What's New ...
July 19, 2011
Neurology Special: Profiling Emerging Faculty
Within the last few years, the Division of Neurology has welcomed two talented physicians to its ranks. In July of 2008, Dr. Michael Esser joined the division as a Pediatric Neurologist and Dr. Paula Brna came onboard as the EEG Director.
Dr. Michael Esser
Raised in Cobourg, Ontario, Dr. Esser completed an undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, where he discovered a passion for science. After a five-year stint in the Navy, he returned to this area of interest, completing a Masters of Science in Anatomy and Neurobiology at Dalhousie. He followed this up with a Ph.D. in Pharmacology on neuropathic pain and spent time in the Chronic Pain Clinic with Dr. Mary Lynch.
"I became aware that there was a disconnect between what we were doing in basic science and what was actually clinically the problem," says Dr. Esser. "I had the sense then that I wanted to work in the region between the two, designing experiments in the lab, based on actual clinical experience."
This belief that an understanding of the clinical population was critically important for any research, fuelled his decision to enter medical school. While studying to become a doctor, Dr. Esser won numerous awards including the Michael Brothers Prize in Neuroscience and the Dr. Charles J. David Prize in Psychiatry. In 2007, after graduating, he earned a Canadian Child Health Clinician Scientist Rising Researcher Award and now holds the William Dennis Chair in Epilepsy Research.
"Dr Esser, as the inaugural recipient of their chair, brings both a clinical focus in pediatric neurology and substantive pharmacology laboratory expertise," says Dr. Kevin Gordon, a senior colleague in the Division of Neurology. "We expect that by bridging both clinical and laboratory domains, Dr Esser will ask clinically important questions about pediatric epilepsy and apply rigorous methodology in pursuing answers to these questions."
Dr. Esser is currently involved in two main streams of research and, along with various collaborators, is in the process of developing an Epilepsy Research Group. Bill Curry and Tara Perrot, plus clinicians Don Weaver and Sultan Darvesh, are working with Dr. Esser on studying the developmental origin for neurological disorders, specifically epilepsy.
Internationally, Dr. Esser's research is quite novel. His approach contains the premise that prenatal stress affects neurodevelopment, which then affects a child's susceptibility to developing neurological disorders, including epilepsy.
Finding the root of the problem, and not just treating the symptom of seizures with drugs, is something Dr. Esser feels strongly about. "The reality is that we don't know why over 60% of kids we see in the clinic are having seizures. Without a better understanding of how seizures occur, it's difficult to develop better treatments."
His other more clinical-related research is concerned with Advanced NeuroImaging and the new MEG (Magnetoencephalogram) technology at the IWK. In a partnership collaboration with the National Research Council (NRC), this new device measures brain wave activity that helps to localize brain function and epilepsy. The collaborators within that group are Ryan Darcy, Kirk Fiendel, Aaron Newman, and Tim Bardouille.
For Dr. Esser, the blend of clinical and research work is a winning combination. "The clinical work gives me the hands-on insight that is needed in research. And the research allows me to feel that even if I'm not curing epilepsy, at least I'm trying to make things better for the patients and their families. There is a sense of action and balance between the two and it's that combination that give me a direct sense of contribution."
Dr. Paula Brna
Originally from Halifax, Dr. Paula Brna returned time and again throughout her medical education, first to complete her residency in Pediatrics and then to undertake a pediatric neurology fellowship. After post-fellowship training in Epilepsy and EEG in Miami, the Pediatric Neurologist and Epileptologist returned home again with a very specific goal: to develop an Atlantic Provinces Epilepsy Surgery program to fulfill the need for comprehensive care of intractable seizure disorders in the Atlantic region.
Though the children who can benefit from epilepsy surgery are only a portion of her clinical case load, Dr. Brna is devoted to identifying those children who are. "For children with medically resistant and at times catastrophic epilepsy, the option of epilepsy surgery may be crucial to their quality of life and development," she says. "That's why developing this epilepsy surgery program has been so incredibly satisfying and exciting."
Hired originally as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and the Director of the EEG laboratory, Dr. Brna has also recently taken on the role of Program Director for Pediatric Neurology Residency Training. According to a senior colleague, Dr. Kevin Gordon, Pediatric Neurology is very pleased to have her.
"Dr Brna's advanced training as a pediatric epileptologist gives her special expertise in the surgical management of epilepsy," says Dr. Gordon. "Prior to her arrival, children with epilepsy needed to travel to central Canada for access to epilepsy surgery. Her expertise allows Maritime children with surgically manageable epilepsy to receive care in a timely fashion, close to home."
