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On Tuesday, November 21, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital’s s research institute (Bloorview Research Institute/BRI) welcomed over 260 guests to its 12th annual research symposium. With a record-breaking attendance, the full-day event highlighted Canada’s pediatric health research through featured TED talks, quick hits, lived experience panelists, poster sessions, and much more. The agenda recognized the work of Holland Bloorview’s scientists, families, clients, staff and trainees as well as incredible external guests and speakers, and provided an inspiring overview of leading pediatric health research that poses the greatest impact in the lives of kids with disabilities and their families.

“Each year I am inspired by the diversity of high quality research at Holland Bloorview, and this year was no exception,” says Tom Chau, vice-president of research at Holland Bloorview. “The symposium was truly a showcase of scientific excellence, innovation, and co-creation that knows no boundaries."

The day began with the Honourable Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation, and Science who provided an overview of the research landscape in Ontario and welcomed guests to the prestigious day. Manuela Comito, family leader and co-host of the symposium also shared opening remarks about the impact of family-engaged research and importance of the family voice at the heart of everything we do.

Honourable Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation, and Science provides opening remarks

Honourable Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation, and Science provides opening remarks

Manuela Comito, family leader, Holland Bloorview; and Tom Chau, vice-president of research at Holland Bloorview co-host the event

(From L to R) Manuela Comito, family leader, Holland Bloorview; and Tom Chau, vice-president of research at Holland Bloorview co-host the event

Throughout the morning, guests were captivated by groundbreaking research being conducted at Holland Bloorview and the ‘discovery for action’ approach for kids and families worldwide. Research talks included:

  • Connected by a thread: Enabling communication through electronic textiles (Amanda Fleury, Centre for Leadership in Innovation)
  • May I have this dance? Choreographic mappings of children with diverse dis/abilities (Coralee McLaren, Centre for Leadership in Participation and Inclusion)
  • Supporting family needs to create healthier futures for children with acquired brain injury (Caron Gan and Deirdre Sadler, Centre for Leadership in Acquired Brain Injury)
  • Co-creating physical activity-based interventions with children who have cerebral palsy: lessons from our "BeFAST or BeSTRONG" trial (Alicia Hilderley, Centre for Leadership in Child Development)

Choreographic mappings of children with diverse dis/abilities

‘May I have this dance? Choreographic mappings of children with diverse dis/abilities’ interactive TED Talk by Coralee McLaren, Centre for Leadership in Participation and Inclusion

Audience captivated by engaging research talks

Audience captivated by engaging research talks

Symposium guests were also taken down the research super-highway with 19 ‘Quick Hit’ presentations from researchers across the BRI. Lived experience panelists, which included families and youth sharing their experiences and insights from both participating in and advising on research, provided critical information particularly as it relates to what they hope for the future of research in childhood disability.

Lived Experience panel

Lived Experience panel: (From L to R) Marla, family leader, Holland Bloorview; Hannah, client; Matthew, client and mom Karen; and Ayesha, youth advisory council member, Holland Bloorview

There were 56 poster presentations showcased in the afternoon, with a range of research topics across all Centres for Leadership. A moving and thought-provoking town hall led by Lisa Boivin, a member of the Deninu K'ue First Nations in the Northwest Territories and image-based storyteller, and Julia Gray, post-doctoral fellow at Holland Bloorview; shared a visual narrative of an Indigenous perspective of rehabilitation. Mickey Milner International Professorship Lecture Keynote Dr. Roberta Woodgate, CIHR Chair in Reproductive and Child Health Services and Policy Research, formally concluded the guest speaker portion of the 12th annual research symposium.

Poster session

Poster session – a total of 56 posters on display!

Finally, the event could not have been complete without recognizing the tireless efforts of Holland Bloorview’s scientists, researchers, students, and trainees. Find out this year’s Notable Award recipients below.

Post-event reception

Post-event reception

Thanks to everyone who attended the 12th annual research symposium!

