University of Calgary

University of Calgary

January 20, 2012 09:00 ET

First ever University of Calgary nursing chair to set kids on path to better mental health

Faculty of Nursing takes lead in fostering children's mental well being

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - Jan. 20, 2012) - About a quarter of Canadian children are thought to be at risk for developing emotional or behavioral problems, often as a result of family violence, or their mother's depression or addictions, according to data from Statistics Canada. Now, a newly created research chair in the University of Calgary's Faculty of Nursing will focus on finding innovative ways to tackle this important social issue.

The Norlien/Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation Chair in Parent Infant Mental Health is the first ever research chair in the university's nursing faculty. It was established thanks to two donors with a strong interest in fostering children's mental well being.

Chairholder Dr Nicole Letourneau is a well-known Canadian nurse scientist with a 15 year track record in studying how children are affected by family issues such as post-partum depression, addiction and violence. She has worked to identify the type of parental intervention that is most effective in supporting vulnerable children in these toxic family environments.

The new nursing research chair is co-funded by the Norlien Foundation, a private Alberta-based organization that initiates strategic partnerships in the area of childhood development, addiction and mental health, and the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation (ACHF), which raises funds for excellence in child health, research and family centered care.

"Dr Letourneau was one of only a handful of Canada Research Chair holders who were nurses by profession," says Dianne Tapp, dean, Faculty of Nursing. "We are fortunate to be getting a premier scientist who will build our research capacity in the area of child and youth mental health and be an enormous asset to our graduate students who want to study this area."

"Dr Letourneau is a preeminent Canadian nurse researcher in early childhood development, particularly in at-risk children, and we are delighted to be able to bring a researcher of this caliber on board," says Elizabeth Cannon, president, University of Calgary. "Return to community is an important priority for the university and the work undertaken by this new research chair will have direct benefits on children not just in Calgary and Alberta, but across the country."

Letourneau's Child Health Intervention and Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Studies Program investigates tools that support the healthy development of vulnerable children, especially while they are still in an early care giving environment. These tools, applied appropriately and in a timely manner, help prevent the cognitive, social-emotional and behavioural problems that children from these families may develop later.

"As a researcher, I have been honoured by the opportunity given me by the Norlien Foundation, Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation and the Faculty of Nursing and am excited to be part of a dynamic team," Letourneau says. "Starting here in Alberta, we have everything we need to be leaders in research on the effects of early life experience on children's development, and I am excited to be a contributor to nursing and mental health programs that can help kids at risk have better starts in life."

Paula Tyler, president of the Norlien Foundation said she was confident that the research chair would go a long way towards reaching this goal. "Our mandate at the Norlien Foundation is, in part, to create opportunities to better understand child development and its relationship to mental health outcomes," she says. "This is the reason we chose to support this new chair."

"We are delighted to be contributing to Dr. Letourneau's continued success, says Saifa Koonar, Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation president and CEO. "She is breaking new ground in understanding child development from its earliest days, and has the potential to impact not only diagnosis and treatment, but also prevention of childhood issues and illness in the long run."

Letourneau is also a member of the Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) for Child and Maternal Health Behavior and the Developing Brain Group. ACHRI is considered a centre of excellence in research and education in maternal, newborn and child health.

Before coming to the University of Calgary, Letourneau was a professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of New Brunswick, a research fellow of the Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy, and a Canada Research Chair in Healthy Child Development. She has received many honours and accolades for her work, including induction into Canada's Top 40 Under 40 and being named a Premier Young Researcher by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Media are invited to speak to Nicole Letourneau between 11am and 11:30am, prior to the start of the formal program at 11:30am in the Evans Room, Rozsa Centre, University of Calgary. She will also be available immediately after the event at approximately 12 noon.

The University of Calgary is a leading Canadian university located in the nation's most enterprising city. The university has a clear strategic direction - "Eyes High" - to become one of Canada's top five research universities by 2016, grounded in innovative learning and teaching and fully integrated with the community of Calgary. For more information, visit

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Contact Information

  • University of Calgary
    Karen Cook
    Senior Communications Manager, Faculty of Nursing
    403.220.4361 or Cell: 403.869.1970