Collaborative research with Miami Children's Hospital is ongoing, while Dr. Brna is also working on local research into newer imaging modalities for children with focal epilepsies. This will enhance the ability to detect surgically amenable lesions.
With an additional interest in epilepsy genetics and the search for novel forms of genetically acquired epilepsy, Dr. Brna says the most rewarding part of her work is the clinical care. "Even for neurologic conditions that we cannot cure, there is always something to offer the families; whether that is reassurance, advocacy for support, or searching for new treatment options," she says. "Clinical care constantly presents you with challenges but also makes you inquisitive and enthusiastic to learn. When the day is hectic, the children can still put a smile on your face."
July 19, 2011
A message from Dr. Krista Jangaard welcoming new faculty
A message from Dr. Krista Jangaard, Head, Division of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine.
Please join me in welcoming Dr. C. David Simpson to the Division of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, Department of Pediatrics effective July 1, 2011. Dr. Simpson obtained his Pediatric Residency at Dalhousie University in 2008. He went on to complete the first year of his Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Residency at the University of Toronto and completed his subsequent two years at Dalhousie University. He obtained his Neonatal-Perinatal Royal College of Canada Certification in September 2010 and will finish his Residency Training Program at Dalhousie University on June 30, 2011 after completing an additional year of research training. He is presently working on completing his Postgraduate Certificate in Medical Education through the University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland.
Dr. Simpson's current research interests include necrotizing enterocolitis and other gastrointestinal diseases of the neonate; congenital heart disease and cardiovascular physiology; and neonatal morbidity and mortality outcomes. Other academic interests include educational program development and simulation training.
Dr. Simpson's office will be located within the Division of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, Main Floor, Women's Site. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com. Dr. Simpson's Administrative Assistant will be Ms. Pamela Shears. Pam can be reached at 470-7426 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 19, 2011
Drs. Bob Bortolussi and Noni MacDonald developing research capacity in Uganda via MicroResearch
Faculty stalwarts of the Department of Pediatrics, Drs. Bob Bortolussi and Noni MacDonald, Professors, Division of Infectious Diseases, continue to broaden the health outcomes of children inside and outside of Canada through the development of MicroResearch.
Drs. Bortolussi and MacDonald, both internationally recognized as leaders in a range of pediatric topics,have been championing MicroResearch in Uganda since 2008. Having published hundreds of scientific articles between the both of them, the renowned pediatricians are trying to lay the seeds for grassroots pediatric research in the poorest parts of the world. The evolution of MicroResearch as told by the project's website:
"In 2008, two organizations, Healthy Child Uganda (HCU) and the Canadian Child Health Clinician Scientist Program (CCHCSP) provided funds for a pilot MicroResearch infrastructure project. MicroResearch, a concept modeled on Micro-Finance, was conceived by Jerome Kabakyenga, Noni MacDonald and Bob Bortolussi. The CCHCSP provided educational tools, mentors, seed grant support and peer-to-peer interaction with CCHCSP and Ugandan researchers, while HCU provided infrastructure support and grant support."
"MicroResearch is aimed at improving local research capacity in Africa. The concept - small locally driven multidisciplinary health research teams developing research projects to improve health outcomes - starts with multidisciplinary research training workshops with hands-on research proposal development. Learning how to ask the questions that will address their problems."
The department would like to congratulate Drs. Bortolussi and Macdonald for their many years of service and their continued dedication to clinical and academic excellence. MicroResearch is another example of their tireless dedication to pediatrics. For more information on building research capacity in Uganda and how to support the project please visit the MicroResearch website:
May 19, 2011
Dr. Mark Bernstein named Head and Chief of the Department of Pediatrics
(The following message is from the Dean of Dalhousie Medical School, Dr. Tom Marie, and CEO of the IWK Health Centre, Anne McGuire.) It is our pleasure to announce the appointment of Dr. Mark Bernstein as the new Head & Chief of the Department of Pediatrics. The five-year appointment, retroactive to May 9, 2011, is conditional upon the approval of the Dalhousie University and IWK Health Centre boards, and subject to renewal. The IWK Board of Directors approved the appointment, yesterday.
