Affiliation(s): University of Toronto
Dr. Jiwon Oh is a staff neurologist, scientist, and Medical Director of the Barlo Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Program at St. Michael’s Hospital. Do Oh is an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto. She specializes in the care of people living with MS. Dr. Oh’s research focuses on developing advanced MRI techniques in the spinal cord and brain for use in clinical settings. She leads the MRI research program at St. Michael’s Hospital, and is the principal investigator on numerous local and multi-center collaborative studies, including the Canadian Prospective Cohort Study to Understand Progression in MS (CanProCo), which is a national prospective cohort study designed to better understand progression in MS. Dr. Oh is also the Secretary and an Executive Committee member of the North American Imaging in MS Cooperative (NAIMS) representing a multi-national collaborative MRI research endeavor in MS with over 35 sites in North America. She is deeply committed to caring for people with MS, educating future generations of clinicians and scientists, and contributing to scientific developments that will drive the field forward.
How did you become interested in MS research? What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field?
I was drawn to the fact that MS is a rapidly changing and developing field, and the change that has taken place in the past decade has resulted in tangible benefits for patients. I am thrilled to be a part of this field, as I believe that the work that we and colleagues around the world are engaged in will result in significant benefits for people living with MS in the years to come.
What do you enjoy most about doing research and what are some of the challenges you face?
Research allows one to express creativity in science.It can be challenging but allows you to think critically, and outside of the box, which is what makes it so rewarding in the end.
Describe the importance and level of collaboration in your research and in the Canadian MS Progression Cohort?
Collaboration is key to any type of research.Particularly with the rapid technological developments in recent years, it is impossible for one group to have expertise in all necessary aspects of a field of study.As such, it is only through collaborations that we can drive the field forward.The Canadian MS Progression Cohort is a great example of collaborative efforts across the country, that brings together clinicians and scientists with expertise in many diverse fields of study that are highly relevant to understanding MS.
How important is the support from the funders/donors in enabling you to conduct research?
The role of funders is essential.Much of the work that involves MRI and cutting-edge lab-based technologies is quite costly, which is why it is so important to have committed funders.
What is so important about this kind of research, and what would happen if there were no funds available to support it?
The Canadian MS Progression Cohort is the first national effort that specifically aims to understand factors related to progression in MS.It brings together diverse fields of study that will allow a close look at many different factors that are likely relevant to progression in MS.Such an effort requires years of planning, and funds throughout the planning and execution phases, to ensure that the study is planned, and executed properly.Without funds to support such research, such an effort would not take place, which would be a loss to the field.
Why is it important that patients take part in this initiative?
People living with MS have insights into the day-to-day experiences of living with MS, that scientists and clinicians may not understand.It is essential that patients provide input into the study design and objectives, as well as practical input on how to best engage and educate patients since there are likely many things that study investigators are not aware of, that are important for patients, and for conducting the study.Therefore, the input of patients is essential to make sure that such an endeavor is addressing the appropriate needs of people living with MS, and to ensure the success of the study.
What potential outcomes do you expect to arise from the Canadian MS Progression Cohort?
I believe that this initiative will identify a number of important factors (biological, clinical, environmental, and systems-level) that are relevant to progression in MS, and how these factors interact to cause progression.These insights will allow us to understand how progression occurs, which will enable the development of better treatments, and management strategies to slow, and prevent disease progression in MS.All of these efforts will ultimately allow an improvement in the quality of life of people living with MS in Canada, and across the world.