research Group in the Institute of Public Health at the University of Calgary as well as an executive member of the Alberta IBD Consortium, which is a mulit-disciplinary team that is studying gene-environment-microbial interactions in a province wide cohort of IBD patients. In 2011, Dr. Kaplan was selected as one of Avenue Magazine’s in Calgary, Top 40 Under 40.

Capacity Building

Dr. Beck’s research interests include defining mechanisms involved in the development of IBD and how the gastrointestinal tract heals itself after injury. The lining of the gastrointestinal is commonly injured in everyday life by insults such as arthritis medications, bacteria, viruses’ acid and others. Why this injury occurs more commonly in some and causes more problems is unclear, however, it appears that some people are susceptible to injury where others fail to heal the injury and likely IBD is a result of increased susceptibility to injury and failure to properly heal following injury. By using both animal models of colitis as well as tissue culture models the goal of his research is to determine import factors that protect the gastrointestinal tract from injury and/or improve tissue repair after injury. By determining which factors may be involved in these processes one can develop strategies aimed at treating IBD with the ultimate goal of finding a cure for this group of devastating diseases. Dr. Beck’s lab is also interested in Clostridium difficile colitis and the pathways involved in causing damage and how the gut protects against it.

Patient Oriented Leads
Patient Oriented Leads
Patient Representative

Alysia is a public health professional with a Bachelor of Science and Masters of Public Health in Health Promotion. She has worked in schools, workplaces and communities building health and medical programs as well as creating healthy public policy. Alysia currently works in the field of knowledge translation and evaluation for the Alberta Health Services Chronic Disease Prevention unit. Alysia has struggled with digestive issues since she was in her teens and has been diagnosed with IBS. She has found that a diet low in FODMAPs (types of carbohydrates), has alleviated many of her symptoms. Wanting to help others find the same relief, she created a food blog called The Calming Kitchen: Whole Food Recipes for Digestive Health. Alysia will be joining IMAGINE’s Knowledge Translation, Education & Policy working group as a patient representative.

Patient Representative

Ellen Kuenzig completed her Master’s in epidemiology from the University of Western Ontario in 2012 and her PhD in epidemiology from the University of Calgary in 2016. Combining her experiences living with Crohn’s disease and her passion for better understanding IBD, her research during her PhD focused on genetic and environmental risk factors IBD. After finishing her PhD, Ellen began working as a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Eric Benchimol at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Studies. Ellen received the AbbVie IBD Scholarship from Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and twice received a Student Research Prize from Crohn’s and Colitis Canada at Canadian Digestive Diseases Week. Her fellowship is funded through an award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, and the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology.

Patient Engagement
Research Lead

Deborah Marshall holds a Canada Research Chair, Health Services and Systems Research as a Professor at the University of Calgary and Arthur J.E. Child Chair of Rheumatology Outcomes Research in the McCaig Institute of Bone and Joint Health. She is the Director of Health Technology Assessment at the Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute, a Senior Scientist at Arthritis Research Canada, and a member of the OBrien Institute of Public Health.

Dr. Marshall has experience in technology assessment agencies, academia and pharmaceutical and diagnostics industry research settings in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Her research program focuses on patient preferences and patient engagement research, cost-effectiveness analysis, and dynamic simulation modeling of health services delivery to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of health care services.

Dr. Marshall is an active member of the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR) as the Past President of the Board of Directors and various Task Forces. She serves as a member Board of Directors for Health Technology Assessment International (HTAi), the co-chair of the Scientific Research Committee and Board of Directors of the Arthritis Alliance of Canada (AAC), and a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Alberta PROMs & EQ-5D Research & Support Unit (APERSU).

Patient Lead

Sandra Zelinsky, is a graduate of the Patient and Community Engagement Research program, University of Calgary and a trainer for the National Strategy for Patient Oriented Research (SPOR) Foundational Curriculum. She is a member of the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR), Strategy for Patient Oriented Research (SPOR) review committee where she uses her expertise in Patient Oriented Research to review SPOR research proposals for grant funding. She is using her research skills to advance Patient Oriented Research and was recognized by the Canadian Patient Safety Institute as a Patient Safety Champion for her work on a PaCER study done on behalf of Alberta Health Services. Her work in research has provided her the opportunity to present at several National and International conferences as well as to chair and/or co-chair at various conferences and meetings. She is currently a Patient Engagement Researcher on 3 studies including the IMAGINE study. It is her experience of living with Crohn’s disease for the past 24 years that inspires and motivates her to work in Patient Oriented Research with the goal of bringing the patient perspective, experience and voice to health research.

