Impact of Giving

Research for a better tomorrow

Author: Development and Donor Relations

Posted on Jan 6, 2022

Category: Innovation , News and Events , Tribute Gifts

What makes the UNB experience unique? For student Sarah Lunney, it is the opportunity to pursue studies with the potential to generate real impact at the community level. 

In 2020-21, Sarah became the inaugural recipient of the Rosemary Aicher Health & Environment Research Experience (HERE) Award. The award enables UNB Saint John students to conduct interdisciplinary research on how environmental factors affect health outcomes.  

“As a young person, climate change is one of my most pressing concerns for our future,” Lunney said. “There has been plenty of research done globally that has shown climate change and climate disasters exacerbate health issues and inequities, and that the most devastating impacts are felt by those living in poverty. 

“Through the research funded by this award, I will be looking at the way urban design and the urban landscape influence health and the environment, and the relationship between our health and environmental issues, through an examination of Saint John, New Brunswick. As well, the study will address the way this relationship is gendered and racialized.” 

Dr. Hepzibah Muñoz-Martínez supervises Sarah’s research. She said the creation of the award was “serendipitous,” as it coincided with a broadening of interdisciplinary research in Saint John thanks to the campus’s Integrated Health Initiative.  

“We’re looking at environmental health inequities to understand how city design and public and private sector policies and practices result in uneven environmental conditions and negative impacts on health and quality of life for people at the neighbourhood level,” Dr. Muñoz-Martínez said. “The long-term impact will be to help recognize the causes of uneven environmental conditions, enabling people to formulate policies that change the environmental conditions in city settings. This will support climate change mitigation efforts and the health of residents.” 

The Rosemary Aicher Health & Environment Research Experience (HERE) Award was created by Dr. Joseph Aicher, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick. Dr. Aicher comes from an interdisciplinary background himself, having completed simultaneous master’s degrees in public health and city planning at University of California at Berkeley before becoming a physician. He is the author of the book Designing Healthy Cities: Prescriptions, Principles, and Practice 

“What I really like about UNB Saint John is the degree to which it is all about interdisciplinary studies. I was lucky to have an opportunity like this at university, and I wanted to give back in some way,” Dr. Aicher said. “Research shows the environment around us has profound impacts on individual health. I’m really thrilled at the opportunity to support research here at UNB to articulate these links and maybe come up with practical solutions.” 

“No matter what their field of study may be, the students who benefit from this award all have the potential to have an impact on our ecology and health,” Dr. Aicher said. 

Dr. Aicher named the award in honour of his older sister. 

"Rosemary was first in my family to go to university, and she's one of the unsung heroes," Dr. Aicher said. "She's very unassuming, very humble, and her focus is on trying to help others, especially vulnerable children. She piqued my curiosity about the environment at an early age. It warms my heart to be able to acknowledge her in this way." 

For Sarah Lunney, the research undertaken as part of this project is only the beginning. 

“I hope that my research will give a different perspective for city planners, elected officials, and citizens to view our city, health, and environment,” Lunney said. “I also hope that having more research in the New Brunswick context on the environment and health will create action in our province to address these issues. We all deserve to live in communities that are safe, bolster our health, and protect us from environmental degradation.” 

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