Gold Leaf Prizes recognize Canada’s top health researchers for their transformative work

News release

The award recipients will receive their prizes at a ceremony at Rideau Hall on June 20, 2019

May 23, 2019 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Canada is home to many of the world’s most esteemed health researchers, renowned for pushing the frontiers of scientific knowledge, and making significant discoveries through their research. 

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is pleased to announce the names of the four exceptional researchers who are the recipients of the 2018 CIHR Gold Leaf Prizes. These prizes recognize and celebrate exemplary research achievements by Canadian researchers, whose work has not only made a difference for Canadians, but also for many people around the world.

The recipients of the 2018 CIHR Gold Leaf Prizes for excellence in health research are:

CIHR Gold Leaf Prize for Discovery

This year’s recipient is Dr. Tak Wah Mak from Toronto’s University Health Network, in recognition of his breakthrough discovery when he successfully cloned the elusive ‘T Cell Receptor’. In so doing, he captured what scientists called “the holy grail of immunology”. Around the world, his research has a direct impact on many people’s lives, and laid the groundwork for scientists to understand how the immune system recognizes and fights cancer. Knowledge of this gene’s function was key to developing new cancer treatments. Today, Dr. Mak continues pushing forward with his commitment to conquering cancer.

CIHR Gold Leaf Prize for Impact

This prize goes to Dr. Deborah Cook from Hamilton’s McMaster University, for her research highlighting a critical gap between the medical and research communities on how we apply dignity in dying and end-of-life research in patient care settings. Dr. Cook’s research has led to better life support technologies, prevention of ICU-acquired complications, and greater end-of-life choices for patients – always with the utmost respect for patients and their families. She established a program called Three Wishes, which helps grant end-of-life wishes to patients and their families.

CIHR Gold Leaf Prize for Outstanding Achievements by an Early Career Investigator

Dr. Tracie O. Afifi from University of Manitoba in Winnipeg is the recipient of this prize in recognition of her research in the advancement of child maltreatment and mental health research, which has helped inform policies in Canada. Through her tireless advocacy, Dr. Afifi has also helped bring children’s rights and violence prevention to the forefront of media attention. In a relatively short span of time, Dr. Afifi transformed her research community with her work. Just 8 years into her first academic post, she has published dozens of articles and has created an independent research program, The Childhood Adversity and Resilience (CARe) Research Team. Her work has earned her a strong national and international presence, which is a remarkable achievement for this early stage in her career.

CIHR Gold Leaf Prize for Transformation: Patient Engagement

Finally, this prize goes to Dr. Erin Michalak from Vancouver’s University of British Columbia, for her work founding the Collaborative Research Team: CREST.BD, a network of researchers and knowledge exchange experts in Bipolar Disorder (BD). CREST.BD uses a novel model called Community-Based Participatory Research, which ensures researchers work hand-in-hand with patients and members of the BD communities, from setting priorities to developing research protocol. CREST.BD has produced meaningful new knowledge in their research priority areas: quality of life, stigma, psychological interventions, and self-care. They also specialize in knowledge translation– moving research results into action. 


“I congratulate the four recipients of the CIHR Gold Leaf Prizes on this important recognition. Your research addresses important health challenges that our country faces and thanks to your hard work, we can provide Canada’s health care system with the important evidence needed to develop new policies, and develop treatments for those who need it. Your work is a credit to Canada around the world. A heartfelt thank you for your contributions.”

Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Minister of Health

“Canadians can be proud of our health researchers, as they are among the world’s most accomplished scientists. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is proud to award the Gold Leaf Prizes to Canadian researchers whose transformative work has had a notable impact on the health of Canadians. I congratulate you on this achievement, and thank you for your commitment to health research.”

Michael J. Strong, MD, FRCPC, FAAN, FCAHS
President, Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Quick facts

  • The CIHR Gold Leaf Prizes honour and celebrate Canadian discoveries as well as our best and brightest health researchers who are making a difference in the lives of Canadians.

  • Each CIHR Gold Leaf Prize has a value of $100,000.

  • These prizes cover achievements across all pillars of health research and are awarded every two years.

  • Prize winners were selected on the recommendation of a Gold Ribbon Panel comprised of individuals with a broad array of expertise across all of CIHR’s health research theme areas.

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Media Relations
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

At the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) we know that research has the power to change lives. As Canada's health research investment agency, we collaborate with partners and researchers to support the discoveries and innovations that improve our health and strengthen our health care system.

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