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UBC Reports Dec 1, 2005

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VOLUME  51   I  NUMBER   12   I   DECEMBER   1,2005
2 UBC in the News
3 Aboriginal Literature
4 Mercury Poisoning
6 Science Co-op
7 Tele-Medicine
Re-Wiring the Brain
A new Virtual Reality Therapy tool being developed at
UBC may provide a non-drug alternative to stroke and
Parkinsonspatients. byhilarythomson
It may look like a primitive video
game, but this virtual environment is
a sophisticated tool to help the brain
re-wire itself after damage from
stroke or Parkinson's disease.
Prof. Martin McKeown, of the
Pacific Parkinson's Research Centre
at UBC Hospital, and colleagues are
developing a virtual stimuli exercise
that offers patients a non-drug-based
therapy to help recover motor
The therapy is the only one of its
kind in North America.
"This is a whole new avenue of
research," says McKeown, who is a
member of the Brain Research
Centre and an investigator with the
Vancouver Coastal Health Research
Institute. "We're looking at
non-pharmacological treatments by
developing optimal sensory environments to help rehabilitate patients."
The virtual reality (VR) therapy
may be available to patients within
five years.
A physician with a degree in
engineering, McKeown has been
working with Prof. Sid Fels of the
Faculty of Applied Science to create
the VR experiment at UBC. Before
continued on page 6
VR Therapy: How it Works
The therapy involves 15 electrode patches, each about five cm.
in diameter, applied to the patient's arms and shoulders. The
electrodes record electrical activity in the muscles, in particular,
communication between groups of muscles.
The patient observes a monitor where coloured balls appear in
3-D and seem to fly toward the subject. The participant is instructed to use their weakened arm to reach out as if to catch the ball.
They may be instructed to try to catch all balls or to ignore all but
one designated ball. □
Dr. Martin McKeown has created a colourful, 3-D virtual environment that
stimulates brain cell activity to help patients recover motor ability
UBC Student Enlists Ugandan Girls in
Education Research
Armed with two laptop
computers, a digital camera and
compassion, UBC education
student Shelley Jones helped
Ugandan girls voice their ideas on
me to understand the culture and
context of life for women and girls
in a rural Ugandan environment."
Jones adds, "Typically, NGOs
Jones and the students
researched how different modes
of literacy — from text to visual
communication — can aid educa-
parachute into developing countries       tion for girls in developing nations
"The important thing to me is giving these girls a voice.... They helped
me to understand the culture and context of life for women and girls
in a rural Ugandan environment."
literacy, gender and education.
For a year, Jones lived in a small
village without electricity or
running water in the Masaka
District, a rural area in south
central Uganda.
Jones taught class and enlisted
the help of 16-19-year-old girls at
the high school. Using music,
drama, video and artwork, she and
the students explored such issues as
barriers to paid work for women
and the girls' expectations about
love and marriage.
"The girls were my
co-researchers," says Jones. "The
important thing to me is giving
these girls a voice, which has been
missing from research work in
developing countries. They helped
and there's little or no sense of
what the women experience in their
daily lives, despite their key roles as
caregivers, farmers and small
business owners."
One of the realities girls and
women face is that polygamy is still
common in Uganda. Within large
families, boys are seen as future
breadwinners and are given priority
for spending scarce education
dollars. However, the girls also
realize schooling is the only way
out of the backbreaking toil their
mothers endure.
"They know education is the
most important thing in their lives,"
says Jones. "Some of them walk
two to three hours to attend
They created a music video and
documented Ugandan life through
photographs. To operate her digital
camera and laptops, Jones relied
on the solar panels of the village
library and the car battery she
purchased as a power source.
One of their most successful
photography projects involved a
field trip to the nearby town
Masaka, where the chief of police
gave the group an impromptu tour
and interview.
"That visit broke all sorts of
barriers for the girls," says Jones.
"It would never occur to them that
they could enter the police station,
let alone get encouragement from
the chief of police to become
UBC graduate student Shelley Jones lends a helping hand to girls'
education in Uganda.
