$143,000 awarded locally for COVID-19 research | St. Clair College
Thursday, April 23, 2020
The WE-SPARK grants, totaling $143,000, involve over 100 people working together to roll out research projects to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Data Analytics professor John Ulakovich interacts with students, before COVID-19 caused classes to go online. Courtesy of The Windsor Star

A St. Clair College data analytics professor has been awarded one of 21 research grants by the newly formed WE-SPARK Health Institute, a collaboration of local health and education institutions to foster research projects.

John Ulakovich received a $5,000 grant to carry out a project that he hopes will be used to track the COVID-19 virus, the treatments that were successful and the equipment required for those treatments.

“If we can track those type of things better, we can start making much better predictions and modelling for future resources,” Ulakovich said.

The term “predictive modeling” has become ubiquitous during the COVID-19 crisis to explain how data is used to predict outcomes, such as the number of people who may be affected by the virus. Ulakovich said predictive modelling can be used to better understand past, current, and future COVID-19 epidemiological trends and resource requirements. This will allow healthcare leaders to make more informed decisions regarding patient health and public health and safety with respect to virus control.

“If you get more critical patients you need more equipment,” Ulakovich said. “If we can track that better, then we can plan better for future epidemics, or even for flus or any type of future issue, the hospital can plan better for future resources.”

The proposed project will develop an automated database repository and reporting dashboard to generate and disseminate key epidemiological metrics requested by healthcare professionals and decision makers in order to most optimally care for their patients, control virus spread, and prepare for future similar scenarios.

The WE-SPARK grants, totaling $143,000, involve over 100 people working together to roll out research projects to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Recipients include 21 Principal Investigators, 50 co-applicants/collaborators, 28 students and over 20 volunteers. Each of the four WE-SPARK partner organizations – Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Windsor Regional Hospital, St. Clair College and the University of Windsor – are involved in multiple grants, along with an additional 16 academic, community and industrial partners.

Two other faculty members from St. Clair College also received funding for projects that were submitted in collaboration with other researchers.

Elaine Chatwood, the coordinator of the Fashion Design program at St. Clair, is collaborating with University of Windsor researcher Dr. Ken Drouillard, who is working with multiple partners to create a quality control program for homemade personal protective equipment for use in health care institutions. Chatwood will help develop and implement efficient production practices to improve production capacity of the volunteer sewing network making the protective equipment.

Linda MacDougall, a faculty member in the School of Nursing at St. Clair, will be helping Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare research associate Dr. Jennifer Voth examine the psychological impact of the pandemic on healthcare workers.

Peter Wawrow, director of Applied Research and Development, said St. Clair College appreciates the opportunity to contribute research efforts to address the Covid-19 pandemic. “WE-SPARK funding has provided the seed of opportunity for researchers and enhanced collaboration efforts in the Windsor-Essex community,” he said.