Erin Michalak and CREST.BD awarded CIHR Gold Leaf Prize

on May 23, 2019
Erin Michalak and CREST.BD awarded CIHR Gold Leaf Prize

We are honored to announce that Erin Michalak and CREST.BD have been awarded the prestigious Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Gold Leaf Prize for Transformation: Patient Engagement. The prize was presented by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, on June 20, 2019 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

The Gold Leaf Prize

Every two years, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) awards Gold Leaf Prizes in four categories for excellence in health research and its translation into benefits for Canadians. The celebrations formally recognizes Canada’s best and brightest health researchers with the goal of promoting the future of health research.

The recipients for this year’s Gold Leaf Prizes are:

  • Dr. Erin Michalak
    CIHR Gold Leaf Prize for Transformation: Patient Engagement
  • Dr. Tak Wah Mak
    CIHR Gold Leaf Prize for Discovery
  • Dr. Deborah Cook
    CIHR Gold Leaf Prize for Impact
  • Dr. Tracie Afifi
    CIHR Gold Leaf Prize for Outstanding Achievements by an Early Career Investigator


The Gold Leaf Prize for Transformation in Patient Engagement recognizes that transformation is an essential element to building a strong Canadian health research enterprise. According to the official CIHR prize announcement, CREST.BD was awarded the prize in recognition of our use of 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,” as well as for “produc[ing] meaningful new knowledge in their research priority areas: quality of life, stigma, psychological interventions, and self-care.”

Read more about the Gold Leaf Prize and meet this year’s prize winners in this CIHR news release. You can also learn more about the prize, and the reflections we submitted during the nomination process, by watching our newly released video series.

About us

The Collaborative RESearch Team to study psychosocial issues in bipolar disorder (CREST.BD) was established in 2007. Now a national network, we use a pioneering participatory approach in which academics, healthcare providers and, critically, people with BD work together to conduct research.


Notable recent CREST.BD events and activities

CREST.BD is unique in its use of Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) in bipolar disorder; essentially, research done hand-in-hand with communities. We are co-led by three researchers, one of whom – Dr. Steven Barnes – lives with bipolar disorder, as do several founding members. We ensure inclusion, real engagement, respect and full participation in diverse ways. For example, we employ ‘peer researchers’ who live with bipolar disorder, a Community Advisory Group and run regular community engagement events. Almost all CREST.BD publications, grants and research projects directly involve or are led by people with bipolar disorder.


CREST.BD Network Meeting in Miami, 2013

CREST.BD has produced meaningful new knowledge in research priority areas (selected by community): quality of life, stigma, psychosocial interventions and self-management. However, we also specialize in knowledge translation (KT) – moving research results into action. In sum, this unique network is shaping both science, and society, for Canadians living with BD.

Learn more about our network and research here.

Reflections on CREST.BD

(excerpts from our nomination package for the Gold Leaf Prize)

image9Natasha Kolida

“Never have I doubted the equal footing philosophy CREST.BD encapsulates, as they constantly seek out to empower the diversity of voices involved in their research… It’s rare to find a group of researchers who don’t just study mental illness – they learn from those of us who have it and always incorporate our lived experience into current projects.” 

image12Raymond Tremblay

“…my input was actively encouraged… As a Franco-Ontarian, I submitted articles in French and English for inclusion in their blog. I participated in all their Community Advisory Group meetings since then and always felt comfortable in expressing my views about the topics being discussed. CREST.BD has become a lifeline for me in helping me live well with BD.” 

image11Carolyn Ziegler

“It means a lot to me to be able to say to colleagues and potential employers that I’m involved in community based research with CREST.BD because I have lived experience of BD… It is incredibly empowering to be treated as someone who has something to contribute to research in BD instead of being in the role of a patient to be treated.” 

image26Victoria Maxwell

“Experiencing mental illness eroded my self-confidence and derailed my career. Each initiative I do with CREST.BD helps me move forward both personally and professionally. I am incredibly grateful and proud to be part of this team that is on the leading edge of improving the lives of those living with BD.” 