Jones says most of the girls live
in desperate poverty. Their families
depend on subsistence-level farming
supplemented by occasional labouring jobs for the men and sales of
garden produce or crafts by the
" I was speechless at how little
they had," she says. "They had no
money to buy kerosene so after
sunset there was no light to do their
Jones says that while elementary
education is free, Ugandan students
have to pay school fees once they
get to the equivalent of grade 8.
These fees can amount to about
$80 US per year, whereas a typical
family in the area may earn $ 1 US
per day or less.
Some girls were desperate enough
to sell their bodies to get an
"I was really surprised they
admitted it," says Jones, who
conducted a confidential survey
among 13 girls.
"Over 40 per cent said they
would consider prostitution in order
continued on page 5 I      UBC      REPORTS       | DECEMBER
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Highlights of UBC Media Coverage in November 2005. compiled by bas i L wauc H
UBC's Team Snowstar (Left to right: Ashley Cook, Andrew Morrison,
Damir Hot, Simon Hastings, Steve Jones, and Eric Ma)
Several international and national
dailies, including the Times of
London and the Globe and Mail,
reported on a study by UBC scientists that debunks cow-tipping as
an urban, or perhaps rural, myth.
According to Margo Lillie and
student Tracy Boechler of the UBC
Department of Zoology, physics
would require five people to exert
enough force to push over a cow
standing with its legs straight.
Fewer people could exert the
required amount of force to tip a
static cow, but this is only theoretical as cows do not sleep on their
feet and are easily disturbed.
"I suspect that even if a dynamic
physics model suggests cow-tipping
is possible, the biology ultimately
gets in the way. A cow is simply
not a rigid, unresponding body,"
Dr. Lillie told the Times.
NASA recently challenged space
engineers across North America to
design a "space elevator," a system
that delivers cargo from Earth to
space along miles of super-strong
tether, using only light as a power
source and at a fraction of the cost
of a traditional space launch.
Of the many university and corporate teams that entered NASA's
recent competition, Team Snowstar,
a student team from UBC, was
voted most likely to succeed in
2006. The team was profiled in
major U.S. media outlets including
CNN, USA Today and MSNBC.
" Having always seen space travel
as the next step in human development, I jumped on the opportunity
to get involved," said Team
SnowStar's Simon Hastings to
National Graphic magazine. "It
wasn't about the money, but about
the feeling of being part of something bigger than myself and
accomplishing something meaningful."
UBC undergrads have discovered a
way to enable people living with
disabilities to control crosswalk signals and household electronics using
everyday cellular phones.
The findings focus on Bluetooth
technology, which is now standard
in cell phones and laptops. By fitting public facilities with Bluetooth-
enabled transmitters, the student
team effectively turned cell phones
into universal remote controls.
In an interview with the Ithaca
Journal in New York, UBC electrical and computer engineering prof.
Dave Michelson said that
Bluetooth-enabled transmitters
already exist, so installing them into
public facilities wouldn't require a
lot of money or time — all that is
required is industry and government
support. □
The following letter was received in response to the call for
comments about Policy #130 (Management of Wireless Network),
printed in the November edition of UBC Reports.
Dear editor:
I write to express my dissapointment in the Review Committee of
Policy 130. Clearly listed in "Who Should Read This Policy" section
ofthe policy are "Students in UBC housing," but there are no student
representatives on the review committee.   UBC should make greater
efforts to consult students on issues that UBC thinks effect students.
Kim Lam
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
University of British Columbia
2356 Main Mall
Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4
Still Time to
As the 2005 UBC United Way
Campaign draws to a close this
month, donors and volunteers are
continuing their support.
"With over $400,000 raised we
have achieved 76% of our fundraising goal to support social programs
and services in the Lower Mainland,"
notes Eilis Courtney, Senior
Coordinator for this year's campaign.
With almost 60 presentations
under his belt, Loaned Representative
Don Erhardt has been busy spreading
awareness about United Way and its
contribution to the community.
"For 75 years United Way have
been shepherds in our community,
understanding the social needs and
helping to address them via fundraising, and supporting over 400 agencies
in the Lower Mainland" says
Erhardt. "Eighty-nine cents of every
dollar raised goes toward these programs, and all undesignated funds
raised in the Lower Mainland stay
here and go directly toward supporting our community."
