Jacob Stubbs wins 2020 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship.
A University of British Columbia student is celebrated for their research on the effect of traumatic brain injury on people experiencing unstable housing.
Last year, Faculty of Medicine student Jacob Stubbs received a 2020 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship for their work. The Government of Canada gives scholarships to students who show leadership along with success in the health sciences, social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and engineering fields. The scholarship is valued at $50,000 a year for three years during doctoral studies.
Working with BC Mental Health Substance Use Services researchers Dr. William Honer and Dr. William Panenka, professor and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, Stubbs uses neuroimaging to look at the health of people experiencing unstable or unsafe housing who have a traumatic brain injury.
Stubbs pulls information collected as part of The Hotel Study. Funded by BC Mental Health Substance Use Services and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, The Hotel Study is an ongoing Vancouver-research project that looks at the health and well-being of people living with concurrent disorders in unstable housing. Evidence suggests that almost 50 per cent of the study participants have experienced a traumatic brain injury. This is, much higher than the general population.
“We have lots, and lots of brain scans from the same person over several years,” Stubbs says. “For some of the people in the study, we have brain scans and health information before and after a brain injury.”
The Hotel Study began in 2008 and is ongoing. From 2016 to 2019, the research team collected information on how frequently brain injuries occurred in the participants. Now, Stubbs and other researchers are using this information in several different projects to determine the effect of traumatic brain injury on the health of people experiencing precarious housing. “Brain injuries have come up again and again as an important factor in the health of these individuals,” Stubbs says.
In 2020, Stubbs co-authored a review on traumatic brain injury in homeless and marginally housed individuals. The study was published in Lancet Public Health and received international attention in media such as The Guardian newspaper in England and Global TV in Canada.
“That review was a synthesis of studies,” Stubbs says. “We looked at any study of traumatic brain injury in persons living in unstable housing. We found that more than half of this population had a history of brain injury. About 20 per cent had a history of more moderate or severe brain injury, which is about ten times the general population.” Stubbs says the authors found that the studies had been quite different in methods, “which limits our abilities to make strong conclusions.”
Stubbs has a personal interest in brain injuries.
“I became interested in the brain and behaviour after I experienced a pretty serious concussion during my undergraduate studies at university,” he told UBC in a graduate profile interview.
“Among other problems, my eye movements were not as smooth as usual for a few days after my injury. However, as I recovered, I became interested in how a brain injury affects behaviour.
During my undergraduate, I also did volunteer research. I was hooked by the idea of working on questions about the brain that we can’t answer.”