Picchione Visiting Scholar Award

Picchione Visiting Scholar Award

Established in 1990, the Picchione Endowment Fund has enabled many internationally respected researchers to visit Dalhousie Medical School. These visits have brought new knowledge and perspectives to the Faculty, and have even paved the way for new collaborations. In 2002, the Picchione Endowment Fund expanded its scope by supporting Dalhousie efforts to recruit top researchers to Canada Research Chair appointments.

2015 Picchione Visiting Scholar Awards

2015 Recipient: Dr. John Frank, University of Edinburgh, Scotland. 

Previous Awards

Pain Research and Intervention

DMRF was pleased to provide the 2013 Picchione Visiting Scholar Award to Dr. Roger Fillingim, director of the University of Florida Pain Research and Intervention Centre of Excellence. An internationally recognized scholar in the field of pain research, Dr. Fillingim came to Halifax to speak at the inaugural Dalhousie Pain Day, held in May to bring together Dalhousie University's diverse and growing pain research community to share ideas and foster stronger interdisciplinary connections. As Dr. Fillingim's area of expertise is gender, racial and ethnic differences in the experience of pain and response to interventions, his input and insights were particularly valuable to members of Dalhousie's recently formed Women's Pain Multidisciplinary Research Group. On the whole, Dr. Fillingim's interaction with Dalhousie pain community was informative and inspiring for the trainees, researchers clinicians and members of the public who took part in the day's various events.

Stroke rehabilitation

Thanks to a Picchione Visiting Scholar Award, the Dalhousie stroke rehabilitation community was able to bring Dr. Stephen Page to Halifax to speak about new developments in post-stroke motor skills rehabilitation. An associate professor and director of research in several neurology, physical medicine and rehabilitation-related departments at the University of Cincinnati, Dr. Page is a global innovator in stroke treatment. For example, he developed modified constraint-induced movement therapy (mCIMT) as a means to treat one-sided upper limb paralysis, and was the first to use mental imagery to help stroke patients recover lost functions. While in Halifax, Dr. Page shared insights regarding mCIMT with a research team that is conducting clinical trials of this technique.

Understanding and treating neurodegenerative diseases

Dr. Neil Cashman, a professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of British Columbia’s Brain Research Centre, is a world expert in an array of neurodegenerative diseases. These include ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), prion diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (mad cow disease) and protein misfolding diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. A Picchione Visiting Scholar Award allowed Dr. Cashman to travel to Halifax in October 2012 to solidify a new collaboration with Dalhousie and National Research Council researchers in the area of protein misfolding diseases. He also met with researchers, trainees and clinicians at Dalhousie, Capital Health and the IWK, and delivered seminars on prion and prion-like diseases and immunotherapies for protein misfolding diseases. Dr. Cashman’s visit energized the local research community and revealed new opportunities for fundamental, translational and product-development research.

Arthritis pain relief research

Thanks to a Picchione Visiting Scholar Award, Dr. Jason McDougall is spending four month’s sabbatical at Dalhousie Medical School, from September to December 2009, working with Dr. Jana Sawynok on new models of arthritis pain and new approaches to treating this pain.

An associate professor in the Department of Physiology & Biophysics at the University of Calgary, Dr. McDougall is a noted expert in animal models of arthritic joint pain. Dr. Sawynok is head of Dalhousie’s Department of Pharmacology and a pioneer in developing topical treatments for chronic neuropathic pain. The researchers aim to develop a new model of arthritis pain that includes nerve injury to more closely parallel real human pathology and use it to test the effectiveness of topical creams containing antidepressant and anticonvulsant medications. Such treatments have the potential to ease chronic pain in the affected area without negative side effects of systemic medications.

While in Halifax, Dr. McDougall will work with graduate and postdoctoral trainees, deliver seminars and meet with other pain researchers to discuss common interests and potential collaborations.

Cancer genetics and progression

Dr. Poul Sorensen, Johal Chair in Childhood Cancer Research at the University of British Columbia, will visit Dalhousie Medical School as Picchione Scholar in June 2008. This visit will strengthen Dr. Sorensen’s longstanding ties with Dalhousie and IWK researchers, including Drs. Mark Bernstein, Fergall Magee and Conrad Fernandez. When Dr. Fernandez noticed a genetic abnormality in an IWK patient’s kidney tumour, Dr. Sorensen used this information to discover and describe an important new cancer gene.

While in Halifax this spring, Dr. Sorensen will work closely with Dalhousie pediatric hematologist/oncologist Dr. Jason Berman, an expert in zebrafish models, to develop new ways of studying both cancer genes and cancer progression in zebrafish. Dr. Sorensen will also share his expertise with Dalhousie's Cancer Biology Research Group, childhood cancer specialists at the IWK, pathologists, and trainees in the Cancer Research Training Program.

Cardiopulmonary disease and neuroimaging

Two esteemed researchers visited Dalhousie Medical School through the Picchione Visiting Scholar Awards program in 2007.

In April, Dr. Marlene Rabnovitch, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Stanford and recipient of a Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Heart Association, shared her insights about cardiopulmonary diseases.

In October, Dr. Christoph Scherfler, associate professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Innsbruck, gave two formal presentations.He has pioneered imaging techniques for the diagnosis of neurological disorders, particularly movement disorders.

Vision and neuroscience

Dr. Caroline Herronof University College in Dublin visited Dalhousie Medical School in 2005, thanks to a Picchione Visiting Scholar Award. She shared her expertise in synaptic physiology and advanced methods of central nervous system studies with neuroscience colleagues in the Retina and Optic Nerve Research Lab.

Dr. David Hubel of Harvard Medical School visited Dalhousie Medical School as a Picchione Scholar in 2004. A Nobel Prize Laureate, Dr. Hubel is an internationally known neuroscientist with expertise in the fields of vision and neural development. He received an honorary doctorate from Dalhousie in 1998.

Epidemiology of breast cancer

A breast cancer researcher in the Department of Community Health Epidemiology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Dr. Kristan Aronson spent several months at Dalhousie as Picchione Visiting Scholar in 2003. Dr. Aronson worked with the Perinatal Epidemiology Research Unit and the IWK Health Centre on a CIHR-funded study of the role of reproductive factors (such as maternal age and gestational diabetes) in the development of breast cancer.