Sex & Gender
Research Lead

Dr. Laura Targownik joined the Section of Gastroenterology in the Division of Internal Medicine at the University of Manitoba since 2003, after completing her fellowship in Digestive Diseases and obtaining a Master’s of Science in Health Services from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). She is currently the Section Head for Gastroenterology at the University of Manitoba, and the Associate director of the Manitoba IBD Clinical and Research Center.

She is a nationally recognized researcher for her work on the epidemiology of drug use in inflammatory bowel disease, and has authored or co-authored over 90 peer-reviewed publications. She is currently a principal investigator or co-investigator on grants funded by the American College of Gastroenterology, The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Patient Representative

Amy van Engelen is a Patient Advisor on the Digestive Health Strategic Care Network in Alberta and is also a PaCER graduate which is the Patient and Community Engagement Research Program through the University of Calgary.  Being able to use her experiences within the medical system as both a patient advocate and researcher have provided incredible insight into the value patients can truly provide. Amy lives in Calgary with her daughter who is attending the University of Calgary. She is a Celiac and Colitis patient.

Governance

In order for us to be accountable to our stakeholders, the IMAGINE Network has a robust governance structure. Each committee has defined responsibilities and clear leadership roles to promote strategic goals such as interaction with international global partners, policy change, as well as direct involvement of our patient support organisations.

The Network is governed by the Executive Oversight Committee. It provides overall operational, governance and monitoring of performance responsibility of the IMAGINE Network. The Executive Oversight Committee receives guidance from an External Advisory Panel. The External Advisory Panel is made up of a small group of internationally-recognized experts that assesses the scientific accomplishments of the Network and facilitates linkages with international research networks and consortia to generate a global impact.

Executive Oversight Committee
Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. MacQueen is the Vice Dean, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary. She earned her PhD in Psychology and her medical degree from McMaster University, where she also completed her residency in psychiatry.  In 2008 she moved from McMaster to the University of Calgary where she is currently Vice Dean in the Cumming School of Medicine and a member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education.  Her research interests have focused on mood disorders. Dr. MacQueen is an associate editor of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry and the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience.

She currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Palix Foundation, the Strategic Advisory Boards of the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the Royal’s Institute for Mental Health Research as well as the Scientific Advisory Board of the Integrative Health Institute at the University of Alberta.

She was the 2011 recipient of the Douglas Utting award for studies in depression and is the 2014 recipient of the Heinz Lehmann award from the Canadian College of Neuropsychopharmacology and the 2017 recipient of the JM Cleghorn Award for excellence and leadership in clinical research from the Canadian Psychiatric Association.

Principal Investigator
Executive Director

Aida Fernandes is the current Executive Director of the IMAGINE Network – a patient-oriented research initiative in gastrointestinal diseases. Aida has over 15 years of experience in research administration and strategic partnerships in the health charitable sector. Aida was the Vice-President of Research & Patient Programs at Crohn’s and Colitis Canada (CCC) where she oversaw the organization’s research, patient education and advocacy programs for the Canadian IBD community. Prior to her time at CCC, Aida worked at Cystic Fibrosis Canada in several different capacities, including Manager, Chapter Relations; Director, Volunteer & Personnel Resources; and Director, Medical/Scientific and Community Programs.

Aida also has served on a number of governing bodies in the voluntary health sector including: Public Health Agency of Canada’s Respiratory Diseases Surveillance Advisory Committee, HealthPartners Board of Directors, Health Charities’ Coalition of Canada Research Committee, Canadian Genetics Coalition, CIHR’s Institute of Infection and Immunity Institute Advisory Board, and the Canadian Blood Services’ National Liaison Committee.

Aida holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology from the University of Toronto and a Master of Business Administration in Non-Profit Management & Leadership from York University’s Schulich School of Business.

