University of the Fraser Valley

Dr. Michael Gaetz recognized for community-based health research excellence

Dr. Michael Gaetz recognized for community-based health research excellence

2014 UFV Research Excellence award winner

Dr. Michael Gaetz, 2014 Research Excellence winner
Dr. Michael Gaetz, 2014 Research Excellence winner

Healthy bodies make for healthy minds and healthy communities.

There are many opportunities in Fraser Valley communities to do scientific research focused on keeping the population healthy, raising healthier kids, and helping the elderly stay healthy longer through well-planned physical activity.

That’s what Dr. Michael Gaetz of Chilliwack has discovered in his 10 years of combining teaching and research in the Kinesiology and Physical Education department at the University of the Fraser Valley.

Gaetz will receive the 2014 UFV Research Excellence award at the June 13 afternoon Convocation ceremony in recognition of his community-based research projects.

He has worked cooperatively with other UFV faculty members, students, and community partners on a variety of research projects in recent years.

Gaetz notes that over the course of the decade he has been working at UFV, it has become easier to engage in research activity.

“Before it was thought to be nice if you were able to fit some research in, but now both research and teaching are valued quite highly. This award is very validating for the approach that I take to my work, which is to incorporate research into my students’ learning experience.”

Gaetz takes a creative approach to research, seeking community partners, collaborating with faculty from other disciplines, and borrowing equipment or arranging for donations from suppliers.

“I try not to depend on securing huge funding from external agencies,” he notes. “It’s good if you get it, but if you are flexible and creative you can achieve a lot with simple community-based initiatives.”

Projects that Gaetz has collaborated on include:

  • A study of concussion injury done in partnership with the GW Graham middle/secondary school football teams (worked with coaches and medical volunteers and student participants)
  • A project that saw kinesiology and nursing students conducting exercises with elderly residential care home residents and measuring, tracking, and analyzing results (worked with students, UFV Nursing faculty members, and Fraser Health medical professionals)
  • Research on the effect of hydration on fluid balance of university athletes (worked with Kinesiology and Physical Education colleagues).
  • A project that measured the impact of dance activities in a care home, in which elementary-school students visited residents weekly for dance sessions (worked with colleagues and students from Nursing and Media and Communication Studies)

Gaetz sees many opportunities to do community-based research and involve UFV undergraduate students. He cites the partnership with GW Graham School’s relatively new football program as an example. Gaetz and KPE students took baseline measurements of 60 young football players so that there would be data to measure against if a player later sustained a concussion. UFV students also attended games and practices as athletic trainers.

“They were interested in building a program based on excellence and saw a role for us to help them there,” he says. “It led to opportunities for our students to gain experience as trainers, but also in data collection and other aspects of science-based research. It’s still early in the process, but I expect some academic papers will result from our work with the Graham program.”

He also views the research that he and his UFV colleagues and students have been doing with elderly population as valuable.

“For the elderly, we want to find safe ways to help them maintain functionality. We want to make sure they are strong and that their sense of balance is optimized, because falls can be so devastating for this population,” he notes.

Gaetz’s reputation is solid internationally in his field of expertise.

“I have enjoyed a research collaboration with Dr. Gaetz for more than a decade. He is an innovative and thoughtful scientist who continuously seeks answers to complex research questions,” notes Dr. Grant Iverson, Director of the Neurospsychology Outcome Assessment Laboratory at Harvard Medical School. “For several years he has been leading an experimental research program related to rest, exertional testing, and return to school and sports following concussion …. His research program in electrophysiology following concussion has been well recognized, internationally, and it has had an impact on the field.”

UFV nursing professor Shelley Canning collaborated with Gaetz on the two research projects involving the elderly in residential care facilities.

“One of the strengths and unique aspects of Dr. Gaetz’ research career is his strong commitment to community-engagement and his ability to forge very successful interdisciplinary partnerships,” she notes. “He has very generously shared his research expertise and was an absolutely invaluable member of our team providing expert direction in research design and important mentorship to me as a researcher and our student research assistants and volunteers.”

Trained in psychology and neurophysiology at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia, Gaetz also brings a strong scientific basis to his research program at UFV, Canning noted in her nomination letter.

“His excellence in his field is reflected in his 21 peer-reviewedarticles (six in the past five years) in high quality scientific journals with significant impact factors. In the past five years he has published three book chapters and 15 abstracts. He has made an additional seven conference presentations, and four invited presentations.

“This is a remarkable level of productivity for an academic at a teaching-intensive institution who also makes significant service contributions to the university and community.”

Gaetz will receive his award at the afternoon Convocation ceremonies on Friday, June 13 at the Abbotsford Centre. The ceremony starts at 2:30 and the public is welcome to attend.




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