Contributors and Researchers
Meet some of the people who are behind the scenes that the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation supports. These passionate individuals are working hard to help us better understand what happens in our digestive tracts. The CDHF provides funding to Canadian researchers which supports the discovery and development of new prevention strategies, faster and more accurate diagnoses and, more effective treatments. This section highlights the excellent work of some of the researchers and projects the CDHF has supported.
The IMAGINE (Inflammation, Microbiome, and Alimentation: Gastro-Intestinal and Neuropsychiatric Effects) Chronic Disease Network involves 17 hospitals/universities and 75 researchers across Canada who will study the interactions between the inflammation, microbiome, diet and mental health in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The IMAGINE Network is one of five chronic disease networks in the SPOR (Strategy for Patient Oriented Research) initiative of CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research). Learn more about IMAGINE SPOR.
Dr. Stephen J. Vanner
Dr. Vanner received a undergraduate degree in Life Sciences and a concurrent MD and MSc degree from Queen’s University. After completing his Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology training at Queen’s and he carried out post doctoral research training in enteric neurophysiology at the Vollum Institute in Portland, Oregon. Since returning to Queen’s University in 1991 he has been an attending staff in Gastroenterology at the Kingston General and Hotel Dieu Hospitals and cares for patients with gastrointestinal disorders in both the inpatient and outpatient departments. He performs a full range of endoscopic procedures. He has subspecialty expertise in gastrointestinal motility disorders involving the lower GI tract including the small intestine, colon and anorectum, and is director of the anorectal motility laboratory. He has an established translational research program that examines mechanisms underlying pain signaling and motility in the gastrointestinal tract. He has published extensively, with more than 6,000 research citations. Stephen Vanner is Director of the Gastrointestinal Disease Research Unit (GIDRU) at Queen’s University. He also leads the Canadian Neurogastroenterology Network (CNN), a consortium of IBS researchers throughout Canada. His translational research program examines the pain mechanisms in irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, with a goal of identifying new targets for the development of novel therapies to treat pain. He also investigates the regulation of blood flow in the enteric nervous system. Another particular area of interest has been the investigation and development of colonic cleansing regiments for colonoscopy, with one U.S. patent issued and several pending. In 2016 he was named a co-investigator in a $12.5 million, CIHR funded, large-scale national research project looking at gastrointestinal disease, where his work includes studying the effects of a diet low in some types of carbohydrates on Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Dr. Bercik is an Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology at McMaster University and consultant gastroenterologist at Hamilton Health Sciences in Hamilton Ontario. He is director of Complex Motility and Celiac Clinics at McMaster University. Dr. Bercik graduated as MD from Charles University, Prague, Czechoslovakia. He obtained his doctorate degree from University of Lausanne, Switzerland, where he studied neural control of gastrointestinal motility. He did his postdoctoral fellowship at McMaster University focusing on animal models of functional gastrointestinal diseases. His basic and clinical research, funded by CIHR and NIH, investigates the role of intestinal bacteria in gut-brain axis signaling, and its relevance to functional gastrointestinal and gluten-related disorders. He has published over 90 peer-reviewed papers.
Kristina Campbell, M.Sc.
Kristina Campbell, a science and biotechnology writer, is author of The Well-Fed Microbiome Cookbook and co-author of the academic textbook Gut Microbiota: Interactive Effects on Nutrition and Health (which has a second edition forthcoming). Kristina specializes in translating microbiome science and helping the general public sort fact from fiction when it comes to gut health, probiotics, and prebiotics.
Amy Chow, RD
Amy offers private nutrition consultation in the specialized areas of food allergy and food intolerance management for children and adults. She has 10 years of experience as a registered dietitian and has served as a pediatric and allergy dietitian at HealthLink BC.
Andrea Hardy, RD
Andrea Hardy is a registered dietitian from Calgary, Canada where she runs a multi-disciplinary digestive health practice called Ignite Nutrition. She specializes in gut health & gastrointestinal diseases, and is recognized in the media as Canada’s Gut Health Expert. She is passionate about translating science into ‘easy to digest’ information to support a healthy gut. She has spoken on the TEDx stage, as well as internationally about digestive health. Follow her on Instagram at @andreahardyrd or tune into her gut health podcast ‘Let’s Gut Real’ which is all about making nutrition science easy to digest!
Rosanna Lee, RD
Rosanna Lee is a geriatric dietitian specializing in the areas of chronic disease prevention and management. She works primarily with the elderly at the Centre for Seniors and Neuro Rehabilitation at William Osler Health System (Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health & Wellness). Rosanna collaborates closely with seniors, family members, and caregivers in the community to support nutrition optimization and healthy aging. She helps individuals living with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, frailty, osteoporosis, behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, and those in need of neurological rehabilitation. Her areas of interest include the brain-gut connection, probiotics/ prebiotics, and the gut microbiome. She has a passion for research and in continuing education.
