Janet McElhaney, M.D., FRCPC, FACP

Vice President of Research & Scientific Director, Health Sciences North Research Institute
Medical Lead for Seniors Care, Health Sciences North
Consulting Geriatrician, Health Sciences North
Health Sciences North Volunteer Association Research Chair in Healthy Aging
Professor
, Medical Sciences Division, Northern Ontario School of Medicine

Dr. McElhaney studied at the University of Alberta, Faculty of Medicine from 1982 to 1986 and received her MD degree with honours. She completed her residency in Internal Medicine from 1986-1989 and her Fellowship in geriatric medicine from 1989-1991 at the University of Alberta, Faculty of Medicine. From 1991 to 1998, she was on the Faculty of the University of Alberta where she held a number of positions related to her research and geriatric medicine at the University of Alberta Hospital. She was recruited as Associate Professor of Medicine to Eastern Virginia Medical School in 1998, became Director, Office of Research and Faculty Development, Department of Internal Medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School in 2000, and completed the Hedwin van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine Program (from 2001-2002). At the University of Connecticut Health Center, she was Director of the Clinical Research Interdisciplinary Scholars Program (from 2003-2005) and continues to hold an appointment in the Center on Aging and the Department of Immunology. In 2005, she was appointed as the Allan M. McGavin Chair in Geriatrics Research at the University of British Columbia and was Division Head of Geriatric Medicine until 2011.Dr. McElhaney is currently the Health Sciences North Volunteer Association Chair in Healthy Aging and the Vice President Research and Scientific Director of the Health Sciences North Research Institute in Sudbury, Ontario.

Honors and Awards

  • Donaghue Investigator Award, 2005-2010 (terminated in December 2005 due to return to Canada)
  • Hedwin van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine, MCP Hahnemen University, 2001
  • Clinical Medicine Research Award - Gerontological Society of America, 1991
  • Kaufman Prize - Canadian Society of Geriatric Medicine, 1989
  • New Investigator Award - American Geriatrics Society, 1989
  • Dr. Harry Weinlos Prize in Medicine, 1986

Selected Affiliations

Dr. McElhaney serves on editorial boards of Journal of Immunology and Journal of Infectious Diseases, as a reviewer for a number of scientific publications and as scientific advisor to pharmaceutical companies. She served as the Chair of the Publication Steering Committee for the largest ever influenza vaccine trial in older adults (>43,000 subjects), on Data Safety and Monitoring Boards for influenza vaccine trials, and participated in several consultations and forums on immunization in older adults, including the World Health Organization and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations. Dr. McElhaney is an Advisor to the European Scientific Working Group on Influenza and participates on multiple grant review panels and advisory boards in Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia.

Research Interests

Dr. McElhaney research interests include compassionate and collaborative community and team-based approaches to healthy aging of older Indigenous adults in Northern Ontario. She has fostered several positive relationships with community leaders and health care leaders to help address multi-morbidity in older Indigenous adults. Her research interests with Indigenous communities intersects with other areas of interests including the impact of immunosenescence on the immune responses to vaccination, immunologic biomarkers of protection mediated by vaccination, and how vaccination plays a role in preventing disability in older adults. She leads the "Vaccine Initiative to Add Life to Years" (VITALiTY) Team, an interdisciplinary research team at UBC established to identify risk factors for catastrophic disability, explore the contribution of "inflammaging", and design interventions to reduce risk of disability including vaccines. She has published "test tube" methods for predicting protection against influenza in older adults, a critical step in the development of more effective vaccines for the over 65 population. More recently her work has also included biomarker development to evaluate the effect of immune senescence on inflammation and chronic diseases, and how this might have an impact on vaccine efficacy and reduction in illness severity and risk for disability.