Donations will be accepted until
the end of the tax year, December
31st. Those still interested in supporting this year's campaign are encouraged to donate before December
5th—the deadline for final prize
draws, which includes a grand prize
draw for two flight tickets on Air
Canada. For more information on the
campaign, how to donate, news or
event photos, visit
www.unitedway.ubc.ca or phone
604-822-8929. □
Director, Public Affairs
Scott Macrae scott.macrae@ubc.ca
Randy Schmidt randy.schmidt@ubc.ca
Design Director
Chris Dahl chris.dahl@ubc.ca
Sharmini Thiagarajah sharmini©exchange.ubc.ca
Principal Photography
Martin Dee martin.dee@ubc.ca
Lorraine Chan lorraine.chan@ubc.ca
Brian Lin brian.lin@ubc.ca
Bud Mortenson bud.mortenson@ubc.ca
Hilary Thomson hilary.thomson@ubc.ca
Basil Waugh basil.waugh@ubc.ca
Sarah Walker public.affairs@ubc.ca
UBC Reports is published monthly by the UBC Public Affairs Office
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UBC Reports welcomes submissions.
For upcoming UBC Reports submission guidelines, please see
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advertising published in UBC Reports do not necessarily reflect
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randy.schmidt@ubc.ca or call UBC.NEWS (604.822.6397) UBC      REPORTS      |       DECEMBER     I,     2005      |      3
A Renaissance
of Aboriginal
Prof sees more fearless
voices emerging
(with files from Alexandra Chu)
Aboriginal literature is undergo
ing a renaissance in Canada, says
UBC creative writing instructor
Richard Van Camp.
The published Dogrib author
says early trailblazers like
Thomson Highway, Jeannette
Armstrong and Lee Maracle are
only getting better while younger
writers swelling their ranks are
infusing healing, humour and sensuality into Aboriginal narratives.
"I'm seeing more fearless voices," says Van Camp, "people who
aren't scared to take on their leadership, to question the teachings
of their elders or the customs of
their people. At the same time, I'm
reading new voices out there who
are really researching their cultures and trying to find their way
to celebrate their traditions in two
Van Camp is in a unique position to steward new talent. Since
2001, he has been leading weekly
workshops at UBC's First Nations
House of Learning for Aboriginal
second-and third-year students.
He also teaches a storytelling and
writing workshop for 15-to 29-
year-olds on the Musqueam
Indian Reserve in south
Van Camp is supporting his students through a journey he himself
took at the age of 19. As a member of the Dogrib Nation growing
up in the Northwest Territories,
Van Camp felt compelled to write
a book he wanted to read and one
that showed his life and the life of
his peers.
Five years later in 1996,
Douglas and Mclntyre published
Van Camp's first novel, The Lesser
Blessed. The powerful coming-of-
age story follows a Dogrib Indian
growing up in the small northern
town of Fort Simmer. Van Camp
captures the tragedy and hope facing youth and families in northern
Native communities.
In the year following the novel's
publication, Van Camp was
awarded the Canadian Authors
Association Air Canada Award,
which recognized a Canadian
author under 30 deemed to show
most promise in literary fiction.
The Lesser Blessed was also translated into French and then into
German, which garnered the 2001
Jugendliteraturpreis, the country's
highest award for a translation.
"When my novel came out, I
didn't know that I was going to be
the first published Dogrib author,"
says Van Camp. "Since then —
and for the first time — we're able
to publish our novels, our way.
Our poetry, our way. Our graphic
novels, our way, and we have
Aboriginal publishers now who
will gladly publish us."
He says there are about six
Aboriginal publishers, which
include Pemmican Press, Theytis
Books and Kegedonce Press.
"They can publish what speaks to
them. Before, we only had mainstream publishers who would say
there's no market for this."
At present, there are about 30
established Aboriginal writers in
Canada, among them Ruby
Slipperjack, Alootook Ippelie,
Joseph Dandurand, Drew Hayden
Taylor, Garry Gottfriedson, Eden
Robinson and Chris Bose.
Dogrib author Richard Van Camp wrote his first book at age 19.
Van Camp points to several factors why Aboriginal literature is
thriving. "We're the second generation writing in English. We're
also the second generation free
from residential schools."