Research Lead

Dr. Vanner received a undergraduate degree in Life Sciences and a concurrent MD and MSc degree from Queen’s University. After completing his Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology training at Queen’s and he carried out post doctoral research training in enteric neurophysiology at the Vollum Institute in Portland Oregon. Since returning to Queen’s University in 1991 he has been an attending staff in Gastroenterology at the Kingston General and Hotel Dieu Hospitals and cares for patients with gastrointestinal disorders in both the inpatient and outpatient departments. He performs a full range of endoscopic procedures including ERCP.

He has subspecialty expertise in gastrointestinal motility disorders involving the lower GI tract including the small intestine, colon and anorectum and is director of the anorectal motility laboratory.

He has an established translational research program that examines mechanisms underlying pain signaling and motility in the gastrointestinal tract.

Patient Lead

Megan Marsiglio is a communications manager, lifestyle blogger and a digestive health advocate based in Toronto. In 2006 Megan began experiencing abnormal digestive issues, which lead to a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease and IBS in 2008 – her first year at university. While she was there she realized there wasn’t any support on campus for students dealing with digestive issues, so she started a support group and launched a blog – www.thegutgazette.com. Creating awareness and advocating for digestive disease understanding became one of Megan’s passions and has lead her to become a patient representative for the IBS studies for IMAGINE.

Research Lead

Dr. Charles Bernstein, a graduate from the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine, and the UCLA Division of Gastroenterology Fellowship Training Program is Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Bingham Chair in Gastroenterology Research and Director, Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinical and Research Centre at the University of Manitoba. He is a fellow of both the Canadian Academy of health Sciences and the Royal Society of Canada, Science Division

Dr. Bernstein has developed among the largest validated population based databases of IBD. He has received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and its forerunners (the MRC and NHRDP) since 1995. His main research interests are primarily related to IBD; in terms of optimizing management approaches; exploring predictors of clinical outcomes; and disease etiology. More recently he has been actively involved in exploring the biological and clinical intersection between different chronic immune mediated inflammatory diseases. He has also helped develop ground breaking work in the epidemiology of Helicobacter pylori infection among Canada’s Aboriginal populations, colorectal cancer screening and outcomes of gastrointestinal endoscopy and biopsy. He has published over 400 peer reviewed papers.

Dr. Meddings began his first term as Dean of the faculty in July 2012 having served as Vice Dean since 2009, and previously as Interim Vice-President (Research) of the University of Calgary (2010), head of the Division of Gastroenterology, and as a professor in the Department of Medicine, while continuing to be an active member of the medical community. He also served as Chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of Alberta from 2004 to 2009.

After receiving his BMSc and MD from the University of Alberta, Dr. Meddings completed his internship in Dunedin, New Zealand at Wakari Hospital, his residency in Edmonton at the University of Alberta Hospital, and two fellowships in Dallas at the University of Texas Health Science Centre. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1983 and was inducted into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences in 2010.

He has been honoured with several awards and distinctions for his research innovations in celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and bowel permeability. He is dedicated to excellence in research and education, and improving patient care in Calgary and beyond.

Dr. Paul M. O’Byrne is the dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University, and the dean of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. He is also a Distinguished University Professor of Medicine of McMaster, a world-renowned researcher and a practicing respirologist.

He became dean and vice-president in July 2016 after 14 years as chair of the Faculty’s largest department, the Department of Medicine.

O’Byrne obtained his medical degree at University College, Dublin, Ireland, and his training in Internal medicine and respiratory medicine at McMaster University.  He undertook research training at both McMaster and the Cardiovascular Research Institute in San Francisco, California.  He joined the faculty at McMaster in 1984.

His research interests are on the mechanisms and treatment of asthma, particularly the role of environmental allergens and the mechanisms by which these cause airway inflammation.

He has published more than 400 peer reviewed papers, including papers in New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, Nature Medicine, AJRCCM, JACI and Journal of Immunology.  He has authored 98 book chapters and edited 12 books.

O’Byrne was the executive director of the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton from 2002 to 2016 and held the position as the E.J. Moran Campbell Professor of Medicine from 1998 to 2016.

He has received the James H. Graham Award of Merit, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and has been the distinguished lecturer in respiratory sciences for the Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.  He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2010, and he was awarded the European Respiratory Society Congress Award and Medal in 2011. He was elected to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and received McMaster’s top academic award, appointment as a Distinguished Professor, in 2015.

