Claire Crooks has been named the WORLDiscoveries Annual Vanguard Awards – Innovator of the Year.
Crooks is a clinical psychologist, professor at the Faculty of Education and Director of the Centre for School Mental Health, where she and her team develop, implement, and evaluate mental health promotion and violence prevention programs in a range of school and community settings.
Her research looks at the gaps between science, practice and policy related to the healthy development of children and youth.
Along with a team of fellow researchers, Crooks has developed the Fourth R, a curriculum that is based on the principal that relationship skills can and should be taught in much the same way as reading, writing and arithmetic.
Research shows that youth with strong interpersonal and social-emotional skills perform better in school and are better equipped for workplace and family roles as adults. Teen violence in dating and peer relationships has significant costs to society in areas including health care, social services, the workforce, and the justice system.
By implementing programs such as the Fourth R, there are noticeable economic and social benefits by reducing violence and harmful relationships among youth which then carries into adulthood.
The curriculum and has been adopted by more than 5,000 schools in Canada and the U.S. with eyes on expanding the programming internationally.
The Fourth R has been sold directly to end users by WORLDiscoveries since 2019 as a skill-focused, relationship-based program for grades 7-9. Each grade level curriculum includes units on personal safety and injury prevention, human development and sexual health, substance use, addictions and related behaviours, and healthy eating.
“Over the past 20 years, this approach of being relationship-focused, promoting positive youth development, and integrating it into schools has permeated the field, and it is not an overstatement to say that we have been at the forefront of that work and changed the field,” said Crooks.
The Fourth R is also a curriculum that evolves.
“My team and I have never been content to coast on our past success and are continually innovating by working closely with stakeholders to understand how youths’ landscape is shifting and to adapt and expand our progamming to leverage new opportunities and address new challenges,” Crooks said of the initiative which is now working closely with Indigenous partners to develop new programming geared to their needs.
WORLDiscoveries is the technology transfer and business development office for Western University, Lawson Health Research Institute and Robarts Research Institute.
The annual awards recognize local researchers who, through partnership with WORLDiscoveries, achieve market-readiness milestones in patenting, licensing or selling their innovations.
“The Innovator of the year award recognizes world-class research that has resulted in a breakthrough technology of significant value to society,” said Souzan Armstrong, Executive Director for WORLDiscoveries.
“WD has been selling the Fourth R to schoolboards across North America which have enthusiastically incorporated it into their health education curriculum. Claire and her team have developed a technology that is making a big impact in the life of youth by empowering them in healthy relationship skills,” Armstrong said explaining the selection of Crooks for the award.
“I appreciate that WORLDiscoveries and the university has recognized that innovation does not have to mean a shiny new piece of equipment or medical device. It is very validating personally to have the university recognize a psychosocial approach that has been shown to be both effective and cost-efficient as an innovation,” said Crooks on receiving the award.
This year’s Vanguard ceremony recognized more than 20 individuals for their achievements in diverse disciplines including science, nutrition, medicine, engineering, and education.
Other awardees included:
License Agreement Signed Award
- Doug Fraser
- Michael Lavdas
- Saumik Biswas
- Sherif Abdou
- Kirill Fedorov
- Matthew Cecchini
- Elizabeth (Eveline) Pasman
- Gordon Ngo
- Sejla (Sheyla) Abdic
- Paula Dworatzek
- June Matthews
- Lauren Kennedy
- Jamie Seabrook
- Emily Kichler
Patent Issued Award
- Chunbao (Charles) Xu
- Zhongshun (Sean) Yuan
- Shanghuan Feng
- Matthew Hebb
- Leonard Luyt
- Jinqiang Hou