The Foundation

The Molly Towell Perinatal Research Foundation was established in 1988 from an endowment from Dr Towell’s will. The Foundation incorporated as a charitable foundation by the Government of Canada in 1990. The original Foundation Board trustees were Molly’s long time colleagues and friends Dr Sam Bessman (Los Angeles), Dr Claire Dupont (Montreal) and Mrs Jane Bryans (Vancouver). Over the past 25 years, funds have been provided to support Molly Towell Fellowships to encourage and assist post-doctoral research training for students who have demonstrated ability and commitment to a career in basic biomedical research in perinatal-neonatal medicine. In addition, the foundation has provided start-up New Investigator awards for operating and equipment costs to assist young investigators establish a career funding stream. These awards have been provided to young researchers in several Canadian universities as well as the USA, Australia and United Kingdom. (see section on Previous Awardees).

Molly Towell also recognized the importance of communication and collaboration within our research community. As such, she directed the Board to use its discretion to support meetings of the highest quality where new research findings could be shared amongst investigators. The Foundation has supported local, national and international conferences. In particular, the annual Western Perinatal Research Meeting in Banff and the Eastern Perinatal Investigators’ Meeting in Kingston have been major recipients. Most recently, The MTPRF has been a major sponsor of the Canadian National Perinatal Research Meetings

Board Members

The current members of the MTPRF Board include:

  • Dr. Alan Bocking (President)

  • Dr. Douglas Wilson (Vice President)

  • Dr. Peter Mitchell (Director)

  • Brian Phillips (Secretary-Treasurer)

  • Ms. Jane Bryans (Director)

  • Dr. Jennifer Blake (Director)

  • Dr. Pascal Lavoie (Director)


Alan Bocking

Dr. Alan Bocking is a professor in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Physiology at the University of Toronto and Associate Scientist at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital. He is the former Gordon C. Leitch Chair of the University of Toronto, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and chief of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Mount Sinai Hospital, the University Health Network and Women’s College Hospital. Dr. Bocking’s main areas of study are the mechanisms underlying infection–mediated preterm labour. His other research interests include developing new diagnostic tests for preterm labour, exploring the developmental origins of health and disease and the mechanisms underlying Fetal Achohol Spectrum Disorder. He has published over 100 manuscripts in the peer-review literature.


Douglas Wilson

Dr. Douglas Wilson is a professor in the Department Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the Department of Medical Genetics, and is the head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Calgary. He is an associate member of the Alberta Children’s Health Research Institute. His research interests include congenital anomalies, prenatal diagnosis (screening, non-invasive imaging (ultrasound, MRI, low radiation CT), invasive prenatal diagnosis (chorionic villus sampling, amniocentesis, cordocentesis, fetoscopy), fetal therapy (closed shunts (chest, bladder); open maternal-fetal surgery, fetoscopic laser TTTS , TRAP, other monochorionic pathology), RCT for fetal diagnosis and therapy, maternal serum DNA/RNA fetal analysis; prenatal maternal counselling re fetal anomalies.


Peter Mitchell

Dr. Peter Mitchell is a professor in the Departments of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Physiology at the University of Alberta. With Dr. David Olson, he helped establish the Perinatal Research Centre, which has become part of the current Women’s and Children’s Health Research Institute at the University of Alberta. The major focus of his research laboratory is to improve understanding of the mechanisms of preterm and term parturition. His team has published over 100 papers in the peer-reviewed press. He has served on many national and international peer review committees relating to both clinical and research activities and has been president of the Molly Towell Perinatal Research Foundation since 2008.


Brian Phillips

Brian Phillips joined the Board in 2012 after a lengthy career in portfolio management, and upon retirement from Phillips Hager and North Investment Management. He has enjoyed being on numerous NFP boards, where he held senior officer roles. Brian’s focus is governance, and fiscal oversight.


Jane Bryans

Jane has been a board member of the foundation since its inception in 1989, shortly before Molly’s death. As a good friend of Molly’s she was helpful during the establishment of the foundation. Through her late husband she had connections with many in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and in Paediatrics. Jane has been dedicated to enacting Molly’s wishes for the foundation and her continual presence and commitment is primarily responsible for the foundation’s success. She is pleased to note in her own words that, “She is known as The Corporate Memory of the institution.”


Jennifer Blake

Dr. Jennifer Blake is Chief Executive Officer of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC).  She has held several clinical, academic and leadership roles, including Chief of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Head of women’s health at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Chief of Pediatric Gynaecology at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and Undergraduate Dean of McMaster University’s medical school. She has also served as Professor and Associate Chair at the University of Toronto and is Adjunct Professor at the University of Ottawa.  Dr. Blake has a bachelor of science from the University of Waterloo, and from McMaster University a medical degree and a master’s in health research methodology.  In 2011, Dr. Blake was named as one of the top 25 women of influence in Canada. She was fortunate to have learned clinical obstetrics from Dr. Molly Towell, while a resident at McMaster University.

Pascal Lavoie.jpg

Pascal Lavoie

Dr. Pascal Lavoie is neonatologist at BC Women's Hospital, associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia, and a clinician-scientist at the BC Children's Hospital Research Institute in Vancouver. His research focuses on the development of the immune system in newborns and young infants, specifically in relation to prevention and treatment of neonatal sepsis. Beside his contributions to research and clinical care, he is passionate about the training and supporting of the next generation of clinician-scientists in Canada, for example, as the UBC Centre Leader for the Canadian Child Health Clinician-Scientist Program. He was instrumental building research capacity within the Neonatal Program at BC Women's Hospital as Research Director and as principal investigator of the Neonatal Clinical Research Unit. He co-leads the Origins of Child Health and Disease research group, the largest group of investigators within the Healthy Starts Theme at the BC Children's Hospital Research Institute.