Ontario is home to a wealth of high quality patient oriented research, with research teams meaningfully partnering with patients, families, caregivers and communities to deliver rigor, relevance and results from their patient oriented research projects. For these findings to change health policy, practice and health outcomes, there is often a need to support end-of-grant knowledge translation activities to build the relationships and push the results to those who can use them to effect real impact and change for Ontario.

EMPOWERING Ontario’s Patient Oriented Research

OSSU’s EMPOWER (Engaging Multi-stakeholders for Patient Oriented-research Wider Effects and Reach) Awards are designed to support research teams who can demonstrate patient-oriented research undertaken with patient partners in the last 2 years that would benefit from an injection of end-of-grant funding to empower the research to have impact in Ontario.

Having an EMPOWER Award

OSSU’s EMPOWER Awards are expected to complete the following through their funding period:

  • At the outset of the funded period, OSSU’s Research Centre at the McMaster Health Forum will run a mandatory training session for all awardees that covers:
    • Writing policy briefs;
    • Engaging with citizens and plain language outputs;
    • Integrating knowledge users in knowledge translation activities to increase impact; and,
    • Utilizing multiple information and activity streams to support knowledge translation activities.
  • All awardees will be required to produce a policy brief around the findings of their POR project.
  • Awardees will be expected to produce a diverse set of approaches to knowledge translation designed to meet the needs of stakeholders who can have the most impact.

The OSSU EMPOWER Awards are NOT to supplement research activity funding or to conduct further research based on the initial patient-oriented research project.

EMPOWER Awards provide up to $25,000 for successful proposals.

Applying for EMPOWER Awards

OSSU has run five EMPOWER Award competitions, and when the next competition is launched, will publicize it through OSSU’s website, social media, and health research networks. If you have any questions about applying for any future EMPOWER Awards competition, email us at OSSU@OSSU.ca.

Eligibility for EMPOWER Awards

In order to be eligible for an award, EMPOWER proposals must clearly identify:

  • That the initial research to be translated can demonstrate meaningful patient partnership;
  • That the initial research to be translated was NOT funded by the Ontario SPOR SUPPORT Unit as part of its IMPACT Award demonstration projects;
  • That the proposed research and knowledge translation team incorporates patient partnership in the proposed activities; and,
  • That the nominated principal applicant (NPI) is associated with a CIHR-eligible institution to whom OSSU funds can be flowed.

Review process and evaluation of EMPOWER Award proposals

OSSU’s approach to reviewing and evaluating EMPOWER Award proposals is two-stage and shows OSSU’s commitment to true patient partnership in our approach to funding patient-oriented research in Ontario.

In the first stage of the review process, proposals are assessed for their eligibility for funding by a peer review panel that features stakeholders from research, patient partners, policy and practice.  This review assesses:

  • The quality of the initial patient-oriented research project that the proposed EMPOWER Award builds on;
  • The relevance of the stakeholders implicated in the EMPOWER Award;
  • The appropriateness of the activities in the EMPOWER Award;
  • Other eligibility factors such as ensuring the EMPOWER Award is not funding further research, that the project is an Ontario-based project, and that the project is not linked to an existing OSSU IMPACT Award.

The shortlist generated by this first review will then be reviewed by a second review panel that comprises OSSU’s Patient Partners Working Group. This group assesses the proposals for:

  • Their capacity to create impacts for patients, policy or practice, and the potential benefits to patients, families, caregivers and communities;
  • The appropriateness and meaningfulness of the proposed patient partnership in the initial patient-oriented research and the proposed EMPOWER Award;
  • Whether the proposed project budget includes meaningful patient partnership support.

Funded EMPOWER Awards


In the first EMPOWER Award competition, OSSU provided four Awards that started on April 1st 2019.

EMPOWER Retinoblastoma: Engaging Patient Partners in Solving the Top 10 Priorities for Eye Cancer Research in Canada
Helen Dimaras, SickKids Hospital

#PartneringForPain: Taking Action Together on Family-Identified Priorities in Pediatric Chronic Pain
Jennifer Stinson, SickKids Hospital

Partner Early, Partner Often: Building a platform for meaningful patient partnership to accelerate “bench-to-bedside” translation of promising new therapies
Manoj Lalu, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Participatory ALC: Co‐Designing Strategies to Address Alternate Level of Care (ALC) Challenges – Building Capacity across Ontario
Kerry Kuluski, Sinai Health System


In the second EMPOWER Award competition, OSSU provided four Awards that started on October 1st 2019.

Putting shared decision-making into practice -barriers and facilitators to scaling up MyDiabetesPlan into primary care

Catherine Yu, Unity Health

Building Capacity for Patient-Oriented Research (POR) in Clinical Trials, TranSlaTing the Evidence into Practice, Policy and Outcomes: The POR STEPP Digital Health Project in Ontario

Monica Parry, University of Toronto

Implementing sustainable collection of core patient-oriented health outcomes for pediatric inherited metabolic diseases –a multi-stakeholder workshop

Beth Potter, University of Ottawa

”This is about my health”: Digital tools to improve healthcare communication for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)

Yona Lunsky, Centre for Addictions and Mental Health


In the third EMPOWER Award competition, OSSU provided four Awards related to COVID-19 implications in Ontario that started in Autumn 2020.

“Wellness Quest: A health literacy and self-advocacy tool developed by youth for youth mental health

Joanna Henderson, Centre for Addictions and Mental Health

“Ontario First Nations Aging Study: from data to impact”

Jennifer Walker, Laurentian University

“Understanding COVID-19 among children and families”

Jonathon Maguire, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michaels Hospital, Unity Health Toronto

Ensuring equity and inclusion in virtual care best practices to support vulnerable populations of youth with chronic pain”

Jennifer Stinson, SickKids Hospital


In the fourth EMPOWER Award competition, OSSU provided three Awards that started on March 1st, 2021.

“The RB Research Booklet: A Catalyst for Patient Involvement in Retinoblastoma Research”

Helen Dimaras

“Transplant Ambassador Program: Patients helping patients access kidney transplants”

Kyla Naylor

“Co-building Equity-Mobilizing Partnerships in Community (EMPaCT) to increase impact through equitable patient-oriented partnerships in research, policy and practice”

Ambreen Sayani


In the fifth EMPOWER Award competition, OSSU provided five Awards that started on January 1st, 2022.

“Partnering with communities for children’s COVID-19 vaccination”

Shelley Vanderhout and Jonathon Maguire

“Empowering patient ambassadors to champion research outcomes that are a priority for people who have lived experience with venous thromboembolism”

Carol West and Lisa Duffett

“Taking action on the top 10 patient-oriented priorities in pediatric hospital care in Canada”

Peter Gill and Sanjay Mahant

“Enhancing patient engagement in economic evaluation of health care interventions”

Kednapa Thavron and Justin Presseau

Co-creation of a framework to engage patients in preclinical laboratory research

Manoj Lalu and Dawn Richards


OSSU awarded four EMPOWER projects during the Phase VI competition, that started in Winter 2023.

“Empowering action: Partnerships for Translating Evidence on Long COVID and Episodic Disability to Enhance Rehabilitation (ParTELER Project)”

Kelly O’Brien, Hannah Wei and Darren Brown

“From questions to answers: Creation of meaningful, patient-orientated research to address the top unanswered research questions in Venous Thromboembolism- the Clot Top 10 priorities.”

Carol West and Lisa Duffett

“Fostering a Commitment to Care for People Aging with HIV (CtC HIV)”

Kate Murzin and Sharon Walmsley

“My lived experience matters”: Working with people with disabilities to improve the accessibility of pregnancy care”

 Hilary Brown