Putting the “Applied” into Health Care

New Kinesiology Research and Innovation Centre in R+T Park Opens Up New Opportunities for Research Collaboration and Advancements in Treatment

Tucked into the middle of the David Johnson Research + Technology Park a transformation is underway. The building formerly known as “Tech Town” which previously housed the Columbia Fitness Club and other professional services amenities was gifted to the University of Waterloo by an alumnus in 2012, and is now mid–renovation, on its way to becoming an exciting new multi–disciplinary research and innovation centre for UW’s Department of Kinesiology.

The new centre, which will open its doors in Spring 2014 will provide a much–needed, dedicated research space where Kinesiology faculty and students can perform studies, share that learning working with University and healthcare partners, and validate new therapies and preventative health strategies with individuals from the community.

The newly renovated facility will include assessment facilities as well as areas for evaluating new interventions, therapies and training approaches. It will incorporate an interior walking course, facilities for evaluating new therapies and technologies, as well as individual assessment offices where kinesiology researchers can work with volunteers and other individuals referred from healthcare practitioners for assessment and treatment.

The building’s previous use as a health and fitness facility created a tailor made space for the research centre. “We could not have been presented with a more ideal space,” says Dr. Bill McIlroy, Professor of Kinesiology and Department Chair. “If you set out to design a facility to offer therapeutic treatment, assessment services and research, you literally could not have designed one better – and it is a two minute walk from the main Waterloo campus.”

McIlroy makes a point that the Centre will have an open door policy to all who wish to visit, and will focus on health and wellness at every age. “Certainly much of our research is focused on our aging population. We have researchers dedicated to such fields as vascular health, bone health, and brain health. But too often we catch people on the down side of that curve,” he says. “Part of the focus of this Centre will be to understand the impact of exercise and nutrition on health at every age. We want to catch those 35 year olds as they come in to exercise and involve them in research studies to examine the long–term impact of exercise and nutrition on their health. We’ll obviously be looking at treatments and therapies, but also we want to examine an individual’s biological make up, to understand why strategies work for some, and not for others. This multi–dimensional view will allow us to put in place highly personalized prevention, treatment and exercise programs to improve long term health outcomes.”

Bill McIlroy is also excited about the possibility of working with other University partners such as the Engineering and Computer Science programs to marry Kinesiology’s advancements in therapeutic research with modern technologies such as wireless technologies and wearable devices. “Involvement of the tech colleagues can advance us that much further. There’s tremendous opportunity for technology advancements in the healthcare space. It’s a very exciting space for innovation. All we need is the right partners with the right collaborative spirit to make it happen.”

Thanks to the gift of TechTown, McIlroy’s vision for broad scale research collaboration is now on the brink of reality.

“Our research agenda within the Kinesiology Department is both broad and diverse. We have people with a range of expertise including bone health vascular health, cellular and molecular health, exercise, nutrition and mobility. But we have always been bound together by the applied nature of what we do. Regardless of the new tools, therapies, preventative strategies we create, our Department has a unified energy to make a difference. But the missing piece has always been our ability to bring that research under one roof,” explains Bill.

Vic DiCiccio, professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo, goes on to explain that C3RM's connection to UW is further cemented due to the University's renowned work in the field of actuarial science. "As people seek to be insured against cyber risk, we can easily anticipate our research expanding to look at methods for evaluating, assessing and mitigating this form of risk to business and to individuals," he says.

“Of course we collaborate today, but Skype calls and meetings simply cannot compete with day–to–day, face–to–face interaction. This new research and innovation centre will serve as a unifying location –– a physical space where our collective energy can be housed, where collaboration can happen and where ideas can flow. When you have researchers working hand in hand with primary care physicians, clinical care workers, with technology partners and ultimately with the individuals from the community who will benefit from improvements in care, things simply accelerate that much more quickly.”