Core Team

Our core team is based in Vancouver. We work closely with our collaborative partners in the BC Ministry of Health, provincial Health Authorities, professional groups, and rural communities to plan and develop the strategies of the Centre.

The diversity of our expertise, backgrounds, and interests enhances our ability to comprehensively investigate the complexity of challenges and opportunities for rural health services across Canada and internationally.



Jude Kornelsen, PhD, is a health services researcher and Associate Professor in the Department of Family Practice at UBC who has a focused program of research on rural maternity care. As co-director of the Centre for Rural Health Research, her primary focus involves rural maternal health issues including the emergence and integration of midwifery in our health care system. In this position Dr. Kornelsen works toward creating productive research environments and coordinates and oversees student positions. She has undertaken numerous funded studies on rural women’s experiences of care and additionally directs a program of research into the emerging social phenomenon of elective cesarean section. Dr. Kornelsen is a former CIHR New Investigator, a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Scholar and an Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Sydney.


Stefan Grzybowski , MD, CCFP, MClSc, FCFP, is a Professor in the Department of Family Practice at UBC and a family physician with many years of rural clinical experience. He was Director of Research in the Department of Family Practice at UBC for 10 years and currently holds a Michael Smith senior scholar award. He has an abiding focus on rural health services research and building research capacity, both of which are exercised through his current position as co-Director of the Centre for Rural Health Research. Specific research foci include the safety of small rural maternity services with and without cesarean section capacity and supporting primary care clinician investigators. Dr. Grzybowski is also the director of the Rural Health Services Research Network of BC and an Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney.

Research Associates

Dr. Ilona Hale, MD, CCFP has been practicing as a rural family physician in Kimberley BC since 1997 after graduating from University of Ottawa medical school and the UBC rural family medicine residency. In 2016 she joined the UBC Department of Family Medicine Clinician Scholar Program to support her growing interest in becoming a clinician researcher. Her main passion is community-based health promotion but she is also interested in efficient health care utilization, polypharmacy and rural and environmental health. Her current research is focused on obesity prevention during infancy and community-based health promotion in rural areas. She is the chair of a charitable non-profit society board, Healthy Kimberley ( which helps guide the direction of the community-based research.

·     Parent Perceptions of Obesity Prevention During Infancy

·     RAISE (Raising Infants to be Smart Eaters) pilot study

·     Healthy Kimberley 2020: A Qualitative Exploration of a Rural “Healthy Outlier” Community

·     Live 5-2-1-0: Promoting Healthy Choices in Grocery Stores through Nudge Marketing

·     Evidence for Effectiveness of the Division of Responsibility Approach to Child Feeding – Narrative Review

Robert F Woollard, MD, CCFP, FCFP Professor, UBC Department of Family Practice Dr Woollard is Professor of Family Practice at UBC. He has extensive national and international experience in the fields of medical education (chair of accreditation system for 7 years), the social accountability of medical schools, ecosystem approaches to health, and sustainable development. He is actively involved in Nepal with a new national medical school, school of public health, and nursing school founded on the principles of social accountability, and also works in East Africa on matters of social accountability, primary care, and accreditation systems. He co-chairs the Global Consensus on Social Accountability for Medical Schools (GCSA) and does extensive work in this area with many international bodies. He was a lead organizer for the planned World Summit on Social Accountability: and His primary research focus is the study of complex adaptive systems as they apply to the intersection between human and environmental health. His book, “Fatal Consumption: Rethinking Sustainable Development” details some of his work in this regard. He also provides central leadership in the development of a Canadian national strategy for addressing educational and service needs for surgical and obstetrical services in rural Canada—in particular Aboriginal service access for birthing. He was instrumental in establishing the mobile clinic for agricultural workers and continues the active practice of medicine. Above all he is a husband, father and grandfather.

Research Team

Building Blocks for Sustainable Rural Maternity Care Project

Research Coordinator

Kira Barwich is the Research Coordinator for the North Island Decision Aid project. Kira has her MSc in Global Health from Trinity College University of Dublin, Ireland and has spent time working on health research projects in Zimbabwe and Cambodia. Prior to this, Kira spent several months interning with a health-focused non-government organization in rural Indonesia. Kira is passionate about health for marginalized populations and rural health. She is keen to apply her international experience in health to the rural Canadian context. In her free time, Kira enjoys being active in the outdoors and is looking forward to calling British Columbia home and exploring more of its natural beauty.

Research Assistant

Lisa Hodgson is a research assistant for the North Island Project and a student in Bachelor of Midwifery at the University of British Columbia. She received her Bachelor of Arts with an Honours in Psychology in 2015 from Thompson Rivers University where interests were focused in the areas of emotion regulation and the effects of nature on wellbeing. After graduating, Lisa began working for the Northern Health Authority where she was involved in mental health and addictions case management. Lisa has always been interested in rural health care and is passionate about increasing wellbeing in these communities. Outside of her studies, she enjoys spending as much time as she can in the mountains.

