Melissa Woodward
Vancouver, BC
University of British Columbia

Meet Stratas’s seventh award winner, Dr. Melissa Woodward, a post-doctoral fellow in the Psychiatry department at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Woodward is the winner of the Nordal Family Scholarship ($1,500), which is dedicated to the top student or young researcher studying addictions and substance misuse. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
With Stratas’s financial assistance, Dr. Woodward’s research will conduct a pilot investigation of fentanyl-associated damage to the body through poor oxygen supply using retinal imaging to a marginally housed population of men and women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Since 2016, Vancouver has been at the fore of a national opioid epidemic. One of the main consequences of non-fatal opioid overdose is respiratory depression which decreases the oxygen supply (hypoxia) to the brain which may result in a coma, brain injury, or death. Dr. Woodward’s novel research will use retinal imaging - a relatively cheap, mobile, and quick technique - to better understand the biological impact of drug use and overdose in marginalized populations. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The study will examine the effect of overdose on both retinal and brain vasculature and health as well as its relation to overall cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular health is a leading cause of mortality in female opioid users. Dr. Woodward’s research will study 70 participants over a six-month period who have tested positive for fentanyl at least twice within the previous six months. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
There are huge gaps in our understanding of the biological mechanisms of mental health and addiction. Dr. Woodward’s research explores the complex interactions between mental and physical health and may provide new early intervention techniques for planning personal care needs for at-risk individuals. Stratas is very proud to announce our support, sponsored by the Nordal family, for this ground-breaking research project.