Awards pave the way for bold research that could benefit millions with diabetes

Dr. Amy Chiu. Photo credit: Justin Ohata, UBC Pharm Sci


It’s a heartbreaking reality: those with diabetes have a far higher risk for heart disease or having a stroke. In fact, they can develop heart disease up to 15 years earlier than those without diabetes, according to Diabetes Canada.

But hope exists for the many Canadians diagnosed with diabetes, thanks to researchers like Amy Chiu, who graduated with her PhD from UBC’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2017. Dr. Chiu’s doctoral research focused on how to prevent or delay diabetes-related heart disease, an attempt to diminish those startling statistics.

Originally from Taiwan, she says the motivation for her work is practical: there’s the huge need, as the number of people diagnosed around the world with type-2 diabetes is growing rapidly. But it’s also personal: a close family member has diabetes, and the risks of the disease are very real.

Awards encourage excellence

During her time at UBC, Dr. Chiu was awarded the Dr. William Wilson Simpson Memorial Award, the Graduate Student Travel Award in Pharmaceutical Sciences, and the Subhash C. Verma Memorial Prize in Pharmaceutical Sciences, among others available for graduate students. According to Dr. Chiu, receiving the awards helped push her in her important research—both by recognizing her hard work and allowing her to focus more fully on her studies.

“It was an encouragement to me,” she says. “As an award recipient, I was more motivated to keep pursuing good science that will be able to benefit others in the future. Also, scholarships help with alleviating financial worries, so I was able to focus on my work.”

With this extra focus and motivation, Amy was able to build the resume and research skills to land a postdoctoral fellowship at one of the world’s most prestigious universities—the University of Oxford. “Student awards helped me not only as a student, but also when I moved on in my career” she says.

Today, Amy is settling into her new position as the Novo-Nordisk‒Oxford Postdoctoral Fellow, a role in which she can continue her important work on the relationship between diabetes and heart disease.