Marianne Vidler

Marianne Vidler is a Research Manager in the department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at UBC. She is responsible for research leadership, direction, management planning, and implementation of the five PRE-EMPT projects across multiple international research jurisdictions. Marianne also provides oversight to UBC-based project staff and activities for the research group. In addition to her role with PRE-EMPT, Marianne is the Acting Program Manager for the Centre for International Child Health (CICH) at BC Children’s Hospital. Marianne also serves as an Assistant Editor for BMC Reproductive Health.


Marianne received a Bachelor of Arts (with honours) degree in Health Sciences and a Master’s in Public Health at Simon Fraser University in 2011, where her research focused on the obstetric referral system in rural Mexico. Marianne completed her doctoral degree in Reproductive and Developmental Science and UBC in 2017. Her doctoral research focused on community knowledge, attitudes and practices related to obstetric care in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.


Let me tell you a little bit about the two halves of where I focus my time. The first is CICH. I am the program manager there, and we build a platform to connect people at BC Children’s Hospital, BC Women’s Hospital, as well as throughout UBC. We don’t see a separation between the neonate, the child, the mother, the woman. We focus on doing training, education, a lot around residents, but also with other nurses and allied health professionals doing global health, whether it be clinical work or research. Our second focus is on partnerships: developing partnerships with other groups on campus, across Canada, and internationally. Finally, we have a number of active research project through the center.

Next is PRE-EMPT. PRE-EMPT is an umbrella research grant that we’ve been working on for eight years. The focus of this initiative is the hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, the second major killer in pregnancy and childbirth.

The PRE-EMPT research teams works out of BC Women’s Hospital. Our team consists of 10 to 12 people, and I serve as the manager for that group and project. PRE-EMPT comprises of 5 main projects that are focused on prevention, monitoring, and treatments of the hypertensive disorders in a global context. We are engaged in a variety of countries but our focus is primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Over the years, we have kept the same mandate, but our work’s scope has broadened: our work is directly related to hypertensive disorders or maternal mortality, and more generally ante-natal care, primarily in the Global South.


There are barriers and obstacles all along the way, for women, especially in some of the most vulnerable communities globally. Most of those are based in gender disparities and injustices, and take into account other axes as well, of intersectionality of oppression.

If a woman is noticing she has a headache and blurred vision and signs of hypertension, she may not have the ability to independently make the decision to go seek healthcare. If she does have the autonomy to make that decision, she may not have access to funds. If she is able to reach the health care facility, the care she receives may be of low-quality, including disrespectful care during childbirth.

The whole trajectory of care –the decision to seek care, accessing care, and receiving quality care– is littered with obstacles that are rooted in these gendered injustices.

I have a passion for women’s health, rights and equity and also trying to improve the lives of those that are most at risk, which often are women. My passion about women and women’s rights has manifested itself in my career in health.

In my work, I see women and families every day that are suffering horrible health consequences that are just blatantly unjust. And that motivates me. Seeing those injustices really drives me to improve their health in ways we know we can, with things that are preventable, treatable and easy to monitor.

I am also motivated by the opportunity to meet and bond with other female researchers, especially junior researchers and clinicians in the countries where we work –so mostly and in Africa and South Asia– and developing friendships, bonds, partnerships and capacity-building that we have over the years. To see these partners grow, advance and flourish, and having that relationship and bond, women helping each other through maternal health, is my call to action.


I did my Ph.D. in reproductive science and finished that almost two years ago; that learning was also focused within the PRE-EMPT project. My academic focus has been on community understandings of illness. I’ve worked primarily with women, pregnant women, women of reproductive age, and their close families or other associated decision-makers and health workers. Communities are inextricably linked to maternal health, and gender equity work.

There are many cultural and community beliefs around seizures (a symptom of pre-eclampsia), how to treat them, and what kind of care is sought after as a result. Getting a good community-based understanding of how community health works, and what knowledge exists is crucial. In addition to our clinical research at PRE-EMPT, we do a lot around community engagement and partnership initiatives.

My own expertise is on the community side and qualitative research in health sciences. I definitely come with an application of gender equity or social equity lenses.

There’s a reason that hundreds of thousands of women are dying every year from preventable causes. There’s a reason that women in certain countries are dying, and not in Canada.

Working with diverse communities also provides opportunities for learning and exchange: “reverse innovation.” Reverse innovation focuses on taking an innovation from a low-resource setting and translating this learning back to Canada and to other developed countries. There is a lot of learning to be had, and thinking of it as just this one-way transaction is a big lost opportunity.

Low-income countries are disproportionately affected by all kinds of health outcomes, but maternal health disparities are particularly acute. That being said, we still have up to around 10% of pregnancies in Canada that are affected by hypertensive disorders. We have work to do here as well. Global health is really global: it’s everywhere. It is thinking of people and women and families who are most at risk and in most need, and is therefore also in low-income countries, but it is also in Indigenous, rural and remote communities in Canada. We have projects that focus on that as well.


Here in Vancouver, at UBC, at PRE-EMPT and at CICH, we should think of ourselves as an example. And everyone is an example whether they want to be or not. UBC can do a lot to foster an environment that not only promotes gender equity, but celebrates it.

I was lucky, and we were lucky in my team to be led by many very strong women in positions of leadership –and that’s critically important. Not in a tokenistic way, but to show women there, at the table, leading, driving the decisions.

By really highlighting, promoting and reinforcing the women who are doing amazing work, we are allowing space for those people to be recognized and celebrated –there are many of them. If we want to participate in Women Deliver, and be seen as a positive host, we really need to walk that talk.

We need to acknowledge that disparities in health often effect women. But we must also recognize other factors and intersectionality: all women aren’t equal; certain women get more opportunity and access than others. It is also very important that we acknowledge the inequities within women in Canada, particularly the health conditions of Aboriginal women in Canada. This discussion is important, and as a community of UBC, we need push this agenda forward.