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About Sickkids
About SickKids

November 1, 2010

Daneman receives prestigious award

Dr. Denis Daneman, Paediatrician-in-Chief, The Hospital for Sick Children

Dr. Denis Daneman, Paediatrician-in-Chief, has received a prestigious international award from the  International Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes – the ISPAD Prize for Achievement which recognizes outstanding contributions in the areas of science, education or advocacy which have had a major impact on childhood and adolescent diabetes.

Q: When did you receive the ISPAD Prize for Achievement?

A: The annual awards were given out at the banquet on the final night of the annual conference, in Buenos Aires on Friday October 29th, 2010. I attended the conference for several reasons. First, it is the pre-eminent international society which specifically targets issues to do with children with diabetes, research, education and advocacy. ISPAD formed in 1974 as an off-shoot of the International Diabetes Federation because of the view that the issues of youth with diabetes were not being given the attention they deserved.  

Second, I presented the bid from Toronto to host the annual meeting in 2014; this has been successful and we look forward to welcoming our colleagues from all over the world to Toronto. Third, I presented the results of two studies at the meeting, and am involved with a third. Fourth, a number of members of our SickKids diabetes team presented studies or plenary sessions and its great to be there for support. Fifth, I played a role in helping the organizers set up the program by suggesting topics and inviting speakers. Sixth, I have a strong sense of loyalty to this society having been on its advisory council for a number of years and president from 2004-2006. Finally, these meetings are wonderful opportunities to meet friends and colleagues from all over the world, and how could I even think of missing the awards ceremony – these things don’t happen too often.

Q: The ISPAD website says the prize is the society’s highest honour. Do you think you are being recognized for one project or initiative in particular?  

A: The prize is, in essence, a lifetime achievement award for contributions to the field over very many years – more than 30 in my case. It’s extremely rewarding when your peers recognize that your work has some worth.

The basis of the nomination would be my burning passion to live the academic dream of integrating excellence in clinical care with educating, nurturing and mentoring the next generation of paediatricians and asking questions that attempt to enhance our understanding of the disease, in this case diabetes, and improve outcomes.

Without immersion in the issues that confront children with diabetes and their families on a daily basis, one cannot begin to study their cause and impact and try to modulate their outcomes.  So, for me, there is nowhere better in the world to live this dream than at SickKids and University of Toronto. This may sound like a public service announcement from the Chief/Chair of Paediatrics, but it is simply the truth.

The diabetes team at SickKids is an incredibly interdisciplinary group of doctors, nurses, dieticians, social workers, and others with whom I have the pleasure to work. Team members have interacted with thousands of families of children with diabetes and become intimately involved as care providers. We have also trained a legion of paediatric residents, and, more importantly, endocrine fellows.

Personally I had the wonderful opportunity to work with two superb mentors, Bob Ehrlich in Toronto and Allan Drash in Pittsburgh, who shared their fire for this field with me. I hope I do the same for our trainees – I think I may: our senior trainees are making a difference in the field in many countries around the world, and a number of our research projects, either locally or as part of multi-national trials, have made important contributions.

Q: As paediatrician-in-chief, do you have time for science, education or advocacy?

A: Absolutely yes, on the one hand, as it relates to development of and support for programs in our hospital and university, but much less so on a personal level. In some ways, the achievements of my own children and grandchildren are far more important than my own. Similarly, on a professional level, to support the career aspirations and development of our faculty is incredibly fulfilling .  But I do still do clinical work and derive enormous satisfaction from it, and I am involved in a host of educational activities with our students, residents and fellows, and participate in a number of research studies which I believe are very important.  

Q: What is the most exciting part of being a paediatrician? Do you recall a special “a-ha” moment?

A: Epiphanies are uncommon, but certain milestones are important: first, I thoroughly enjoyed being a medical student and doing a myriad of different things, but as soon as I started my first rotation in paediatrics, I just knew this was where I belonged: child- and family-centred care, the involvement with children and their families, and the types of people who had chosen this field. Also, as a medical student and then as a resident and fellow I had the opportunity to work with some wonderful people who exuded passion for everything they did. Role modelling is very important; I was privileged to have strong mentors and role models in paediatrics, paediatric endocrinology and diabetes. We can never lose sight of the fact that in the first and last resort what we are all working towards is improving the lives of children with acute or chronic diseases; in my case, this means diabetes.

Q: Is your love of paediatrics linked to the prize you have received?

A: Of course it is. As Benjamin Franklin said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Boy, have I been lucky to work this long and this hard on things I enjoy so much. I have also been extraordinarily fortunate to work with inordinately talented people, the best of whom always questioned everything and often offered new ways of thinking through questions. One of my mentors always said, if we all think the same, none of us is thinking at all. So very true.

Q: Can you summarize your vision for your department?

A: The recruitment of outstanding individuals both locally and from elsewhere is probably the most important thing one can do. Never be scared to recruit people far smarter than yourself, not only do they make you look good, but they bring such incredible innovative, transformational, inspirational ideas with them. While the vision part is very important – excellence in clinical care, state of the art education of the next generations, and cutting edge research, with permeable boundaries between the three – the execution of it is much more important, wearing the expectation of excellence on one’s sleeve.

Q: What are some of your upcoming challenges at SickKids?

A: The challenges seem to change with the times: clinically, we need to embrace clinical excellence in all its manifestations, patient safety, continuous quality improvement, access, flow, decision-making, and the list goes on; from the educational standpoint, we need to be sure we are at the forefront of both new technologies as well as education scholarship; and research-wise, we need to continuously encourage curiosity in our trainees and support them in a wide spectrum of activities, from fundamental or discovery research through health services and policy research.

Q: If you could do one thing for SickKids, what would it be?

A: What a difficult question, but it would be to ensure that our Department of Paediatrics would continue to be seen nationally and internationally as one of the most exciting places to work. I return from the meeting in Buenos Aires very energized indeed: more important than the personal recognition is the reinforcement I get at these meetings of our diabetes team, our hospital and our university.