"Technology has helped as
well." Van Camp says with the
Internet and booksellers like
Amazon or Goodminds.com,
Aboriginal writers have been able
to access domestic and international audiences.
In 2002, Van Camp published a
collection of short stories, Angel
Wing Splash Pattern, with
Kegedonce Press. Recently translated into German, Angel Wing
Splash Pattern explores Northern
Indian life with themes of
redemption, family, hope, and
Van Camp has also written two
children's books, both illustrated
by Cree artist George Littlechild.
With Children's Book Press, he
published A Man Called Raven in
1997 and What's the Most
Beautiful Thing You Know About
Horses? in 1998. □
Van Camp Creates Storytelling Community
Among Students
Van Camp's former student Nicola Campbell has just published her
first children's book, Shi-shi-etko. Her free-verse picture book tells
the story of a little girl preparing to leave her family and community
to attend Indian residential school.
Campbell praises Van Camp as "a great storyteller" with "an
awesome sense of humour."
"He knows how to create a community atmosphere in the
Campbell says the course allows Aboriginal students to discuss
and write about matters close to the bone and trust that others know
where they're coming from.
"The advantage of working within an Aboriginal creative writing
class was the familiarity with the sense of humour, communication
styles and cultural context."
Her classmates were not all creative writing majors, and in fact,
came from numerous faculties. Campbell says a cornerstone of
Van Camp's class is to honour each person's voice.
"He's incredibly inspiring. He makes sure that everyone
of the students knows that their writing is important and is worth
publishing." □
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Artisanal Miners Risk Mercury Poisoning
Student works for healthier mining technologies, by brian lin
When Cody Hopkins witnessed
four Indonesian artisanal gold
miners narrowly escape a landslide
last summer, it hit home what a big
difference he could make with a
degree in mining engineering.
Hopkins, a fourth-year student in
UBC's Dept. of Mining Engineering,
spent three weeks in Indonesia with
the Global Mercury Project (GMP),
a UN-funded project aimed at
providing gold miners in developing
countries with healthier, more
efficient mining technologies.
"We are currently witnessing the
biggest gold rush the world has ever
seen," says UBC Mining
Engineering Assoc. Prof. Marcello
Veiga, the world's leading researcher
in mercury contamination from
artisanal mining, and Chief
Technical Advisor ofthe GMP. "In
more than 50 countries, there are 15
million people working as artisanal
gold miners, including four million
women and two million children."
As a result of artisanal miners
using mercury to extract minute
quantities of gold — too little to
make economic sense for large-scale
mining companies, but enough to put
food on the table for poverty-stricken
rural communities — more than
1,000 tonnes of mercury are released
back into the environment each year.
The powerful poison damages the
brain and kidneys when inhaled or
ingested through the food chain. It is
especially dangerous for developing
babies and small children, many of
whom work side-by-side with
women artisanal miners.
Both stages of the extraction
process bring miners into direct
help build a case for the severity of
the situation.
"A big part of my work there
was administering a breathing test
to miners and measuring mercury
contamination in their respiratory
system," says Hopkins. "Depending
on the method they use to extract
gold from the mercury-gold
amalgam, miners could measure
anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000
nanograms per cubic metre of air,
compared to 20 nanograms, which
is normal in urban North
While visiting one of the mines,
Hopkins witnessed another practice
that poses a more immediate
"In some ofthe alluvial mining
Since returning to UBC, Hopkins
has been helping design simple
retorts, or devices made of common
kitchen items and cheap plumbing
tools readily accessible to miners
that prevent mercury vapour from
being released into the air.
Attacking the problem simultaneously from another angle, he's also
working with other engineering students to find ways that help miners
increase their yield by investigating
the feasibility of a magnetic sluice
for areas rich in magnetic minerals,
or magnetite.
"Most sluices in the area are
lined with carpets or other cheap
fibres," says Hopkins. "As slurry
flows through, gold particles, which
are heavier, sink and get trapped
Ironically, most mercury used by artisanal miners is recycled
mercury imported from the developed world.
