Mount Saint Vincent University applied human nutrition graduate student, Ksenia Kholina, is the first Mount student to win the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation’s (NSHRF) prestigious Quest Award.
Ksenia, of Saint Petersburg, Russia is the 2018 recipient of The Quest – John Ruedy Award, which is presented annually to the graduate student researcher who demonstrates the greatest promise and potential for excellence in health research. She was chosen from among applicants with the highest standing in NSHRF’s Scotia Scholars Award competition. The competition is open to graduate and doctoral students from across Nova Scotia universities.
The Quest honours Dr. John Ruedy, former Vice President of Academic Affairs for the Capital District Health Authority. Dr. Ruedy founded the first academic Division of Clinical Pharmacology in Canada and conducted one of the first studies in Canada exploring the adverse effects of hospitalization. He is an outstanding example of leadership in health and health research in Nova Scotia and was a key supporter of the establishment of NSHRF.
“It is always exciting when we identify the Quest winner, but this year it is doubly so,” says NSHRF CEO, Krista Connell. “This is the first time the recipient is from the Mount, which highlights the excellence of the Mount’s research programs and that research excellence in Nova Scotia is spread across all our post-secondary institutions.”
“I decided I wanted a career that focused on prevention as opposed to treatment, because that’s how we can make the greatest impact in terms of public health.”
— Ksenia Kholina, 2018 Quest Award recipient
Ksenia’s research is examining the role of early infant feeding practices in chronic disease prevention. She is working under the supervision of Dr. Kyly Whitfield, an assistant professor for the Department of Applied Human Nutrition at Mount Saint Vincent University.
“I am so pleased that NSHRF also recognized what I see in Ksenia,” says Dr. Whitfield. “She took three of my undergraduate nutrition courses and was always a pleasure to teach. Ksenia doesn’t spit out textbook-style answers — she takes the knowledge at hand and combines it with real-world challenges and realities to tackle problems more holistically.”
Before coming to Halifax to study at the Mount, Ksenia studied medicine and worked in a clinical research setting in Russia. “To start a new path in a different country and be recognized like this is mind blowing,” she says. “I’m extremely flattered.”
Ksenia says she was inspired to study nutrition after working with chronic disease patients in Russia. “I decided I wanted a career that focused on prevention as opposed to treatment, because that’s how we can make the greatest impact in terms of public health.”
According to Ksenia, she will be working with Dr. Whitfield on projects that have the potential to generate new knowledge to guide infant feeding best practices.
“I will be following Haligonian infants who are exclusively consuming human milk (both from the breast and a bottle) over the first six months, measuring milk intake and tracking their growth trajectories,” she says. “Dr. Whitfield and I hope this work will help to better understand how babies here in Nova Scotia are actually fed, and whether how infants are fed (breast vs. bottle), and not just what they are fed, can influence growth and development.”
“I’m grateful to NSHRF for this opportunity. The award will allow me to focus on my research. I’ll be able to spend all of my efforts on my work and not have to worry about everyday living expenses,” Ksenia adds.
Ksenia is excited to continue her research at the Mount, a place she says she’s felt supported by from the start. “The Mount has an atmosphere that really facilitates growth. The people here are tremendous. They make a real effort to get to know you and help you. You can tell they want you to reach your full potential.”
Looking to the future, Ksenia says she plans to continue her work and education in chronic disease prevention. “For now, I plan to continue on the academic path. I want to get my master’s and hopefully my PhD so I can further my research. There are a lot of different lenses you can apply to chronic disease prevention and management. Going forward, chronic disease will continue to be my focus and prevention my passion, but there is more I’d like to learn about the social, political and scientific lenses in which you can view my studies.”