O’Byrne is the past-chair of the executive committee of the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA). He is associate editor of Chest and International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, and he is on the editorial board of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine and Thorax.

External Advisory Panel

Emily Morgan received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). After being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 13 and having the opportunity to interact with others with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Emily realized that not everyone has the support and resources she was lucky to have at such a young age. While in college, Emily joined the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s National Council of Collegiate Leaders and served as a cochair for two years. While a member, she hosted on-campus support groups and education seminars. Upon graduating from UNC, she worked as a researcher and patient advisor at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in New Hampshire. Her main research involvement was with IBD Qorus, a quality improvement initiative and collaborative project between patients and their providers, with an aim to lead to enhanced patient health outcomes. Because of her healthcare diagnosis and advocacy and research involvement, Emily is passionate about patient goal setting and patient engagement. She is currently a Health Behavior Master’s candidate at UNC Gillings School of Public Health.

Dr. Huttenhower’s research focuses on computational biology at the intersection of microbial community function and human health. The human body carries some four pounds of microbes, primarily in the gut, and understanding their biomolecular functions, their influences on human hosts, and the metabolic and functional roles of microbial communities generally is one of the key areas of study enabled by high-throughput sequencing. First, computational methods are needed to advance functional metagenomics. How can we understand what a microbial community is doing, what small molecule metabolites or signaling mechanisms it’s employing, and how its function relates to its organismal composition? Second, our understanding of the human microbiome and its relationship with public health remains limited. Pathogens have been examined by centuries of microbiology and epidemiology, but we know relatively little about the transmission or heritability of the normal commensal microbiota, its carriage of pathogenic functionality, or its interaction with host immunity, environment, and genetics. Finally, more broadly, novel machine learning methodology is needed to leverage structured biological knowledge in high-dimensional genomic data analysis. The Huttenhower group works on a variety of computational methods for data mining in microbial communities, model organisms, pathogens, and the human genome.

In practice, this entails a combination of computational methods development for mining and integrating large multi’omic data collections, as well as biological analyses and laboratory experiments to link the microbiome in human populations to specific microbiological mechanisms. The lab has worked extensively with the NIH Human Microbiome Project to help develop the first comprehensive map of the healthy Western adult microbiome, and it currently co-leads one of the “HMP2” Centers for Characterizing the Gut Microbial Ecosystem in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. This is one of many open problems in understanding how human-associated microbial communities can be used as a means of diagnosis or therapeutic intervention on the continuum between health and disease.

Dr. Eamonn M. M. Quigley, past president of the American College of Gastroenterology and the World Gastroenterology Organization, joined the faculty at Houston Methodist Hospital as head of its Gastroenterology and Hepatology division in 2013.

Prior to his move to Houston, Quigley was professor of medicine and human physiology and a principal investigator at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre at the National University of Ireland in Cork. He is internationally known for his research on gastrointestinal motility disorders, primarily irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD); neurogastroenterology (the relationship between the central nervous system and the gut); the gut microbiome and probiotics in health and disease. A highlight of his ongoing research includes how bacteria in the digestive tract play a major role in pulling nutrients from food to nourish the body, as well as participating in protecting the body from disease.

IBS is the most common, chronic medical condition in the United States. Approximately 40 percent of those with IBS have symptoms severe or frequent enough to disrupt their daily lives. While the cause of IBS has not been clearly identified, Quigley’s clinical research suggests that an alteration of the normal gut bacteria flora may be a cause. His research team is working toward developing new biomarkers for IBS which would eventually lead to the development of new treatments. Quigley’s clinical interests focus on the use of probiotics for the treatment of IBS.

He has published more than 800 peer-reviewed articles, reviews, editorials, book chapters and case reports, mostly in the areas of gut motility, functional gastrointestinal disorders, and GERD. Quigley has received numerous international honors and awards. He served as Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Gastroenterology from 1997 to 2003.

Quigley received his medical degree from University College Cork in Cork, Ireland; completed internal medicine residency in Glasgow, Scotland; and did GI fellowship training at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Manchester in England. He served as the Chief of Gastroenterology at the University of Nebraska from 1991 to 1998 and as Dean of the Medical School in Cork, Ireland from 2000 to 2007.