Artisanal miners in Indonesia panning mercury in open water.
contact with mercury. The first
involves miners wringing out excess
mercury with their bare hands —
usually into a pond or river. The
small amounts of gold-mercury
amalgam produced in the first stage
is then burned — in open air or a
closed room, often with children
present — to vapourize the mercury
and further purify the amalgam.
Ironically, most mercury used by
artisanal miners is recycled mercury
imported from the developed world.
Inspired by Prof. Veiga's work —
Hopkins took a third-year course
with Veiga — he applied to join the
team last summer to collect data to
sites, miners would spray water jets
at the face of an ore-containing soil
slope to loosen the structure. They
then pump the slurry, or ore-
containing mud through a sluice —
long, inclined troughs with a straining mechanism to collect gold particles, " says Hopkins.
"I was talking to some miners
and all of a sudden there was this
loud thump and I saw the entire
top section of the slope tumble to
the bottom, almost falling on one
of the miners. That was when it
really hit me that what we're
doing here could really make
a difference."
among the fibres. By attaching
magnets underneath the sluice,
magnetite that is already present in
the slurry would create a temporary,
fine-toothed strainer that would
catch more gold."
Hopkins, who has always been
interested in the environmental
aspect of mining engineering, says
his experience with the GMP
helped solidify his career
"Now I know there are things
I can do with what I learned in
school that will make a difference
in people's lives."  □
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" I couldn 't imagine my life without her, " says UBC education
student Shelley Jones of her adopted Ugandan daughter,   i
Shakira, now almost three.
A Year of Living Profoundly
When UBC graduate student
Shelley Jones, 43, traveled to
south central Uganda last August
to research her education thesis,
she had no idea she'd be
returning a mom.
But early into her first term of
teaching high school in Masaka
District, Jones began taking care
of an 18-month-old girl who was
extremely ill.
"I had gone to visit a nearby
home and saw this little baby,"
says Jones. "She was obviously
very sick and no one was able to
afford to take her for medical
treatment or give her the care she
desperately needed."
The child, Shakira, had been
orphaned and was left in the care
of a grandfather and other relatives. "They were already quite
burdened with other children to
look after. They had very little."
Soon, Jones began to look in on
Shakira twice a day. Before going
to work and on the way home,
she would take the baby back to
her house to feed and bathe her.
"After a couple of weeks, I
began taking her to school with
me and keeping her with me all
day," says Jones. "And then it just
made sense for her to come live
with me."
Because Shakira had not been
breastfed, the doctors told Jones
that she showed all the classic
symptoms of extreme malnutrition. As well, the girl suffered
from malaria and other signs
of ill health.
Jones carefully fed her easy
foods such as scrambled eggs,
milk, fruit, vegetables, and
Shakira's favourite, pasta, along
with a cocktail of vitamin serums
and prescription medication.
"She had this fiery determination to live," says Jones, "That's
what really helped her to make a
full recovery."
After nine months, Jones made
the adoption official. And when
she returned to Vancouver this
August, Shakira — now almost
three — was her irrepressible
seatmate on the flight home.
Jones has found an apartment
through UBC Family Housing.
And Shakira is enrolled in
daycare, while Jones focuses on
keeping all the balls up in the air
as a single mother, working
part-time and shaping a year
of profound experiences into a
PhD thesis.
Despite the challenges, Jones
says she has no regrets. "Shakira
is this totally joyous and amazing
child. I couldn't imagine my life
without her." □
continued from page 1
to raise school fees," says Jones.
And of the girls who completed
the questionnaire, 100 per cent
admitted they knew of girls who
had engaged in sex with their teachers. Jones says this is a recognized
and widespread problem in Uganda.
Girls slept with teachers out of fear
that they could be punished for
refusing, or in hope they could earn
tuition money.
Jones returned to Vancouver this
August, but remains close to the
students and villagers.
"I don't go a week without a
phone call to find out how they're
all doing," says Jones.
"I'm committed to those girls.
They're at a critical juncture; 17,
18,19-years-old is when they'll be
making lots of decisions that will
affect them for the rest of their
Jones has been paying out of her
own pocket the school fees for several girls. She has also has launched
a Ugandan girls' education fundraising campaign through YouLead, a
development and youth global
citizenship organization at UBC.