Dr. Bernstein has been a Professor of Pediatrics at Dalhousie and Head of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the IWK Health Centre since 2006. He was Interim Director of the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute during the time of its formation. He chairs the Atlantic Provinces Pediatric Hematology Oncology Network (APPHON), which is further developing a system for delivering care as close to home as possible, to children and adolescents with cancer and serious blood disorders. Before coming to Halifax, he was head of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Ste. Justine Hospital and the University of Montreal.
He received his M.D. at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and went on to complete a residency in Family Medicine at Toronto General Hospital, a residency in Pediatrics at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Centre in New Hampshire, and a fellowship in Pediatric Hematology-Oncology at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. Dr. Bernstein's area of clinical expertise is solid tumours of adolescents and young adults, and his research interests include sarcomas and investigational drugs for children with cancer.
Dr. Bernstein is an outstanding clinical teacher and a frequent presenter at professional conferences and rounds. His equally stellar research career is punctuated by a string of major research projects and grants, and he has more than 200 book chapters, publications and abstracts to his credit.
In announcing Dr. Bernstein's appointment we want to also thank Dr. Wade Watson, who has served as Interim Head and Chief of the Department since July 2010. We truly appreciate Dr.
Watson's leadership during this period, and know that under his stewardship, the department has advanced its academic and clinical contributions and strategic goals.
May 19, 2011
Dr. Jason Berman presented with the Peggy Davison Clinician-Scientist Award
On May 13, in front of many peers, stakeholders and media, Cancer Care Nova Scotia (CCNS) and the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Institute of Dalhousie University presented the Peggy Davison Clinician Scientist Award to Dr. Jason Berman. The award, named after the inaugural Board Chair for CCNS, was first introduced in May 2004 and is valued at $100,000 in each of six consecutive years. The goal of the award is to build cancer knowledge in the area of health services and outcomes research. Dr. Berman was chosen over several internationally renowned scientists due to his past successes and his potential to improve health outcomes for children and adults who suffer from leukemia.
Dr. Berman, MD, MSc, Assistant Professor of Hematology/Oncology and Pediatrics, is one of the Department of Pediatrics' fastest rising stars. Since arriving to the department in 2005, he has developed into a highly respected clinician and a very productive researcher. His skill set of providing excellent bedside care, clinical/academic instruction, and peer reviewed research are ideal attributes for a clinician-scientist at an academic health centre. Additionally, the ability to conduct research, on-site, in his laboratory and translate his findings into clinical practice should be celebrated. The Department of Pediatrics is fortunate to have other translational researchers such as: Drs. Thomas and Andrew Issekutz of Immunology; and Dr. Michael Esser of Neurology to name a few.
Dr. Berman has carved a niche in cancer research by using Zebra fish as model. The method of using Zebra fish was introduced to him by a former trainee supervisor at Harvard University (Dr. Thomas Look at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute). The fish are well suited for conducting cancer research as they possess the same types of blood cells and many of the key genes as humans. In particular, Dr. Berman, uses the fish to study the most difficult form of leukemia to treat, acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), in an effort to learn more about the disease and test potential new therapies.
The department would like to congratulate Dr. Berman on all his successes. The clinical and academic expertise provided by Dr. Berman and other faculty help the department achieve its goals of better health outcomes for Maritime children.
Please visit the Government of Nova Scotia's news release for more information on Dr. Berman's award:
Also, please visit Dr. Berman's laboratory website for more information on his research:
May 19, 2011
Part of a winning trend: Dr. Noni MacDonald wins Alan Ross Award
The Dalhousie Killam Library could not contain the numerous works and accomplishments of celebrated pediatrician, Dr. Noni MacDonald. The long-time infectious disease specialist and Professor of Pediatrics and Computer Science has set the standard for clinical and academic productivity. In light of all her accomplishments, the former Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University has been awarded the Canadian Pediatric Society's (CPS) Alan Ross Award.
In a press release from the CPS:
"Dr. Noni MacDonald has been selected for the Society's most prestigious honour, the Alan Ross Award, recognizing outstanding contributions to the care of children and youth. Dr. MacDonald is a professor of paediatrics at Dalhousie University with a clinical appointment in paediatric infectious diseases at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax. A leader in paediatric infectious disease, she has made outstanding lifetime contributions as an advocate for children and youth health. Dr. MacDonald is the founding editor of Paediatrics & Child Health, the journal of the Canadian Paediatric Society, and remains its editor-in-chief."
Other accomplishments include: publishing over 250 papers; fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences; and serves on several government advisory committees to name a few.