Project Assistant

Regina Chan is finishing her BSc in Applied Animal Biology at the University of British Columbia. Her responsibilities in CRHR include coordinating the upcoming Maternity Service Community Symposium which aims to understand and document supports needed to sustain maternity services without local access to maternity care. She has previously worked at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) documenting some smallholder farming techniques. These techniques are used for farmer field schools to help rural farmers learn about management, methods, and risks of farming systems and find a practice that works best for them. During her free time, Regina likes to longboard, eat, sing, play piano, snowboard, dance, write calligraphy, and grow succulents.

Research Assistant

Tisha Dasgupta is finishing her BSc. in Integrated Sciences (Genetics and Neurophysiology) at the University of British Columbia. She works as a Research Assistant on the Building Blocks to Sustainable Rural Maternity Care The North Island Project at CRHR. She has previously worked as a Research Assistant at BC Children's Hospital and spent a month working with mothers in rural Uganda. She aims to pursue a career in Global Health, and CRHR's work is of great interest to her because she wants to help vulnerable communities have equal access to high quality healthcare services. In her free time, Tisha enjoys travelling, eating new foods, writing, adventure sports and loves watching movies.


UBC Medicine FLEX Students

Krista pic Krista Loewen is a medical student at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, Southern Medical Program. Previously, she completed a BA in Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University, where she developed a strong interest in Indigenous health and health care systems and policy. Her study interests also include rural and remote medicine, and she is keen to spend more time working in rural areas. Prior to university, she spent several years working in the international development sector and in the music industry. Her hobbies include cross-country skiing, music and gardening.


 Joanna Ritson is a medical student at the University of British Columbia in the Vancouver Fraser program. Before entering medical school, Joanna completed her BSc at McGill University and worked as a research assistant there. She has a keen interest in the social determinants of health, particularly as they relate to rural living and maternal care. Joanna is excited to be back in British Columbia and to be involved with the CRHR team. In her spare time she enjoys skiing, hiking, kayaking, dance and playing piano.


hannah chester Hannah Chester is a medical student at the University of British Columbia in the Northern Medical Program. She completed by Bachelor of science in Nursing at Vancouver Island University and practiced as a Registered Nurse for two years in a rural community prior to entering medical school. Her interests is on rural and remote health and looks forward to working with this team to work towards improving health for remote communities. Some of her hobbies include playing sports and being outside.




Emily MacLean is a medical student at the University of British Columbia, studying at the Vancouver Fraser campus. Prior to medical school she completed a BSc in Biochemistry at the University of Victoria. She went on to work as a research assistant studying fish health in Campbell River and then heart and lung disease at St. Paul’s hospital. Emily has a strong passion for rural and remote healthcare, stemming from her upbringing on Quadra Island. She is very excited to be part of CRHR team and be involved in rural healthcare initiatives in BC. Some of her hobbies include cooking, playing board games and enjoying the outdoors.


Rural Evidence Review

Coordinator & Knowledge Translation Lead

Christine Carthew is the Coordinator of the Rural Evidence Review project and Knowledge Translation Lead for the Centre for Rural Health Research. Christine completed her Master of Public Health in Health Promotion at the University of Toronto, where she developed a strong interest in knowledge translation as it applies to the field of health promotion. Prior to joining CRHR, Christine held positions at Cancer Care Ontario and Public Health Ontario, both in Toronto, Canada, where she explored this very intersection. Christine brings with her to this role a commitment to social justice fostered through her graduate studies and global experiences with community development in Kenya. Christine is keen to contribute her enthusiasm and knowledge in the areas of health promotion and knowledge translation toward strengthening health services and promoting health and health equity in rural British Columbia.

Research Assistant

Zeena Yesufu is a Master of Public Health student at the University of British Columbia. She holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from Nigeria and has three years’ experience working in health systems consulting. Her responsibilities as a graduate research assistant at CRHR include assisting with evidence reviews, contributing to knowledge translation activities and assisting with primary research. Her experience in designing and implementing health care programs in Nigeria’s underserved communities has helped her to make the connection to rural health research in British Columbia, contributing to her ultimate goal of ensuring sustainable health care systems for all. Her hobbies are reading, travelling and watching Grey's Anatomy.




