Health Research

What is health research and scholarship?

Medical research provides an opportunity to discover and share new knowledge. It isn’t just bench work or clinical trials; there is a whole spectrum of health research and scholarship students can be involved with. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) categorizes health research in four broad themes:

  • Biomedical research
  • Clinical research
  • Research respecting health systems and services
  • Research into the health of populations, societal and cultural dimensions of health, and environmental influences on health

Additional components of health scholarship outside of CIHR’s definition include medical education, arts and humanities and biomedical ethics.

Biomedical Research

Biomedical Research involves studies on human subjects that do not have a diagnostic or therapeutic orientation. It aims to understand normal and abnormal human functioning, at all levels of biological organization including development of tools and techniques to be applied for this purpose, and the development of new therapies or devices that improve health or the quality of life of individuals, up to the point where they are tested on human subjects. This area of research may also be referred to as basic science research, discovery research or pre-clinical research.


  • In vitro or in situ studies using cell cultures, tissues or organ systems
  • Preclinical studies conducted in animal models

Clinical Research

Clinical Research is research on, or for the treatment of, patients that aims to improve the diagnosis, and treatment of injury and disease (including rehabilitation and palliation), and improve the health and quality of life of individuals as they pass through normal life stages.


  • Assessing the effectiveness of a new medical intervention, treatment or technology
  • Comparing the effectiveness of two different treatments, interventions or technologies
  • Chart reviews
  • Randomized controlled trials

Health Services Research

Health Services Research is research with the goal of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of health professionals and the health care system, through changes in practice and policy. Health services research is a multidisciplinary field that studies how social factors, financing systems, organizational structures and processes, health technologies, and personal behaviours affect access to health care, the quality and cost of health care, and, ultimately, Canadians’ health and well-being.


  • Health policy research
  • Quality assurance or quality improvement projects
  • Evaluation studies
  • Examining barriers that affect health care access and/or delivery

Population and Public Health Research

Research into the health of populations, societal and cultural dimensions of health, and environmental influences on health aims to improve the health of the Canadian population, or of defined sub-populations, through a better understanding of the ways in which social, cultural, environmental, occupational and economic factors determine health status.


  • Epidemiology
  • Global health initiatives
  • Indigenous health initiatives
  • Community advocacy

Medical Education Scholarship

Medical Education Scholarship is concerned with the education of future medical practitioners as well as the application and integration of medical knowledge into practice.


  • Developing materials for use in medical education (e.g. training videos)
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of educational materials/strategies/technologies
  • Continuing medical education initiatives

Arts & Humanities in Medicine

Arts & Humanities involves integrating or applying the arts and humanities (literature, visual arts, performing arts, history, culture, religion, etc.) into medical education and practice.


  • Exploring the history of medicine
  • Medicine and society
  • Medicine and the media (e.g. role of pharmaceutical advertising)
  • Medical anthropology
  • Using personal narratives to understand patient health and wellbeing beyond routine disease management
  • Delivering culturally appropriate healthcare

Biomedical Ethics

Biomedical Ethics involves examining conflicts of moral belief, perspective, or position (i.e. ethical dilemmas) that arise during medical research, healthcare delivery or medical practice.


  • Ethical aspects of biotechnological developments (personal genomics, stem cell research, etc.)
  • Research ethics (animal experimentation, clinical ethics)
  • Biomedical law and policy
  • Ethics of healthcare delivery (end of life care, organ transplantation, etc.)