Their campaign will kick off with a
Dec. 15 fundraiser event. To be held
at UBC International House, the 5
p.m. to 7 p.m. event will feature
African music, drummers, a silent
auction and door prizes.
As well, YouLead is working with
a Ugandan village to build a facility
by next spring that will house
visiting researchers and community
projects such as the one underway
to foster women and small business
Jones' study has won funding
from the Social Sciences and
Humanities Research Council
(SSHRC) and the International
Development Research Council
For details about YouLead and
the December 15 YouLead fundraiser, visit: http://www.youlead.org
For more information about
Jones' research: http:www.mter-
change.ubc.ca/skjones □
UBC Faculty an
d Students
Have Established Strong
Research Links with Uganda
Shelleyjones' study is but
to correct clubfoot
one of three UBC Faculty of
Education research projects
in that country.
•   The Liu Institute for
Global Issues is co-ordinat
•   Her supervisors, UBC
ing multi-agency research
Education Profs. Maureen
that will advance human
Kendrick and Bonny
security issues, which include
Norton, are leading studies
on-the-ground mechanisms
on adult and family literacy.
to protect civilians from
With Harriet Mutonyi, a
violence and abuse.
UBC education student
from Uganda, they're also
•   To promote global oral
exploring HIV/AIDS
health, UBC Dentistry
education for adolescents.
Assistant Prof. Shafik
Dharamsi has focused on
•   Faculty of Medicine's
delivering health promotion
Shafique Pirani, clinical
and early-childhood
professor of orthopaedics, is
development initiatives
training Ugandan doctors to
in several African countries,
use non-surgical treatment
including Uganda. D
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Calling all UBCAuthors!
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If so, we would like to hear from you so that you can be included in
the 16th Annual Reception, scheduled for March 2006, hosted by
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Koerner Library, Room 218D
1958 Main Mall
604-822-4430/fax: 604-822-3335
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UBC Public Affairs has opened both a radio and TV studio
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Student on
When UBC biophysics student
Lars Jungclaus signed up for the
Science Co-op Program, he never
expected it to contribute to a better
understanding of his family heritage,
Islam and Korean culture.
What began as an eight-month
stint in the Microstructure
Laboratory at the University of
Wiirzburg in Germany, however,
turned into a series of transformative experiences that the 24-year-old
honours student says is by far worth
the time and efforts.
"I'm half German, so the opportunity to brush up on the language
and spend time with relatives was a
big draw," says Jungclaus, who
studied the performance of semiconductor lasers being developed at
the world-renowned lab for potential applications in data transmission.
"I also got to travel around much
of Europe on the weekends, and
once I caught the travel bug, it was
kind of hard to stop."
With his appetite for globetrotting whetted at Wiirzburg,
Jungclaus took a year off school
and joined Canada World Youth, an
organization founded by former
senator Jacques Hebert. "The program pairs Canadian youth with
peers from a developing country —
in our case, Indonesia — and we
spend seven months volunteering in
a rural area of each country," says
Despite finding some striking similarities to Canadian youth including a passion for Western television
and music, Junglcaus was moved by
the devotion to Islam shown by
their Indonesian counterparts, especially against the backdrop of smalltown B.C., where the two dozen
Canadian and Indonesian youth
spent the first half of the program.
"Part of the time we spent in
Fernie, B.C., happened to be
Ramadan," says Jungclaus. "Some
(Above) Canadian and Indonesian youth worked together to build public
washrooms in a small village on the island of Borneo. (Below) Lars
Jungclaus (lower right) and his host family in Indonesia.
of the Canadian participants,
including myself, decided to observe
the fast in support of our Muslim
partners. It was the first time many
of us had direct exposure to Islam."
It was Jungclaus's turn to stand
out when the group arrived in a
small village on the island of
Borneo, population 100. At six-foot,
five-inches tall, Jungclaus says he
felt like a tourist attraction for locals
as he hovered above most of the villagers, helping plant trees and build
public toilets.
"Most of them are quite poor
and make a living from selling fruit
from their plantations," says
Junglcaus. "But they seem very content with life and derive happiness
from simply putting food on the
table — things we take for granted."
