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Trent University Hosts Fifth Annual Health Studies Day
January 1, 2007

A rich variety of cutting-edge research was presented during Trent University’s fifth annual Health Studies Day on January 23. Eleven faculty and students representing seven disciplines provided a first look at their health-related scholarship, engaging the audience in a series of fascinating discussions.

Highlights from the day reflected Trent’s strength as a multidisciplinary learning environment. Combining ancient historical texts and modern DNA testing, Professor Ian Storey of ancient history and classics and student Ian McIntyre presented a compelling case that typhoid fever was the cause of a virulent plague that struck Athens in 430 B.C. Previous diagnoses of this devastating plague have been inconclusive, concerning historians and health professionals alike who seek to prevent a similar kind of catastrophe from happening today.

Following this, psychology professor Elaine Scharfe examined the influence of maternal attachment on children’s health, one of the first of its kind to be conducted. Using a large sample group of Peterborough mothers, Prof. Scharfe and her student colleague Nicole Black found that insecure mothers (as compared to secure mothers) were more likely to report that their infants experienced colic and illnesses associated with their immune, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems. This study has significant implications for the delivery of care to sick children. "I’m hoping this study will help inform the response of healthcare professionals when they are examining children of new mothers who are avoidant," said Prof. Scharfe.

Psychology graduate student David B. King offered a fascinating look at the relationship between dreams and health. Beginning with a review of common dream imagery reported by patients prior to and during illness episodes, Mr. King provided vivid examples of the ways dreams reflect various health conditions. For example, those who dream of suffocation, often discover soon after they have a respiratory problem, and those who dream of explosions and rhythmic sounds, learn later they suffer from cardiac disease. Mr. King shared the findings from his recent study that showed the physical and emotional experiences of dreaming often paralleled similar situations in waking life. His study emphasized the value of becoming more aware of one’s dreams, especially since it strengthens body-mind connections.

Other presentations covered exciting new research into diabetes, seniors’ health, rural caregiving, healthcare privatization, and the sociology of pharmaceuticals. Overall, the event was very well received by the dozens of participants from the University community and general public who joined in this unique celebration of health research at Trent.