“Meeting countless people though the network that live well and thrive with BD has given me a lot of hope. Ultimately I have learned though CREST.BD in many ways to better cope with my own BD and to feel a greater purpose in sharing my own lived experience with others.”

image14Sara Lapsley

“As a CREST.BD member, I have been nurtured as a researcher and valued as a contributor on many projects resulting in publications and presentations. I have built collaborations and relationships that have lasted a decade. I am proud to have also developed academic expertise in the field through my involvement.” 

image30Sandra Dawson

“CREST.BD is net-savvy – they are well-regarded among my peers online and off… The impact is substantial: hundreds of thousands of impressions, active participation from a global community of patients and family, and the development and presentation of a framework for tweetchats that equally values academic, clinical, and patient knowledge.” 

image7Andrea Paquette

“Research on youth self-management and BD is valuable as there is limited research on this population. The Bipolar Youth Action Project is complete and has produced two papers on which I am co-author, with two more in production. CREST.BD possesses a unique ability to nurture both research practice and empower individuals with BD.” 

image25Jeanne-Michelle Lavigne

“…this respectful and open environment created a stigma free zone for a diverse group of young people with mental health issues and was conducive to each individual’s strengths and abilities. The experience made me feel valued and appreciated and showed me that I was not defined by any mental health diagnosis.” 

image24Steven Barnes

“Through my lens as a researcher, artist and person who lives with BD Type 1, I have first-hand experience of the impact of CREST.BD’s strengths- based approach to research and knowledge translation… CREST.BD developed new knowledge on the importance of using the creative strengths of those with BD for promoting treatment engagement and reducing stigma.”

gmurrayGreg Murray

“There is a direct relationship between CREST.BD’s success in securing grant funding and their authentic involvement of patients in grant-production and execution. CREST.BD peer-researchers acted as co-applicants on our large international ORBIT project, helped produce the pilot data underpinning it, and, now funded, are fully involved in the cycle of research and knowledge translation.”

image34Raymond Lam

“Attention to strategic and effective partnership building is a core mandate for CREST.BD, one which enhances the impact of its research and integrated KT outputs for patients with mood disorders across Canada… these partnerships concomitantly build knowledge of, and capacity for patient-oriented research in biomedically focused research networks.” 

image13Sheri Johnson

“…our guidelines paper shares learnings on the ways in which Community-Based Participatory Research is well-suited to advance pressing BD research questions, and speaks to challenges we have faced and possible mitigation strategies, so that others may move forward with the framework in psychiatric research.” 

image4Samson Tse

“Critically, current gaps in knowledge will be addressed by an advisory group of Chinese speakers who live with BD, showcasing the exemplary and respectful patient engagement strategies that typify CREST.BD’s interactions with the community of people who live with BD, locally and internationally.” 

image15Melinda Suto

“CREST.BD has shown a history of commitment to optimizing the field of patient-oriented mental health research, building capacity in people who live with BD, and, at the core of community-based participatory research principles, structuring our research around topics that matter to the affected community.” 

image3Martin Provencher

“Engaging peer researchers was not without its challenges, but the benefits greatly outweighed the coordination that went into their engagement… In my experience with the network, this willingness to learn and build capacity is the crux of CREST.BD’s burgeoning relationship with Francophone Canadians.” 

image18Emma Morton

“CREST.BD was conscientious in including me in in-person workshops in Ontario, with the rationale that, as I would be working directly with research participants, it was necessary that I meet some of the participants in order to establish rapport. This was a vital step in creating safe space for the authentic engagement of participants, something that I immediately understood that CREST.BD takes very seriously.” 


We are deeply grateful to Executive Director of the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario (MDAO) Ann Marie Mac Donald for her official nomination for the Gold Leaf Prize.

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