Rounding up the globetrotting,
Jungclaus completed one more
Science Co-op work term in Korea,
designing and testing a solar lighting
system in a joint project with the
Korea Institute of Energy Research.
"I was impressed with the strong
work ethics of my Korean colleagues, " says Jungclaus. "They
work long hours, then they go out
after work and have a good time.
The team bonding was probably the
strongest I've seen anywhere."
Jungclaus credits his co-op experience for exposing him to a wide
range of professional and academic
environments, and allowing him to
see first-hand how he could apply
knowledge to real life problems. "I
definitely come away with a sense
that I know what's waiting for me
beyond university — whether it's
graduate school or an industry
career." □
UBC Science Co-op
Established in 1980, the UBC
Science Co-op program places
approximately 1,000 students in
co-op jobs each year with industry
employers and research institutions across Canada and in more
than 15 countries around the
BUly Lau, a fifth-year
Engineering Physics student who
spent two co-op terms at the
University of Wiirzburg, says the
experience helped him develop
technical skills while reinforcing
knowledge obtained from course-
work. "You can definitely notice
the difference in fifth-year lab
courses. You just 'get it' more,"
says Lau.
Ninety-one per cent of co-op
graduates are employed within
two months of graduation, versus
60 per cent for non co-op graduates.
Seventy per cent of co-op graduates are in jobs which meet their
salary expectations, compared to
46 per cent for non co-op graduates.
For more information, visit
www.sciencecoop.ubc.ca □
Re-Wiring the Brain
continued from page 1
UBC Launches Podcast Service
Subscribe to UBC's newest digital service
to receive the latest UBC Talk of the Town
lectures, Global Citizenship speaker series
and a growing list of digital UBC content
via your iPod or MP3 player.
1   »          towH^Mfl        m
Mi                                    -1 JO
Dr. McKeown and colleagues (1-r) Joyce Chiang, Dr. Yuqing Wei,
Graeme McCaig and Lisette Eigenraam.
McKeown arrived on campus in
2003, he worked on the therapy at
Duke University in North Carolina.
The therapy builds on previous
research that showed synthetic stimulants, such as amphetamines,
helped patients to re-learn movement, even years after they had suffered a stroke. Stimulants release a
naturally occurring chemical in the
brain called norepinephrine, which
acts as a neurotransmitter to relay
electrical signals between brain cells,
including those brain cells that ultimately control muscles necessary for
The only problem was that giving
stimulants to stroke patients carried
a risk of heart attack, making proper
dosage hard to determine.
"We started looking for ways to
stimulate release of norepinephrine
without the use of drugs," says
McKeown. "A virtual solution
seemed perfect — patients could
react to stimuli in a safe environment
and we could monitor precisely the
electrical activity of muscles."
The intensity of the stimuli causes
the brain to spike production of norepinephrine. These chemical bursts
allow the brain to reprogram damaged nerve-signaling pathways.
Motor ability improvement is measured by the degree of electrical signaling between muscles.
"The beauty of the VR environment is that we can match stimuli to
the electrical activity from muscle
groups to learn precisely how stimuli
are affecting movement," says
McKeown. In collaboration with
Prof. Jane Wang of UBC's Dept. of
Electrical and Computer
Engineering, McKeown is also using
the experiment to develop an accurate measure of motor performance
in brain-injured patients, a longstanding challenge of rehabilitation
McKeown, his colleagues from
Duke University, and Dr. Yuqing
Wei, a visiting neurologist from
China, have shown the immediate
positive effects of the stimuli in 20
stroke patients and 20 control sub-
continued on page 7 IC      REPORTS
2 0 05      I      7
Health Researchers Explore Communication Technologies to Deliver Care
Dr. Kendall Ho is working with
WHO to bring e-health to
underserved areas.
When a child has a brain hemorrhage, a city doctor consults with a
neurosurgeon — and fast. But what
if the child lives in an isolated South
Asian village and the closest neurosurgeon is hundreds of kilometres
Telemedicine, or e-health, could
be the answer, says Dr. Kendall Ho,
who is working with an international group of health-care practitioners interested in spreading
health information through technology-
Associate dean of continuing professional development and knowledge translation in UBC's Faculty of
Medicine, Ho chairs an e-health
steering committee within
Universitas 21 (U21), an international consortium of research-inten
sive universities. Committee members are focused on the enormous
challenge of delivering health care to
underserved populations in both
developing and industrialized countries.
