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Kirshenbaum PopeskiBy MYRON LOVE

Dr. Lorrie Kirshenbaum is in a very good place these days. On July 9, he is marrying the love of his life, Dianne Popeski, whom, he notes, is also a doctor (anesthesiology) and is a leader in the Jewish community.

And the long time specialist in cardiovascular research has just received a new plum appointment. As of June 1, he is Manitoba’s new director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, replacing Dr. Pawan Singal, Kirshenbaum’s former boss, who retired after ten years in the position.
“The Board decided to look locally for the new director of the Institute,” Kirshenbaum says. “I decided to apply and I am honoured to have received the appointment.”
In his new role, Kirshenbaum, who was formerly the head of the Institute’s Cardiac Gene Biology program, will be overseeing a staff of about 150, including 15 principal investigators.
“I will be co-ordinating the work of local investigative scientists while working to build an even stronger cardiovascular research program incorporating staff at both the Health Sciences Centre and the St. Boniface hospital (where he has based for more than 20 years),” he says.
He is also looking forward to building on the year-old collaborative relationship that community leader Larry Vickar brokered between the St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research and Ben-Gurion University and establish similar working relationships with universities and cardiovascular researchers in other countries.
Kirshenbaum notes that he most recently visited Ben-Gurion University in March. “We are currently working with Ben-Gurion University and Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine testing compounds – developed in Israel – that we hope can help prevent heart failure,” he reports.
A newer area for cardiovascular researchers, Kirshenbaum notes, is cardiovascular oncology. “Researchers know that certain chemotherapy drugs that kill tumours can also have deleterious effects on the heart,” he explains. “We are trying to understand why that is so and how we can counteract the drugs’ damage to the heart.”
 lab is also doing research into the prevention of that side effect. Kirshenbaum’s lab at the St. Boniface Hospital has proven to be a popular draw for local Jewish as well as Israeli-trained researcher. Dr. Ena Rabinovitch-Nikitin, one such researcher, he is happy to report, has recently been awarded a prestigious scholarship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research which will fund her research for the next three years. Dr. Ena Rabinovitch-Nikitin came to Winnipeg from the University of Tel Aviv about a year ago.
“This is huge,” Kirshenbaum says of the scholarship.
In other science-related news, Zehava Yehuda is a relatively new arrival in Winnipeg who comes with impressive credentials. Yehuda has a Ph.D.(2004) in Water and Soil Science from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She managed a lab and did research at the university from 2007 to 2011 while also doing research at the Yotveta Experimental Station in the Arava in southern Israel (near Eilat). From 2012-2016, she was a fellow lecturer at the Hebrew University.
She Introduced her undergraduate students to water and soil salinization processes as well as planning course syllabi, preparing presentation to facilitate course contents and examining and correcting lab-reports.
“Water and soil are basic issues in Israel,” she points out. “They are the basic elements of life. I have been interested in the subjects since elementary school.”
Her practical research involved crops such as dates, pomegranates and peppers – all grown in the Arava – as well as Marula fruit– produced in southern Africa – which, she says, is an anti-oxidant and lowers cholesterol.
She has also co-authored several research papers to do with iron absorption in plants. “Iron is a essential for plant development,” she explains, “but it is difficult for plants to absorb enough iron from soils. We showed the mechanism by which certain micro-organisms can help in the iron absorption process and serve as fertilizers.”
So what, readers may wonder, led Zehava Yehuda and her family, to leave Israel and come to Winnipeg? While she loved her work and enjoyed living in Rehovot, she says, she and her husband, Nir, wanted to be able to raise their son, Ariel, in a more peaceful environment. The family arrived here about a year ago, in time for Ariel to register for Grade 7 at Grant Park.
While Zehava’s husband is working as a truck driver, she is still looking for work. “I would love to continue to do research,” she says, “but I can do many other jobs as well. Whatever I do, I am fully dedicated to the task.”

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