Leaders in aging research renewed as Schlegel Research Chairs

The Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA) and the University of Waterloo (UWaterloo) are pleased to announce the renewal of two Schlegel Research Chairs, Professor Heather Keller as chair in nutrition and aging and Dr. George Heckman as chair in geriatric medicine.  The renewal of these appointments recognizes not only their immense academic achievements, but also their commitment to enhancing the quality of life and care of older adults.

Keller is both a researcher and registered dietitian, and her work is focused on improving older adults’ nutrition for optimal health. She also explores and advocates for the importance of food and mealtimes for overall well-being.

Heckman focuses on developing and evaluating new care approaches that put individuals and their families first while promoting integrated, proactive care and optimal use of health care resources. In addition to his research role, Heckman is a practicing geriatrician in the Waterloo region.

“We are thrilled to renew Schlegel Research Chairs Heather Keller and George Heckman as part of our partnership with the University” says Josie d’Avernas, RIA executive director. “They are each recognized leaders in their field, and their research has changed the way we care for older adults. I look forward to seeing this impact grow as their work continues.”

Keller was appointed as a Schlegel Research Chair in 2012 and this renewal marks the beginning of her third five-year term ending in 2026. She is also a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at UWaterloo. Her programs of research span from acute care to long-term care and retirement, and community living. As co-chair of the Canadian Malnutrition Task Force from 2009-2018 Keller was instrumental in changing nutrition care practices across the country for those recovering in hospital. These new approaches are also being picked up and implemented internationally.

Keller led the largest national study to date exploring food intake in long-term care. The research highlighted opportunities to improve care, and she has developed a new education program in collaboration with the RIA to promote nutrition and person-centred care in the dining room.

“Being the nutrition aging research chair has been the highlight of my career and has helped establish innovations that would not otherwise have happened in Canada” says Keller. “This renewal will allow me to continue my work, leading national and international initiatives to improve the health and well-being of older adults across all sectors of care.”

Heckman led the development of the Core Heart Team program, where team members and physicians in long-term care receive education and support to better detect, diagnose and manage heart failure.  The research to date shows promise, and Heckman and his team are working with the RIA to expand the model so more can benefit. He is also exploring innovative ways to assess risk in older adults and better support advance care planning. He was co-principle investigator of the BABEL study on improving advance care planning in long term care homes, the results of which will be available soon.

Heckman began his appointment in 2010 and will continue in his role until the end of 2024. He is an associate professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at UWaterloo. Heckman is also a primary panelist on the Canadian Cardiovascular Society Consensus Conference Recommendations on Heart Failure and a fellow of interRAI, an international not-for-profit scientific organization dedicated to the development of information systems for vulnerable populations.

“The opportunities afforded by this Chair, the RIA and Schlegel Villages are unique in Canada” said Heckman. “They are ideal for a clinician scientist focused on the seamless and sustainable implementation of interprofessional practice into a very busy long-term care environment.”

The RIA has 10 Schlegel Research Chairs dedicated to aging research across various topics, six of which are appointed at UWaterloo. To learn more, visit our Researcher Page.