"Telemedicine will completely
change health care," says Ho. "It
gives us undreamt of opportunities
to spread medical knowledge to the
Members of the committee
include health sciences representatives from Hong Kong University
and University of Queensland in
Australia. For the past three years,
they have been looking at how
telemedicine — health-related activities across distance that use computers and videoconferencing — can
improve global health. They envision
technology can play a substantial
role to enable and facilitate
improved access of care in remote
areas that lack facilities and healthcare personnel. The emerging field is
commonly known as e-health.
Ho says about 10 per cent of the
world's population has access to 90
per cent of the world's health-care
resources, according to World
Health Organization (WHO) data.
In addition, approximately seven
million children under the age of five
die each year, most in developing
countries, from conditions that
could have been prevented if there
was sufficient knowledge and access
to existing, cheap methods of treatment.
"With the aid of e-health, we can
be instrumental in preventing unnecessary deaths among children," says
Ho, who along with other committee members, works in collaboration
with WHO to use information and
communication technology in clinical work, health training and
In July, a UBC medical student,
along with two students from the
University of Hong Kong, went to a
Sri Lankan hospital to explore
telemedicine opportunities. Working
with local health-care professionals,
the students identified clinical cases
that might benefit from online consultation with health-care practitioners in U21 member countries. They
used digital cameras and the
Internet to document and communicate details of patients' conditions.
"Computers were non-existent in
the hospital," says Anne Huang,
currently a third-year UBC med student. "Electronic reports of lab
results — things we consider standard practice here —just weren't
available. The whole experience
cemented my belief that to provide
the best care, physicians must be
part of a bigger structure that
requires systemic approaches, such
as IT resources."
The U-21 committee is now planning an e-health project in Papua
New Guinea.
"Our goal is to build health-care
capacity among a country's own citizens," says Ho. "E-health is intended as a support, not replacement,
for local resources."
E-health would be especially useful in providing distance specialist
services, says Ho. Neurosurgical
consultations and mental health
assessments are possible via video-
conference, specialists can confer
with local practitioners by e-mail,
and personal digital assistants offer
improved access to specialized information to help doctors with their
clinical decisions.
Health professionals in under-
served and isolated locations could
be electronically linked, and practitioners using e-health technology
could provide effective global health
surveillance of widely communicable
diseases like SARS.
But there are significant challenges
to implementing e-health innovations.
An immediate problem is access to
technology and user skill levels.  In
addition, rapid evolution of technology may hinder long-term use of
today's hardware and software,
which often become obsolete soon
after introduction. Also, there is currently little research-based evidence
to support telemedicine's cost effectiveness and return on investment
relative to traditional services.
"What we're trying to do now is
to conduct thoughtful evaluation to
generate evidence about the sustainability of telemedicine," says Ho.
"The time is right to do this work.
The technology is there, public
awareness of global health issues is
there and synergy between U21
institutions and WHO can kick start
initiatives and investment in communication technologies."
Health science students and faculty members interested in becoming
involved in e-health projects can
contact Ho at kho@cpdkt.ubc.ca or
at www.cpdkt.ubc.ca. □
Re-Wiring the Brain
continued from page 6
jects. The next step in the research is
to determine if the VR therapy
improves motor performance in the
long term.
McKeown believes that the VR
method will also be useful in
Parkinson's disease — a progressive
neurodegenerative disease that
involves loss of the brain cells that
ultimately influence movement control. It is estimated that approximately 100,000 Canadians have
Parkinson's disease.
Stroke is a sudden loss of brain
function caused by the interruption
of blood flow to the brain or rupture of blood vessels in the brain.
The fourth leading cause of death in
Canada, about 16,000 people die
from stroke each year and about
300,000 Canadians live with the
effects of stroke.
Co-investigators include medical
student Lissette Eigenraam, from
Holland; Prof. Wang's master's
student Joyce Chiang; and research
assistant Graeme McCaig. Lab space
has been provided by UBC's Media
and Graphics Interdisciplinary
Centre (MAGIC). □ J
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