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Amanda Li, RD
Hi there! My name is Amanda and I am a Registered Dietitian and Founder of Wellness Simplified. I hold a Masters in Nutrition from the University of Guelph, and a Culinary Arts Diploma from The Culinary Arts School of Ontario. I am currently pursuing a certificate in Integrative Functional Medical Nutrition Therapy. Upon graduating from chef school, I knew I wanted to bring together my dietetic experience and working in a professional kitchen setting to create a nutrition coaching practice that is food-centric and grounded in teaching individuals a basic life skill – nourishing their body, mind and soul.
Dr. Maitreyi Raman
Dr. Maitreyi Raman is a Gastroenterologist and Physician Nutrition Specialist, Associate Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medicine and Division of Gastroenterology at the University of Calgary. She completed medical school at the University of Ottawa, and then Internal Medicine Residency at Dalhousie University, and subsequently a clinical nutrition fellowship at the University of Toronto. Dr. Raman has clinical and research interests in lifestyle as primary therapy for patients with digestive diseases. She investigates using dietary patterns and components in the management of digestive health disorders, and investigates the role of diet to modulate the gut microbiome and chronic inflammation in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. In addition, Dr. Raman explores the role of the brain-gut axis through mind body interventions, and its impact on chronic disease outcomes. Dr. Raman has co-developed a digital health platform, LyfeMD, to bring to patients living with digestive diseases effective and evidence-based diet and lifestyle strategies that improve symptoms and clinical outcomes (www.lyfemd.ca).
Simon Spichak, M.Sc
Simon Spichak finished his MSc at University College Cork, where he studied the interactions between the microbes in the gut and the brain. He became interested in science communication during his studies and won a national competition called FameLab in 2020. Since then, he has been covering stories in science and tech. His writing has been published in Time Health, Futurism, The Debrief, Massive Science, Biospace, and elsewhere. He is the founder of a Canadian mental health company called Resolvve that proves therapy to students in high school and university.
Lisa Spriet, RD, NutriProCan Dietitians
Lisa is a Registered Dietitian and Co-Owner of NutriProCan, a company of registered dietitians who have helped Canadians with optimizing their digestive health and overall health since 2015. She also holds a Master’s of Science Degree in Foods and Nutrition.
Lisa is a lecturer, speaker, coach for individuals and group programs and works with businesses and organizations developing nutrition programming. She thrives on creating partnerships with others in the health and wellness arena and has been an invited speaker for many organizations and conferences.In her free time, Lisa loves to explore in the markets, cook, spend time among her favourite fitness activities, running, skiing, hiking with her dog Leo and daughter Charli, and spending time with family and friends at home or exploring the world.
Dr. Selena Colarossi
Dr. Selena Colarossi is a Public Health Pharmacist at The Regional Municipality of Halton working primarily under the Vaccine Management portfolio. She graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor of Arts & Science, completing a major in Biology and a dual minor in Anthropology and Social Studies of Medicine. She then earned a Doctorate of Pharmacy from the University of Toronto’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, and became a Registered Pharmacist within the Ontario College of Pharmacists.
She is passionate about gut health, specifically the mind-gut connection and how digestive problems can negatively impact a person’s quality of life and mental health. After several years working in community pharmacies across the GTA, she came to understand the challenges patients face when navigating the healthcare system in relation to digestive conditions. She enjoys creating content for CDHF as it supports both medical knowledge translation and gut health awareness. As a former varsity soccer player she continues to enjoy physical activity, lately hiking and indoor cycling, whenever she’s not binging a good TV show or hanging out with friends.
Marwah Saeed, BSc
Marwah Saeed, BSc (Hons), MBBS, completed her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Biology from the University of Waterloo, Ontario in 2014, and medical school at Aga Khan University (AKU), Pakistan in 2021. After graduation, she worked in clinical research at the Movement Disorders Clinic at Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto, ON where she coordinated several clinical studies on movement disorders while also using the time to learn more about Neurology such as the challenges associated with the specialized niche of deep brain stimulation (DBS) and the complexity of patient care. More recently, she has been working at a pediatric community clinic in Windsor, ON, learning about community-based health needs and children/youth issues. Outside of medicine, she loves reading, long walks, travelling, and spending time with family and friends.
Dr. Amber Cohen
Dr. Amber Cohen is a Registered Clinical Psychologist who focuses on anxiety, depression, and trauma. These conditions are often comorbid with digestive conditions, which has led to working with many clients who have gut health concerns and health anxiety. Dr. Cohen opened The Cohen Clinic 7 years ago which is a holistic wellness therapy practice. The clinic team is comprised of Psychologists, Psychotherapists, Social Workers and Registered Dietitians who provide treatment through a mind-body lens. Psychological therapy at The Cohen Clinic focuses on evidence-based strategies that help clients build effective coping skills and reach their highest potential. Dietetic services at the clinic work to improve physical health difficulties in order to better support mental health. We believe in an integrative approach to treatment and utilize different therapeutic modalities such as: Cognitive Beahvioural Therapy, Dialetical Behaviour Therapy, EMDR, Hypnotherapy, Emotion Focused Therapy, Polyvagal Theory, and Mindfulness. We feel honoured to walk alongside people as they take the steps to heal their bodies and minds.