Research Assistant

Tara O’Brien is a 4th year undergraduate student at UBC majoring in Environment and Sustainability (Geography) and minoring in Economics. As a Licensed Practical Nurse, Tara is passionate about healthy living and has spent several years learning from patients who have had to travel to Vancouver for care about the difficulties associated with accessing rural healthcare. This piqued Tara’s interest in pursuing an education she could use to help form policies that promote equitable, efficient and sustainable development. As a research assistant with the Rural Evidence Review project, Tara researches the international evidence on identified rural healthcare priorities and engages with rural community stakeholders within British Columbia to collect community-relevant healthcare priorities. In her free time, you will find Tara teaching and practicing yoga, learning to rock climb, dreaming about surfing, playing with puzzles of all sorts and cooking.


Rural Surgical Obstetrics Network (RSON)

Research Assistant

Saurav Acharya is finishing his BSc. in Combined Major in Science (Life Science, Chemistry and Sustainability and Environmental Science). He works as a Research Assistant on the Rural Surgical and Obstetrical Networks project at CRHR. He has previously worked as a User-Experience (UX) researcher for UBC Communications and has spent a summer working with vulnerable communities in rural Nepal. Here, he saw what trouble citizens had to face to access basic health care. In the future, he aims to pursue medicine where he will be able to serve rural communities in British Columbia and developing countries. In his free time, Saurav loves to powerlift, play basketball, snowboard, hike and indulge in local-craft beer.


Postdoctoral Fellow

Asif Raza Khowaja, PhD, is a health economist and Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Family Practice at UBC who has many years of experience working in Maternal and Child Health. As Postdoctoral Fellow, he is working with the Centre for Rural Health Research, his primary focus involves designing and conducting the economic evaluation of Rural Surgical and Obstetrical Network (RSON) in British Columbia. Dr. Khowaja has a track record of publications in the peer-reviewed journals and presented his scholarly work in several international and national conferences/meetings. Notable awards he received during his doctoral training include CIHR Vanier Doctoral Scholarship, Killam Pre-doctoral Fellowship, Warren George Povey Award in Global Health, and University of British Columbia Four-Year-Fellowship. Outside of his academic work, he enjoys volunteering for Scouts Canada in organizing scouting events and assisting cubs/scouts achieving outdoor adventure skill badges.

 Research Assistant

Laura Finkler-Kemeny is a current student in UBC’s BSN program in Vancouver. She is a Research Assistant with the CRHR working on the evaluation of the RSON in British Columbia. Laura has a BSc/BA from Quest University Canada in Squamish BC, with an academic focus on rural maternal health and qualitative research methods. She is particularly curious about how social settings and community environments shape women’s understandings and experiences during the perinatal period. Laura hopes to combine her interest in research and policy development with her nursing degree. In her spare time, Laura is either mountain biking or fixing her mountain bike!

Media Assistant

Evonne Tran has a Bsc in Global Resource Systems with a specialization in Global Health and Nutrition. She works as a Media Assistant at CRHR where she is involved in branding and communications (i.e., infographics, creating visuals, and strategic planning for media engagement). She has spent time abroad in Indonesia doing research on technological adoption of rice strains for smallholder rice farmers and done community development work in Vietnam. Some of Evonne's hobbies include dance, travelling, and blogging.



Research Collaborations

Postdoctoral Fellow

Kathrin Stoll has degrees in psychology and sociology and recently completed a doctorate at the University of British Columbia. She just started a three year postdoctoral fellowship, jointly supervised by Jude Kornelsen and Patti Janssen.  Dr. Stoll teaches advanced research methods to midwifery graduate students and has been involved in academic and community based research for the past 10 years, using a variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods. She has expertise in rural maternity research, pregnancy and birth research and quantitative methods, including survey and scale development, psychometric testing, regression modeling and analysis of rural perinatal outcomes, using population data. Her primary postdoctoral research project is about perinatal outcomes of women who live in small rural communities; she is particularly interested in how maternity care provider mix and access to operative delivery effect outcomes.


Research Network Coordinator, RHSRNbc

Nisrine El Amiri obtained her Bachelor of Science degree from McGill University in Montreal and her Master of Public Health degree from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She has also completed the Canadian Disaster and Humanitarian Response Training Program as well as training by the United Nations, Medecins Sans Frontieres and other agencies. Nisrine was previously employed by the BC Center for Disease Control and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Passionate about improving access to healthcare for communities in rural and remote regions and supporting rural health services researchers, Nisrine joined RHSRNbc in May 2017 as the Research Network Coordinator.


Network Research Assistant, RHSRNbc

Urvee is an undergraduate student at UBC majoring in Geography (Environment and Sustainability). She is really interested in contributing to the new GIS project to build catchment maps for rural BC and understanding how this could better rural health. Since she is passionate about sustainability, she wants to help better the quality of life in rural BC by understanding more about rural health and the availability of high quality facilities, as well as their sphere of influence. Other than her passion for Geography, she volunteers at BC SPCA (animal shelter), and enjoy activities such as hiking, painting and dancing.


For more information on the Rural Health Services Research Network,