Building community and connection: The CBR’s Health and Wellness Committee fosters wellbeing through virtual times


If you’ve ever attended a CBR potluck, received a CBR self-care treat bag, or joined a CBR fitness challenge, chances are you’ve met some members of the CBR Health and Wellness Committee! But who are the people that organize these activities?

An enthusiastic group of researchers, staff and students, the CBR Health and Wellness Committee has worked to create an inclusive, supportive and connected community since 2016, by engaging CBR members in social and physical activities. This trainee-led team aims to promote work-life balance and build camaraderie between different labs spread across UBC campus and affiliated teaching hospitals.

CBR Dragonboating from 2019

Over the years, the team has hosted a whole suite of different social and team-building events, from dragon boating to UBC tours to seasonal CBR potlucks. Some favourites are the CBR Step Challenge, where CBR members are encouraged to track and increase their daily steps for prizes, and the CBR Team Sun Run. Recent activities organized by the team include the Frosted February Baking Contest, Halloween Trivia Night with MIGSS and BMB-GSA, and the creation of self-care treat packages for CBR members to snack on and enjoy.


Adapting wellness activities for pandemic times

With social distancing regulations now in place, the Health and Wellness team pivoted quickly to shift their activities from in-person events to a virtual format.

In the first few months after lockdown, the team focused on health-specific events to promote coping skills, keep the community connected, and alleviate stress for CBR members. The team created a do-it-yourself Wellness Bingo Challenge, held virtual yoga sessions in collaboration with UBC’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and hosted a stress management workshop, among many other activities. Later in the year, they also hosted a QPR Suicide Prevention workshop, to increase mental health literacy and awareness, and held a Welcome Social and Scavenger Hunt for new CBR members to socialize and meet with others.

“Over the past year, we’ve had to rethink how we interact with each other and maintain a sense of community,” said Daniel Luo, a PhD Candidate in the Kizhakkedathu Lab and co-president of the Committee. “We hope that our activities helped CBR members build a sense of connection, whether they unleashed their competitive side through Trivia Night, or shared their creativity in our baking competition.”

Various virtual CBR Health & Wellness events, including self-care treat bags, Welcome Social and Scavenger Hunt, and the Wellness Bingo Challenge (left to right).

Virtual CBR Health & Wellness events (left to right): self-care treat bags, Welcome Social and Scavenger Hunt, and the Wellness Bingo Challenge.

Despite the virtual transition, activities continued to be popular and well-received, with over 50 sign-ups for treat bags and over 80 participants across multiple departments for Halloween Trivia.

“I think everyone experienced unprecedented levels of stress and social isolation, so it was especially important for us to try to keep people connected, build a sense of community, and create a healthy environment,” added Bronwyn Lyons, a PhD Candidate in the Strynadka Lab and co-president. “We were really glad to see that people were still enthusiastic about engaging with us, and experiencing CBR events with a virtual twist!”


The importance of fostering health and wellness

Most Committee members are busy graduate and undergraduate students, who manage to take time out of their labwork, courses, and many other commitments to come together and plan activities. Behind the scenes, they are busy purchasing supplies, drafting marketing materials, coordinating logistics, collaborating with other UBC student and departmental associations, and more to make each activity a success.

Though these current members come from diverse research backgrounds spanning 6 labs, they’re united by their passion for nurturing community and wellbeing.

“When I first joined the Kizhakkedathu lab, I attended potluck events hosted by the Health and Wellness Committee. That really made me feel welcome as part of the CBR community, so I joined the team in hopes of helping others feel the same way,” said PhD Candidate Haisle Moon. “It’s been a great way to meet new people, and I enjoy spending time together as a group.”

Keep an eye out for the team’s current and upcoming activities, like the 2021 Step Challenge, Writing Bootcamp and escape room!


Are you a CBR member who’s interested in promoting health and wellness, or want to share an idea with our team? Join the CBR Health and Wellness Committee! Please email Dr. Stefanie Mak ( for details.


Meet the Team!

Curious about the team? Get to know some of the current CBR Health and Wellness Committee members below.


Bronwyn Lyons
Bronwyn Lyons

PhD Candidate, Strynadka Lab

(Health and Wellness Committee Co-President)

Your go-to self-care activity?

Learning how to cook something new. I spend time researching variations on a particular dish and how best to execute it with what I have available to me – I find the focus and time it takes to dedicate to a new recipe allows me to refresh and reset my mind when things are stressful!

Daniel Luo

PhD Candidate, Kizhakkedathu Lab

(Health and Wellness Committee Co-President)

What do you do for self-care?

A new activity that I have found myself enjoying a lot in the past year is to go on random walks paired with listening to a podcast or playing Pokemon Go. It is a great way to balance entertainment and physical exercise.

Emel Islamzada
Emel Islamzada

PhD Candidate, Ma Lab / Multi Scale Design Lab

What’s been your favorite Health and Wellness activity so far? Why?

Organizing and putting together care packages for CBR members together with the H&W team has been wonderful. It is great to share a bit of warmth! My runner-up is the recent baking competition. It is great to see what other CBR members like baking, and share my recipes with others.

Emmanuel Garrovillas
Emmanuel Garrovillas

Undergraduate Student, Conway Lab

Your favourite self-care activities?

One of my go-to self-care activities is going for a bike ride! Breathing in the fresh air and getting to be outdoors in Vancouver really helps to clear my head while getting a solid workout in.

Haisle Moon

PhD Candidate, Kizhakkedathu Lab

What was your favourite Health and Wellness event?

It’s hard to choose just one! I enjoyed meeting people and spending time together at the potlucks and white elephant gift exchanges. I also really like all the wellness-related classes and activities.

Kevin Gonzalez

MSc Student, Conway & Kizhakkedathu Labs

What’s something you do for self-care? 

Cycling! It helps clear my mind and it’s exciting going long distances with a set of wheels and your own two feet.

Marie-Soleil Smith
Marie-Soleil Smith

PhD Candidate, Côté Lab

Your go-to self-care activity?

Step 1: Go to Lush and splurge on all of their holiday bath bombs and bubble bars. Step 2: Have a colourful and fragrant bubble bath while watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or New Amsterdam (I’m a sucker for a medical drama).

Pavneet Kalsi

Undergraduate Student, Hancock Lab

What does “health and wellness” mean to you? 

I believe that health and wellness is about creating a lifestyle where you consistently take care and recharge yourself, so you are stronger each step of the way.