Her research interests also include the engagement of older patients/caregivers with interprofessional teams, and research strategies to improve our understanding of how to mitigate risk and provide optimal treatment approaches to the older patient during acute health events requiring hospitalization. In the Executive Training for Research Application (EXTRA) program, she developed the "48/5" intervention to address five key areas of care needs in hospitalized seniors. The project goal is to minimize functional decline in older adults during acute hospital admission. Given that one in three older persons admitted to an acute care hospital will be discharged with a higher level of disability, the intervention is designed to minimize functional decline in older adults during acute hospitalization. Other potential benefits include improved quality-of-life indicators for patients and their families, and an improved workplace environment for health care staff.

Current Funding

Dr. McElhaney's research is supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), US National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and National Institute on Aging, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, and the Northern Ontario Academic Medicine Association, and previous funding from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, the BC Network for Aging Research and the BC Lung Association. Dr. McElhaney’s research with Indigenous peoples is supported by the Northern Ontario Academic Medicine Association where she is working with older Indigenous adults in remote Northern communities to support community-based care and healthy aging. She is a member of the Canadian Consortium for Neurodegeneration and Aging (CCNA) “Issues in Dementia Care for Indigenous Populations (CCNA Team 20).”

Selected Publications

  • McElhaney JE, Kuchel GA, Zhou X, Swain SL, Haynes L. (2016). T-Cell Immunity to Influenza in Older Adults: A Pathophysiological Framework for Development of More Effective Vaccines. Front Immunol. 7:41.
  • Mosterín Höpping A, McElhaney J, Fonville JM, Powers DC, Beyer WE, Smith DJ. (2016). The confounded effects of age and exposure history in response to influenza vaccination. Vaccine. 34(4):540-6.
  • Briggs MC, McElhaney JE. (2015). Frailty and Interprofessional Collaboration. Interdiscip Top Gerontol Geriatr. 41:121-36.
  • Vasunilashorn SM, Ngo L, Inouye SK, Libermann TA, Jones RN, Alsop DC, Guess J, Jastrzebski S, McElhaney JE, Kuchel GA, Marcantonio ER. (2015). Cytokines and Postoperative Delirium in Older Patients Undergoing Major Elective Surgery. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 70(10):1289-95.
  • Lal H, Cunningham AL, Godeaux O, Chlibek R, Diez-Domingo J, Hwang SJ, Levin MJ, McElhaney JE, Poder A, Puig-Barberà J, Vesikari T, Watanabe D, Weckx L, Zahaf T, Heineman TC; ZOE-50 Study Group. (2015). Efficacy of an adjuvanted herpes zoster subunit vaccine in older adults. N Engl J Med. 372(22):2087-96.
  • Haq K, McElhaney JE. (2014). Immunosenescence: Influenza vaccination and the elderly.  Curr Opin Immunol. 29:38-42.
  • Beyer WE, McElhaney J, Smith DJ, Monto AS, Nguyen-Van-Tam JS, Osterhaus AD. (2013). Cochrane re-arranged: support for policies to vaccinate elderly people against influenza. Vaccine. 31(50):6030-3.
  • McElhaney JE, Beran J, Devaster JM, Esen M, Launay O, Leroux-Roels G, Ruiz-Palacios GM, van Essen GA, Caplanusi A, Claeys C, Durand C, Duval X, El Idrissi M, Falsey AR, Feldman G, Frey SE, Galtier F, Hwang SJ, Innis BL, Kovac M, Kremsner P, McNeil S, Nowakowski A, Richardus JH, Trofa A, Oostvogels L; Influence65 study group. (2013). AS03-adjuvanted versus non-adjuvanted inactivated trivalent influenza vaccine against seasonal influenza in elderly people: a phase 3 randomised trial. Lancet Infect Dis. 13(6):485-96.
  • McElhaney JE, Zhou X, Talbot HK, Soethout E, Bleackley RC, Granville DJ, Pawelec G. (2012). The unmet need in the elderly: how immunosenescence, CMV infection, co-morbidities and frailty are a challenge for the development of more effective influenza vaccines. Vaccine. 30(12):2060-7.
  • McElhaney JE, Xie D, Hager WD, Barry MB, Wang Y, Kleppinger A, Ewen C, Kane KP, Bleackley RC. (2006). T cell responses are better correlates of vaccine protection in the elderly. J Immunol. 176(10):6333-9.