Facebook Pixel Code
About Sickkids
About SickKids

Donna Koller, PhD

The Hospital for Sick Children
Academic & Clinical Specialist
Child Life

Research Institute
Project Investigator
Child Health Evaluative Sciences

Phone: 416-813-8211
Fax: 416-813-5364
Email: donna.koller@sickkids.ca

Brief Biography

Dr. Donna Koller is an Academic and Clinical Specialist in Child Life at The Hospital for Sick Children. As an acknowledged leader in the field of child life, Dr. Koller has worked in three paediatric settings in a clinical, academic and research capacity.

In her present role, Dr. Koller is a project investigator within the Research Institute at The Hospital for Sick Children with an appointment within the Child Health Evaluative Sciences area. She also provides clinical leadership to child life specialists within the department. She has published articles on child participation and paediatric psychosocial care in a variety of peer-reviewed journals and is also preparing the first evidence-based practice statements for the child life profession on behalf of the Child Life Council, an international association serving child life professionals. She is currently primary investigator on three funded studies, co-investigator and collaborator on others. In addition, she has presented at several national and international conferences and is currently providing consultation services to other hospitals such as the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a new paediatric hospital in Qatar. Her areas of expertise include: child participation rights in health care decision making on personal and organizational levels, children’s experiences of hospitalization, qualitative research methods with youth, child development outcomes and family studies.

She has a doctoral degree in child development and applied psychology from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. Her doctoral dissertation explored youth participation on school boards. Prior to obtaining a doctoral degree, Dr. Koller completed a Masters degree in child development and family studies from the University of Missouri where she was the first Canadian to receive the Blumenthal Fellowship in Child Life. Dr. Koller began her career in child life in 1990, as a Certified Child Life Specialist at the Children’s Hospital at Chedoke-McMaster in Hamilton, Ontario.

External Funding

Evaluation of Online Psychoeducation and Social Support for Adolescents with Diabetes
Co-investigator on project. (Funded by the Canadian Diabetes Association)

Pandemic Planning after SARS for Pediatrics
Co-investigator on project. (CIHR funded study)

Diabetes Self-Care: The Perspectives and Experiences of Children and Adolescents
Primary Investigator on project. (Funded by Canadian Diabetes Association)

Development of Evidence Based Practice Statements for the Child Life Council
Primary Investigator on project. (Funded by the Child Life Council-USA)

Evaluating Children’s Roles in the Governance of a Paediatric Hospital: The Perceived Impact of a Children’s Council
Primary investigator on project. (CIHR funded study)

Psychosocial Experiences Associated With SARS from the Perspectives Of Hospitalized Children, their Parents and Paediatric Health Care Providers
Primary investigator on project. (External & Internal funding received)

Development and Evaluation of an Online Peer Support Network for Children and Adolescents with Haematological, Oncological and Immunological Diseases
Co-investigator on project.

Exploring the Psychosocial and Health Service Consequences on Children and their Families during SARS: Lessons learned for Paediatric Health Care Practice and Policy
Co-investigator on project. (CIHR funded study)

Evaluation of Videophone Communication for Families of Hospitalized Children
Co-investigator on project.

Development and Validation of a Disease Specific Health-Related Quality of Life Questionnaire for Children after Liver Transplantation
Collaborator on project. To provide child development expertise during the data collection and analysis. (CIHR funded study)

The Paediatric Hospital Atrium: Designers’ Intentions versus Children’s Experiences
Collaborator on project.
To provide expertise regarding child participation and analysis of qualitative data. To participate in dissemination of findings.


Koller D, Gryski C. (2007). The life threatened child and the life enhancing clown: towards a model of therapeutic clowning. Journal of Evidence Based Practice in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, published online May 17, 2007.

Koller D, Nicholas D, Salter-Goldie R, Gearing R, Selkirk E. (2006). Bowlby and Robertson revisited: the impact of isolation on hospitalized children during SARS. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Paediatrics 27(2), 1-7.

Koller D, Nicholas D, Salter-Goldie R, Gearing R, Selkirk E. (2006). When family centered care is challenged by infectious disease: paediatric health care delivery during the SARS outbreaks. Qualitative Health Research, 16, 47-60.

Nicholas DB, Darch J, McNeill T, O'Leary K, Berlin D, Koller D. (2006). Perceptions of online support for hospitalized children and adolescents. In S. Dumont (Ed.), Social Work, Health,and International Development. Binghamtom, NY: Haworth Press.

Koller D, Minden D. (Spring 2005). Preparing your child for bloodwork. Kid’s Health 6(1). A publication by The Hospital for Sick Children.

Koller D, Darch J, Patterson S. (2004, October). When the going gets tough, the tough get playing: a child life response to the SARS crisis. Child Life Council Bulletin 21 (3), 10-14.

Koller D. (2004). Identity formation and the meaning of youth participation in democratic spaces: the case of student trustees. Doctoral Dissertation.

Nicholas DB, Koller D, Picone G. (2004). Fostering childhood participation in health care: grandparents’ perspectives on children's involvement in the treatment of paediatric end stage renal disease. Journal of Nephrology Social Work, 23, 11-12.

Nicholas DB, Koller D. (2003). The experience of SARS from a paediatric perspective. Update, A publication by The Ontario Respiratory Care Society