Fellowship Award: Expanding Supports for Women with Major Depressive Disorder

Visionary donors are launching the careers of promising women’s health researchers through Graduate and Fellowship Awards.

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Pictured above: Dr. Katerina Rnic, postdoctoral fellow in the UBC Department of Psychology

Mentorship is vital for up-and-coming researchers. But unfortunately, a lack of funding options for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows can curtail important growth opportunities. Women’s health researchers, in particular, are chronically underfunded

BC Women’s Health Foundation saw a need to address this gap – and with the donor leadership of Kate Bayne and her family, the first Graduate Award in Women’s Health was funded in 2019 in collaboration with the Women’s Health Research Institute (WHRI). Overwhelming demand in the first year led to an expansion in 2020 to three Graduate and Fellowship Awards to outstanding graduate students or postdoctoral fellows. The Bayne family has funded three of the four Awards granted to date.

One of this year’s recipients is Dr. Katerina Rnic, postdoctoral fellow in the UBC Department of Psychology. 

Her research project? A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Cognitive Control Intervention for Women with Major Depressive Disorder.

Did you know depression disproportionately affects women? 21% of women experience depression, nearly twice the prevalence rate of men. 

Dr. Rnic is a registered Clinical Psychologist who is determined to bring a new understanding of why women are more prone to depression than men.

The Fellowship Award will allow Dr. Rnic to investigate interventions that support women with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Study participants will be recruited from across Canada, with one group receiving targeted training to rapidly remove negative content from – and add positive content to – their working memory, while a control group completes a mock task. The study will assess whether a daily 20-minute intervention is effective for improving emotion regulation and stress responses. An intervention that directly targets the biases that influence emotion regulation can drastically reduce mental health concerns for women. 

“My aim is to not only help us better understand the mechanisms underlying this debilitating disorder but to develop a new, scalable intervention for depression that will improve the mental health of Canadian women. I am deeply grateful for the support of the WHRI and for the opportunity to conduct this important research.” – Dr. Katerina Rnic

The beauty of this intervention is that it can be delivered remotely. It is both cost and time effective, making it more accessible to women who are otherwise unable to access first-line treatments and resources. The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacts women – they face higher rates of layoffs and job loss, and greater care responsibilities at home. And depression has been increasing among women since the start of the pandemic, making interventions that can be widely disseminated imperative – now, more than ever.

With the support of visionary donors, we can continue to inspire the most gifted young researchers to continue on the track of investigating women’s health issues.

In fall 2020, we launched the $4.5 million Reproductive Mental Health Campaign to ensure women’s reproductive mental health needs are met through research and accessible programming. Learn more.

BC Women’s Health Foundation is BC’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the full spectrum of women’s health. The information shared is intended to educate, inform, and point readers to credible sources. It is not intended to substitute professional medical advice.