Dr. Rima Azar is the founder and director of the Psychobiology of Stress & Health Lab (PSHL). She is an Associate Professor & a CIHR New Investigator in Developmental Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) at Mount Allison University where she joined the Psychology Department in 2008 and earned tenure in 2011. Dr. Azar is also an Adjunct Professor at the Université de Moncton and an Honorary Research Associate within the School of Graduate Studies at the University of New Brunswick. Recently, she became a CIHR Advisory Board Member (effective September 2013) for the Institute of Human Development, Child, and Youth Health (IHDCYH).
Before joining Mount Allison, she was a CIHR/OWHC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Women's Health Program at the University of Toronto Health Network where she worked with Donna E. Stewart, MD, FRCPC. Her postdoctoral PNI research focused on depressive symptoms in adult women and men, inflammatory markers, and risk for coronary artery disease.
Dr. Azar received her M.Sc. and Ph.D. from the University of Montreal in Developmental Psychoneuroendocrinology. Her doctoral work on infant cortisol (stress) reactivity was undertaken under the supervision of Daniel Paquette, PhD (University of Montreal) and Mark Zoccolillo, MD, FRCPC (McGill University). She has enjoyed working with 228 teenage mothers and their cute babies!
Dr. Azar has shown that maternal prenatal major depression in teen mothers is linked to their infant's HPA axis function (work published in Biological Psychiatry). She has also conducted the first study on conduct disorder and cortisol levels in high-risk families such as teen mothers. This work, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry generated (favourable) commentary from two leading experts, Drs. Pajer and Gardner. This study was the third in the literature on women's antisocial behaviour and their cortisol levels (Pajer's work was the first).
One of the main projects at the PSHL, in collaboration with a team of co-investigators, is the PNI of Pregnancy Study. The latter examines if maternal prenatal depressive and anxiety symptoms lead to low birth weight, through inflammatory pathways. In subsequent follow-up projects, the PSHL plans to follow the newborns in the postnatal period to examine early risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.
Some of Dr. Azar's Honours students have been involved in other stress-related projects with high-risk groups (e.g. inmates, correctional officers, etc.).
Julie holds an Honour B.Sc. with Specialization in Biology from the University of Ottawa ('08). She is a research professional intrigued by a multidisciplinary approach to knowledge, which explains her interest in studying psychoneuroimmunology. She joined the Psychobiology of Stress & Health Lab (PSHL) in August 2011.
Primarily, she is the research coordinator of an ongoing PSHL multi-site clinical study entitled “Feelings matter when expecting a baby: the psychoneuroimmunology of pregnancy”. Other tasks within the lab include editorial activities as well as helping with the coordination of other research projects. She recently submitted a manuscript to be reviewed for publication, with Dr. Rima Azar as a co-author. She is currently working on her masters, Assessing the risk of Lyme disease in New Brunswick, under the supervision of Dr.Lloyd.
Additionally, she has participated in the organization of lab activities such as:
A CIHR Café Scientifique entitled “My body is simmering: Minimizing the inflammatory effect of stress & depression”. This community-based event was widely attended (Fall 2012).
Mount Allison University's research open house where the PSHL was chosen, along with two other labs, to give a media tour in order to celebrate the contributions of funding agencies to the university, as well as highlight the novel research at MTA's labs (Fall 2011).
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