Research - Dr. Hani El-Gabalawy
Dr. Hani El-Gabalawy is a familiar face among the HSC Foundation team, as he was Chair of the HSC Foundation Grants and Allocations Committee.
This committee reviews applications by nurses, doctors and allied health professionals requesting Foundation support for research that can make significant impact on patients at HSC. Dr. El-Gabalawy’s passion for the Foundation comes from his own experience as a physician and researcher.
Over the past six years, Dr. El-Gabalawy has dedicated his research to rheumatoid arthritis, a debilitating autoimmune disease that strikes people in their peak productive and reproductive years.
He works closely with Manitoba’s Cree and Ojibway communities in Winnipeg, Norway House and St. Theresa Point to try to determine why the prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis is two to three times higher in these First Nations peoples, and why it strikes people more severely from the onset and at a much younger age than most other populations. "One thing that we’ve learned is the earlier we can get at the disease, the better the outcomes,” said Dr. El-Gabalawy. "If we can learn how to prevent it from ever starting then we’ll have done something really important.”
In addition to his research activities, Dr. El-Gabalawy, along with rheumatologist Dr. Dave Robinson and the research team, provide expert care and treatment for people living with rheumatoid arthritis and other severe rheumatic diseases in Northern communities and at HSC.
"We have developed great relationships with the community, with the Band Councils, and with the Chiefs,” said Dr. El-Gabalawy. "Bringing the expert clinical care in arthritis and rheumatic diseases, along with detecting rheumatoid arthritis in its earliest stages is seen as a very positive step by the communities and their leadership. We are also training local health care workers to better treat these diseases, and improving the capacity to undertake clinical research projects are important steps.”
Dr. El-Gabalawy’s leadership and experience will be invaluable as he helps HSC Foundation allocate funds to new generations of researchers who will explore ideas that lead to clearer understanding of disease and potential treatments. His work is just one example of the difference research can make at HSC and around the world.
"Everything we learn about how rheumatoid arthritis starts in the First Nations population is likely going to be applicable across the board, and we are working with other groups around the world to determine what the best and most practical prevention strategies are,” said Dr. El-Gabalawy.
"Once we are in a position to test these strategies, some of the first beneficiaries will be First Nations people at high risk for disease development, as they have the most to gain. They’ve contributed a whole lot to this research and ultimately we hope to pay them back with the best tools we have, and the first ‘shot’ at understanding how to prevent this disease.