Ernst Kuipers trained in gastroenterology and hepatology. He was appointed as member of the Erasmus MC Board of Directors on 1 December 2012 and has been chairman of the Board since 15 March 2013. He was educated in the Netherlands (Groningen, Enschede, Deventer and Amsterdam), and worked in Nashville, USA for several years after obtaining his PhD. In 2000, he was appointed as Professor and head of Erasmus MC’s department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology and in 2006 he also became head of the department of Internal Medicine. He was, among others, the driving force behind the introduction of the national screening program for colon cancer.

His academic and professional interests, combined with his management experience within various international organizations and committees, has brought him a very broad-minded view on national as well international issues.

Gert Van Assche is professor of medicine in the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine at the University of Leuven (Belgium). His research focuses on novel therapies in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), fibrogenesis, and mucosal immunology in IBD. Dr. Van Assche is head of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University Hospitals of Leuven, where he also served as clinical operational officer in the executive board until 2015. He is the former chair of the guidelines and of the educational committee of the European Crohn’s and Colitis Organisation.

Dr. Van Assche received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and his medical degree from the University of Leuven. He subsequently trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology in Leuven. From 1994 to 1998, Dr. Van Assche combined his GI fellowship with a doctoral program on regulatory peptides in motility and inflammation in the GI Hormones Lab in Leuven and the Intestinal Diseases Research Program at McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada. From 2012 until 2013 he was Director of Clinical and Translational IBD Research at Mt Sinai Hospital, Toronto and Professor of Medicine at the U of Toronto, ON, Canada and he currently is Clinician Adjunct at the UofT. He has been an invited professor at the U of Michigan, Ann Arbor and the Cleveland Clinic, Lerner Institute. For his research, he received grants and awards from the Flemish Foundation for Scientific Research (FWO Vlaanderen), the Désiré Collen Research Foundation, the Royal Society of Medicine, and the Inbev-Baillet Latour Foundation.

Dr. Van Assche’s scientific work has resulted in authorship or co-authorship of more than 200 peer-reviewed papers. He has been consulting several pharmaceutical and Biotech companies for IBD clinical development programs. He holds a senior clinical research position at the Flemish Foundation for Scientific Research (FWO Vlaanderen).

Dr. Jack Satsangi is a professor at The University of Edinburgh. His research combines clinical gastroenterology, in which his main focus is the management of inflammatory bowel disease, with an extensive programme of academic activities – including basic, clinical and translational research. His main clinical interests include the efficacy and safety of biological agents, and management of childhood-onset disease in adulthood. Major active research interests include IBD genetics, epigenetics and biomarker discovery, and a series of clinical trials -most notably in post-operative prophylaxis, stem cell transplantation, and severe colitis. He is a PI of the UKIBD Genetics Consortium, and founder member of the International IBD Genetics Consortium.

He co-chaired the Working Party involved in the Montreal Classification of IBD in 2005. He established the first BSG IBD Research Strategy committee in 2009/2010, and the IBD Clinical Studies Group as the founding chairman, responsible for drafting 2010 research agenda. He served as Secretary to the BSG IBD Section, heavily involved in re-writing the current Clinical Guidelines. He has mentored or trained several of the highly productive group of research-active IBD clinicians in Scotland. He is a Medical Advisor to CCUK in Scotland, and chairs the National NIHR GI Speciality Group. He has won career grant support of over 40 million pounds, with current support of over 19 million pounds in 2012/13, including grants from from Wellcome Trust, MRC, and the EC, and published over 200 papers/reviews in peer-reviewed journals (2013 G-index 84, H-index 38). He has been elected as FRSE as well as Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Professor Jan Tack is currently a Head of Clinic in the Department of Gastroenterology, a Professor in Internal Medicine and head of the Department of Clinical and Experimental medicine at the University of Leuven, and a principal researcher in TARGID (the Translational Research Center for Gastrointestinal Disorders) at the University of Leuven. He graduated summa cum laude in 1987 from the University of Leuven and specialized in internal medicine and gastroenterology at the same institution. A research fellow at the Department of Physiology at the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA, from 1989 to 1990, he has been conducting research at Leuven University since 1990. Professor Tack’s scientific interest focuses on neurogastroenterology and motility, and includes diverse topics such as the pathophysiology and management of gastrointestinal functional and motor disorders (including GERD, globus, dysphagia, FD, gastroparesis, dumping syndrome, chronic constipation, IBS and opioid-induced bowel dysfunction), the physiology and pharmacology of the enteric nervous system, GI hormones and the control of satiation and food intake. He has published more than 600 articles and 40 book chapters on various aspects of scientific and clinical gastroenterology.

