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Heart and stroke

Research Focus: heart and stroke diseases



Heart and stroke diseases affect more than 600,000 Canadians. Every seven minutes, someone in Canada dies from heart disease or stroke.

Here at McMaster’s School of Nursing, several faculty members are contributing to the important work of finding better treatment and prevention solutions.

Diana Sherifali

Dr. Diana Sherifali is a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the Diabetes Care and Research Program, Hamilton Health Sciences and an Associate Investigator at the Population Health Research Institute.  She completed a 3 year Nursing Post Doctoral Fellowship with Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario through the Department of Medicine, McMaster University. As diabetes is an ‘aging accelerant’, it quickens the onset and course of cardiovascular disease. Dr. Sherifali’s research focuses on self-care strategies for patients, providers and models of care to prevent, manage and treat diabetes and its complications. Recent research involves diabetes remission.   Bio page: Dr. Sherifali

Maureen Markle-Reid

Dr. Maureen Markle-Reid holds the Canada Research Chair in Person Centred Interventions for Older Adults with Multimorbidity and their Caregivers . Her interest in heart and stroke patients began when she was an undergraduate nursing student on a cardiac ward at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton. After graduating, she worked as a staff nurse in the Cardiac Care Unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital, and a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Cardiology at Hamilton Health Sciences.  She noticed that many patients with cardiovascular disease, particularly older adults, had high hospital readmission rates. She went on to develop a program of research that involves creating and testing new interventions to support aging at home for older adults with chronic conditions. Currently, she is working on several projects, including one that involves a new web-based application designed to a team-based approach to stroke rehabilitation for community-living stroke survivors.  Bio page: Dr. Markle-Reid

photo of Michael McGillion

Dr. Michael McGillion holds the Heart and Stroke Foundation/Michael G. DeGroote Endowed Chair of Cardiovascular Nursing Research. As an undergraduate student, he discovered his drive to find practical solutions to pressing issues. “Being engaged in research at this level allows us to solve real problems that matter to people’s lives and their well-being and recovery,” says McGillion. Working closely with colleague and co-lead, Dr. PJ Devereaux, his current work includes leading an international team of researchers that is developing state-of-the-art technology that can monitor the vital signs of patients and warn of early signs of deterioration after heart surgery.  Bio page: Dr. McGillion

Patricia Strach

Dr. Patricia Strachan’s interest in advanced cardiac illness began during her doctoral work, when she was investigating rural women who had survived heart attacks. She noticed that people with end-stage heart failure experienced many issues that were not being addressed in relation to their care, specifically in relation to communication. She went on to research end-of-life communication and heart failure in her post-doctoral fellowship. In 2015, she led the development of a practice tool called Heart Failure Palliative Approach to Care (HeFPAC). The tool provides key information relevant to the nursing care of patients with advanced (or end-stage) chronic heart failure. Dr. Strachan is currently involved in projects related to communication in advanced illness and is leading an initiative to develop research and knowledge translation priorities that will build nursing capacity for a palliative approach to the care of patients with advanced heart failure.  Bio page: Dr. Strachan

Ruta Valaitis

Dr. Ruta Valaitis holds the Dorothy C. Hall Endowed Chair in Primary Health Care Nursing. She has a background in public health and understands the value of  community services for patients. In her research, she looks for practical ways to help patients, caregivers, health care providers and community service providers work together to support patients with chronic conditions like heart and stroke diseases. She aims to break down the barriers that patients face in using these services. One of her current projects involves testing and developing a computer application designed to support stroke survivors .  Bio page: Dr. Valaitis


Sandra Carroll

Dr. Sandra Carroll’s research aims at helping patients with irregular heart rhythms make decisions about their health care treatments. Dr. Carroll spent many years speaking to patients about their experiences with arrhythmias and treatments. She noticed that even though patients were pleased to have access to and receive quality treatments, they were often uncertain about what it really meant for them. This insight led her to ask questions about how people make decisions. She has conducted studies looking at the influences of arrhythmias and treatments on a patient’s quality of life, mental health, and levels of optimism or pessimism. With funding from CIHR, she developed an implantable cardioverter defibrillator specific patient decision aid. This particular tool is for patients facing the option of receiving an implantable defibrillator. Dr. Carroll has completed a feasibility trial with the tool. After further research, the decision aid could be implemented in local hospitals and across Canada.  Bio page: Dr. Carroll


Dr. Katie Allan is a post-doctoral fellow, supervised by Dr. Michael McGillion and Dr. Sandra Carroll. Her goal is to help patients with arrhythmias, which are irregular heart rhythms. In extreme cases, they can kill. She became curious about the condition in her first job as a research associate at Sunnybrook Hospital. Her curiosity deepened to passion when she worked on a study at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital involving young people with arrhythmias. There, she met a father in his thirties who almost died from the experience. She still recalls the effect this had on him and his family. For her, research has always been about the patients and their experiences. The memory of real people behind the data drives her work. One of her current projects involves the development of a national registry to help track sudden cardiac deaths.  Linkedin profile: Katie Allan

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