CIHR’s 20th Anniversary
Celebrating two decades of supporting excellence in health research for Canadians
June 5, 2020
It is hard to imagine in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime global health crisis that we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the founding of CIHR. When our founders envisaged CIHR, it was to unite into a single entity the Medical Research Council and the National Health Research and Development Program in order to support an unprecedented scope of research that would contribute to “improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian health care system” (CIHR Act, 2000). It was then, and remains to this day, a foundational vision that has stood the test of time.
While we still hold the values that underpin this vision as fundamental to CIHR, as health researchers, we are witness to an evolution of science unlike anything in our history. The depth of our questions and the profound need to ensure that we deliver not only the best health outcomes through research excellence, but also ensure that these outcomes are equitable, continues to shape CIHR and the Canadian health research ecosystem as a whole. We are asking questions using tools and methodologies that allow a depth of interrogation unimaginable 20 years ago. At the same time, we have also come to understand that we ask these questions in a broader social context – one that appreciates and understands the mosaic of cultures, ways of learning, and ways of healing that define us as Canadians. Every day, I am reminded of the reality that there is no singular science, but rather a rich interweaving of traditional Indigenous learnings with those of more contemporary scientific approaches.
These past twenty years have been a period of growth for CIHR, complete with all the challenges and successes that are part of any such journey. Throughout, we have always challenged ourselves to be greater. However, we have never before seen the resiliency of our community as we are seeing it today in the face of this generational challenge. Canada’s researchers are now working to produce the evidence that our governments need to protect the health of Canadians, treat Canadians with COVID-19, and halt the spread of the virus. Twenty years ago, did our founders imagine that this could one day be the impact of CIHR? I suspect they did.
As we join together (virtually) to mark the 20th anniversary of Canada’s health research funding agency, I know that we will continue on this journey to improve the health of all Canadians. No one knows for certain where this path of scientific discovery will lead us and that is perhaps the way it is meant to be. The answers are out there; it’s the questions that we have yet to find. And therein lies the excitement of our future. Yet no matter what may come, CIHR will continue to grow and remain a voice of science for all Canadians.
Michael J. Strong, MD, FRCP, FCAHS, FAAN
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