UPEI names two new Jeanne and J.-Louis Lévesque Research Professors in Nutrisciences and Health

Professorships are supported by the family of the late J.-Louis Levesque: a 1934 graduate of Saint Dunstan’s University
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Dr. Robert Gilmour, Dr. Travis Saunders, Dr. Debbie MacLellan, Dr. Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, Dr. Andrew Tasker, Dr. Greg Keefe

The University of Prince Edward Island named two of its distinguished faculty members as the recipients of the Jeanne and J.-Louis Lévesque Research Professorships in Nutrisciences and Health. Dr. Andrew Tasker, professor of neuropharmacology at UPEI’s Atlantic Veterinary College, and Dr. Travis Saunders, assistant professor of Applied Human Sciences, will each be supported over the next three years with an annual grant of $10,000 and up to $25,000 annually to permit replacement for teaching or other duties.

“UPEI is grateful for the generous and long-standing support of the Fondation J.-Louis Lévesque, which makes possible the recognition of some of the university's most creative and productive scientists,” said Dr. Robert Gilmour, Vice-President Academic and Research at UPEI. “We are particularly pleased that we are able to support the research programs of both an established investigator, in Dr. Tasker, and an emerging investigator, in Dr. Saunders, both of whom promise to make immediate and lasting contributions to nutrisciences and health.”

As a Jeanne and J.-Louis Lévesque research professor, Dr. Andrew Tasker will continue his explorations of normal and abnormal brain function. In this role, he will examine major depression and investigate why anti-depressant medications often take weeks to become effective, and in up to 50% of cases, never become effective. Tasker will determine if ginsenosides, the active ingredients in ginseng, have the potential to improve the effectiveness of current anti-depressants.

“I am extremely grateful for the generosity of the Lévesque family,” said Dr. Tasker. “The funding they are providing will allow me to better investigate both the neurobiological basis of depression and to evaluate a new and potentially important approach to improving the effectiveness of antidepressant therapy”.

Dr. Travis Saunders’ research as a Jeanne and J.-Louis Lévesque research professor will examine the relationship between sedentary behaviour and obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Recent research shows screen-based sedentary behaviour especially is associated with these negative effects. Surprisingly, these effects are not due to lack of energy expended, but due to increased food intake that results from screen-based behaviours.

“We know that screen time is linked to excess food intake, but we don't understand what is responsible for that relationship. I am thrilled and honoured to receive the Lévesque Professorship, which will allow my students and me to investigate the links between sedentary behaviours and chronic disease,” said Dr. Saunders.

The professorships are supported by the Fondation J.-Louis Lévesque: a generous supporter of health research at universities and institutes across the country. J.-Louis Lévesque graduated from Saint Dunstan’s University in 1934 and was awarded an honorary doctor of laws in 1964. Suzanne Lévesque, daughter of J.-Louis and president and CEO of his namesake foundation, was awarded an honorary doctor of laws from UPEI in 2006.

“We’re very lucky at UPEI to have such a long and prosperous relationship with the Lévesque family, stretching back further than even the name UPEI,” said Dr. Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, President and Vice-Chancellor of UPEI. “So I feel it’s safe to say ours is a special relationship with the Fondation J.-Louis Léveque, and that their support has helped immensely in growing UPEI’s capacity in the area of health research.”

The University of Prince Edward Island prides itself on people, excellence, and impact and is committed to assisting students reach their full potential in both the classroom and community. With roots stemming from two founding institutions—Prince of Wales College and Saint Dunstan’s University—UPEI has a reputation for academic excellence, research innovation, and creating positive impacts locally, nationally, and internationally. UPEI is the only degree granting institution in the province and is proud to be a key contributor to the growth and prosperity of Prince Edward Island.

Dave Atkinson
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