In light of Dr. MacDonald's latest award, the Department of Pediatrics is witnessing a trend of faculty members being nationally recognized. The CPS, in the past couple years alone, has celebrated the following clinicians: Dr. Jonathan Kronick (2011 Michel Weber Education Award); Drs. Peter and Carol Camfield (2010 Research Award); Dr. Bob Bortolussi (2010 Membership Recognition Award); and Dr. Wade Watson (2009 Michel Weber Education Award). The department would like to congratulate Dr. MacDonald and all other faculty who continue to strive for clinical and academic excellence.
April 26, 2011
Dr. Kevin Gordon leading the debate on concussion prevention and management
Department of Pediatrics' Neurologist and Associate Professor, Dr. Kevin Gordon, an expert in the field of concussions and other neurological topics, was recently quoted in the February issue of MacLean's Magazine on sports related concussions. In the article, "The damage done by concussions: Sidney Crosby is a case study in what we know, and what we don't know", Dr. Gordon's seminal research on the incidence rate of concussions is quoted:
"A 2006 study by neurologist Dr. Kevin Gordon at Dalhousie University in Halifax estimated that there are 110 concussions per 100,000 Canadians annually-a lowball figure, since many go unreported or undiagnosed. That means there are roughly 37,600 concussions in Canada today, and 7,500 won't disappear within two weeks."
MacLean's, aside from referencing Dr. Gordon's research, highlights a case study from his concussion clinic. The article tells the story of a high school football player that suffers from an undiagnosed concussion. As a result the young man experienced post-concussion symptoms that led him to withdrawal socially and academically. Eventually, under the supervision of Dr. Gordon, the patient was able to regain a satisfactory level of social and cognitive ability. The story shows that concussions, if left untreated, can be a debilitating force on a person's life.
There is good reason why Dr. Gordon has become the point person for the on-going debate on concussions. Clinically, Dr. Gordon has treated thousands of patients in his concussion clinic, which has led him to witness and treat both acute and chronic symptoms. Academically, he is a prolific researcher and teacher. He has published numerous papers on concussions in leading academic journals and has presented at international conferences. Dr. Gordon has also completed two research fellowships at well-known American and Canadian academic hospitals and has completed a M.S. in Clinical Research Design and Statistical Analysis. It is this combination of clinical and academic skills that has positioned Dr. Gordon as a leading resource in the evolving field of concussion research and management.
The faculty and staff of the department would like to applaud Dr. Gordon on his continued leadership and dedication to public education.
Dr. Gordon's contribution to the Maclean's coverage of concussions and Sydney Crosby:
Dr. Gordon's radio interview (December, 2010) on the disturbing trend of locker room boxing in minor hockey:
Dr. Gordon comments on Hockey Nova Scotia's new rules to reduce head injuries in young players:
April 26, 2011
Teaching excellence awarded to Dr. Jonathan Kronick
For the second time in three years a member of the Department of Pediatrics has been nationally acknowledged for excellence in teaching. Dr. Jonathan Kronick, Division of Medical Genetics and former Department Chair of Pediatrics (2002-2010), will be receiving the Canadian Pediatric Society's (CPS) 2011 Michel Weber Education Award. Dr. Wade Watson, Division of Allergy and current interim Chair of Pediatrics, won the award in 2009. The award, established in 2008, recognizes a CPS member who has had a significant impact in medical and/or interprofessional education.
Dr. Kronick has sustained a high level of teaching professionalism that garners admiration and respect from his peers. Some of his career accomplishments in education include: revising the Royal College Objectives of Training in CanMEDS roles; Royal College's new Structured Oral Questions Exam; his work with the Child Health in the 21st Century; his role with the Canadian Child and Youth Health Coalition; and past posts as Pediatric Program Director and Postgraduate Dean at the University of Western Ontario.
A close colleague and postgraduate coordinator for the department, Dr. Ellen Wood, comments on Dr. Kronick's recognition as being one of Canada's top pediatric educators:
"Jon will receive the 2011 Michel Weber Education Award from the Canadian Pediatric Society. This award recognizes excellence in the field of education, at a national level. Jon has been involved in education throughout his career. He has been a program director, postgraduate dean and chief examiner at the Royal College, to name just a few of the important positions he has held. He is well known, and respected, by pediatricians and educators throughout the country".
The members and staff of the Department of Pediatrics would like to extend our congratulations on Dr. Kronick's latest achievement.
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