Professor Tack won several awards for Basic and Clinical Research in GI Science. Professor Tack is Editor-in-chief of the United European Gastroenterology Journal, Past-President of the European Society of Esophagology, Past-President of the International Society for Diseases of the Esophagus, and has served as co-editor for Neurogastroenterology and Motility, Gastroenterology, Gut and Digestion. He serves or has served as a member of the editorial board of Gastroenterology, American Journal of Gastroenterology, Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Journal of Internal Medicine, Bailliere’s Best Practice and Research in Clinical Gastroenterology, Annals of Gastroenterology and Journal of Gastroenterology.

Dr. Hyams is one of the world’s leading experts in pediatric inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. He has led pivotal clinical trials of biological agents in these disorders and has directed a long-term natural history registry that has described the course of almost 2000 children newly diagnosed with IBD. Dr. Hyams is the recent recipient of a $10.4M grant from the National Institutes of Health investigating the response of children newly diagnosed with ulcerative colitis to standardized therapies. He has worked with the FDA developing endpoints for pediatric clinical trials, and serves on the Rome Committee, an international research organization that investigates the course and treatment of functional GI disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, functional abdominal pain, abdominal migraine and functional dyspepsia.

Dr. Magnus Simrén is working as Senior Consultant in the Department of Internal Medicine, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden, and is Professor in Gastroenterology at the Department of Internal Medicine & Clinical Nutrition, Institute of Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg.

He graduated from medical school, University of Gothenburg in 1991, and afterwards completed his internship and fellowship in internal medicine at the County Hospital of Lidköping. From 1998 to 1999, Doctor Simrén completed his fellowship in gastroenterology at Sahlgrenska University Hospital. He defended his thesis entitled “Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Pathophysiological and clinical aspects” in 2001. He was a research fellow at the University of Leuven, Belgium, in 2002, focusing on the pathophysiology of functional dyspepsia and GERD.

Dr. Simrén is now head of the Neurogastroenterology Unit at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, and had a Senior Research position (50%) at the Swedish Research Council 2011-2016. His main research areas are the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of functional GI disorders, as well as the treatment of these disorders and the importance of brain-gut interactions. He has published more than 200 original articles and also written book chapters on GI motility diseases and functional GI disorders, and is currently supervisor for eighteen PhD students and several Post-Docs. Doctor Simrén has been the President of the Scandinavian Association for Gastrointestinal Motility (SAGIM), Scientific Secretary to the Swedish Society of Gastroenterology, and a served as council member for several international organizations. He is currently the chair of the United European Gastroenterology (UEG) Scientific Committee, and a member of the UEG council. He has been working as Deputy Editor and Associate Editor of Gut (2005-2009), and Clinical Editor of Neurogastroenterology and Motility (2012-2016). Doctor Simrén received the Rising Star Award from the Association of National European and Mediterranean Societies of Gastroenterology (ASNEMGE) in 2006, and is a member of the Rome Foundation Board of Directors since 2011. 2010-2012 he chaired the Rome Foundation Working team on “Intestinal microbiota in functional bowel disorders”, and has served as a member of the Rome IV committees for Functional Bowel Disorders and Centrally Mediated Disorders of GI Pain. 2015-2016 he was visiting research scientist at the Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorders, University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill, NC, United States, and he is now an adjunct professor at the Department of Medicine at UNC.

A gastroenterologist with a special interest in neurogastroenterology, inflammation and infection, Laureate Professor Talley is considered an international authority in the field. His research covers the local and systemic effects of low grade inflammation in the gut, the role of the gut micro-organisms and the gut-brain axis.

Laureate Professor Talley is a member of the Rome Foundation Board for 17 years (the authority in the classification of all the functional GI disorders), former editor of major journals in the field (Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, American Journal of Gastroenterology) and is the Editor-in-Chief of the Medial Journal of Australia, and has been PI on an extensive portfolio of research.