Message from the Director

Message from the Director: Spring 2020

Dear Hotchkiss Brain Institute Trainees, Faculty and Staff,

On behalf of our HBI leadership team, Dr. Richard Frayne, Dr. Sarah McFarlane, Dr. Deborah Kurrasch, Dr. Lawrence Korngut and myself, I thank you for your patience, cooperation and continued dedication as we navigate through the challenges of the COVID-19 virus. You continue to be our priority and we want to convey that we are here to support you in any way that may be of help.

While this note complements the emails you have received from President Ed McCauley, Provost Dru Marshall, Vice President (Research) Dr. Bill Ghali, and Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) Dean Jon Meddings, I write this note to provide HBI-specific information regarding the broad issues we face in our research, education, outreach and international activities.

Communicating with each other

The HBI staff is working hard to maintain our communication and operations efforts. In this regard, I strongly encourage HBI students, faculty and staff to continue keeping us informed about your published papers, awards and research, and any volunteering you are undertaking. We plan to continue connecting with you via our Brainworks ebulletin. 

HBI’s research activities

For specific directives on research please refer to the communications from the President/VPR and Dean’s offices. 

Although many essential research activities will continue, some research activities at the HBI are being impacted by reduced activity, including: the Brain and Mental Health Research Clinics (BMHRC), the Calgary Brain Bank, the CSM Optogenetics Platform (CSM Opto), the HBI Advanced Microscopy Platform (AMP), the HBI Molecular Core Facility, the MR-guided Focused Ultrasound Platform (MRgFUS), the NeuroImaging Research Unit (NIRU), and the Non-invasive Neurostimulation Network (N3). 

I want to acknowledge and thank the core directors and their scientific and support staff who have facilitated the most graceful reduction of services possible.

Preparations are continuing for the International Review of the Brain and Mental Health research strategy, with details of the review site visit in the fall to be confirmed. Activities critical to this review and the associated plans for the BMH strategy’s next phase are continuing and will be moved to virtual venues, though noting individual meeting dates may change. We thank the BMH Team and Platform leaders and BMH Scholars Committee members for their essential and ongoing contributions to this process.

HBI’s education activities

Trainees, most of you have been working from home. We already miss interacting with you on a daily basis, being surrounded by your enthusiasm, and hearing about the fantastic work you are doing.

Educational efforts within HBI  continue. We are planning REALISE modules that can go forward as online modules, and would love to hear of any ideas you may have along these lines. I also encourage trainees to organize and initiate virtual journal clubs, social meetings and conversations (e.g. Slack), and seek out volunteer opportunities. Reach out to trainees, friends and neighbours who you know are living alone, and who might feel isolated.

HBI’s seminars and outreach activities

There are a number of events that are being postponed or cancelled. Here is a summary of the status of upcoming events  with more announcements to come later:

  • HBI Seminar Series – Fridays – cancelled with the hope to reschedule speakers at a later date
  • Think Big: A Night In With Your Brain | Topic: The Brain-Gut connection – will be held (probably online) October 2 

HBI’s international activities

We have postponed our international activities until circumstances allow for them to continue. If any of our international students or visitors are experiencing difficulties, or need support of any kind, please let us know or have them contact us directly.

In closing, I hope each of you will take comfort knowing that we are in this together. These difficult times have come on quickly and are changing by the day. We are all working to adapt to a new normal. If you are feeling overwhelmed, please reach out for help. My hope is that through this experience we will become a more compassionate, kind and creative community – and society.

We at the HBI are here to support you, now and into the future, and are looking forward to welcoming you back to campus as soon as possible. In the meantime, we plan to continue facilitating your work and applauding your successes. Please take good care of yourselves and others in the coming days and weeks – the safety of each of you is of utmost importance to us. Don’t hesitate to reach out for any reason – we are here for you.

Dr. David Park, Director

Dr. Richard Frayne, Deputy Director

Dr. Sarah McFarlane, Education Director

Dr. Deborah Kurrasch, Director, International Strategy

Dr. Lawrence Korngut, Director, Innovation and Commercialization

Please continue to look for regular updates on email from President McCauley, Provost Marshall, Dr. Ghali, Dr. Meddings and others. For campus-wide information and regular updates, please visit the UCalgary COVID-19 website. Thank you and stay well.

Warm regards,


David Park, PhD, FRSC
Director, Hotchkiss Brain Institute
Lead, Brain and Mental Health research strategy 
Professor, Depts. of Clinical Neurosciences
and Cell Biology & Anatomy
University of Calgary
(Mobile) 403-680-9632
(Office) 403-220-3994