Town Hall

Lisa Boivin, an artist, storyteller, PhD student in rehabilitation science at the University of Toronto, and member of the Deninu K’ue First Nations in the Northwest Territories, engaged the audience with an Indigenous perspective on rehabilitation, alongside Holland Bloorview's Julia Gray. Through her digital paintings, Lisa aims to address the colonial barriers that Indigenous patients face in the current health care system. She encourages listening with an open heart as the first step to inclusion and respect of the Indigenous heritage. Through her work, she strives to humanize clinical medicine by passing knowledge and history through images.

Mickey Milner International Professorship Lecture

Dr. Roberta Woodgate, professor at the University of Manitoba’s College of Nursing, has been engaging kids, youth, and their families in research for a long time. She is passionate about improving the health outcomes of Canada’s children and youth by putting their voices at the centre. Dr. Woodgate delivered a presentation from the voices of kids and families with complex disabilities entitled ‘If you only knew... the voices of families of children with complex care needs’.

Dr. Roberta Woodgate gives Mickey Milner International Professorship Lecture Keynote

Dr. Roberta Woodgate gives Mickey Milner International Professorship Lecture Keynote

Notable Awards

Whittaker Award

To commemorate Dr. John Whittaker’s dedication to improving the quality of life of children with cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities, his family and friends have established an annual award. The John Whittaker Memorial Award rewards outstanding contributions in research, service, or product development that improve the quality of life of children and youth with cerebral palsy or other developmental disabilities.

The 2017 recipients of the Whittaker Award are Erin Dowds and Silvia Orlandi.

Full professorship Recognition

  • Dr. Gillian King, full professor (status) in Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto
  • Dr. Virginia Wright, full professor (status) in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Toronto

Evidence to Care: People’s Choice Poster Award (it’s a tie!)

  • The embodied experience of returning to school following acquired brain injury: Body mapping with children. Hartman, LR., Crossman, S., Rowland, E., Anderson, A., Stahl, K., Ryan, L., Jones, L., Williams, K., Mathers, B., King, G.
  • HB FIRST® Robotics: Enhancing social skills and interest in STEM among children with disabilities. Lindsay, S., Cagliostro, E., Miedzik, J., Srikanthan, D. Presented by Lamptey, D.

Graduate Student Awards

  • Keelia Quinn De Launay and Meaghan Walker, for the 2017-2018 Kimel Family Graduate Student Scholarships in Paediatric Rehabilitation
  • Patrick Jachyra and Ellen Drumm, for the 2017-2018 Kimel Family Graduate Student Scholarships in Paediatric Disability Research
  • Brock Laschowski, the “Whipper” Watson Graduate Research Studentship Award
  • Eric Smart and Sina Panahandeh, the Holland Bloorview Foundation Graduate Student Scholarship

BRI Trainee Awards for Excellence

  • Azadeh Kushki, Excellence in Trainee Supervision
  • Patrick Jachyra, Excellence in Peer Mentorship
  • Mike Gray, Excellence in Research Collaborations

Graduate Student Award winners

Graduate Student Awards: (From L to R) Patrick Jachyra, Brock Laschowski, Eric Smart, Ellen Drumm, Meaghan Walker, Keelia Quinn De Launay, and Sina Panahandeh

Hope Tree

Throughout the Symposium, guests were encouraged to share their hopes for the future of childhood disability research by writing a message on the ‘Hope Tree’. Here are some of their thoughts:

“That there will always be an enduring curiosity and questioning, and no one ever becomes complacent. To always ask ‘why’ and ‘why not’.”

“I hope that childhood disability research will receive the same attention and funding as other research for typically developing populations.”

“A team effort! We are better together and need meaningful, multi-stakeholder engagement at all stages of research.”

“For the voices of children to be at the centre of all research.”

Do you have a hope for the future of Canadian pediatric health research? If yes, send it to ababakhanova@hollandbloorview.ca and have your message included on the BRI Hope Tree.

Shauna Kingsnorth

Shauna Kingsnorth, manager, evidence to care, and clinical study investigator, Bloorview Research Institute