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About the Institute

Profile of Andrew Howard

Andrew Howard
Dr. Andrew Howard

Dr. Andrew Howard, MD, FRCSC, M.Sc.

  • Scientist, Child Health Evaluative Sciences
  • Orthopaedic Surgeon at SickKids
  • Associate Professor, Departments of Surgery & Health Policy, Management & Evaluation, University of Toronto

1. Where are you from? Where did you study?
I was born in Scotland but I grew up in High Prairie, a small town in northern Alberta. After high school, I spent a long time at Queen’s University. There, I did an undergraduate degree in mathematical physics, a medical degree and my orthopaedic residency. I also picked up a masters degree in epidemiology at the University of Ottawa and a fellowship in orthopaedics.

2. What are you researching right now?
My main interest is childhood injury. We have looked at two major causes of injury: road traffic and sports and leisure. Right now we are hoping to receive a large cross-Canada grant to look at multiple aspects of traffic safety for children, especially looking at pedestrian safety. I am also doing some work overseas looking into pedestrian safety, particularly in Africa.

3. Who is your all-time favourite scientist, and why?
Everybody has to like Albert Einstein. I just finished reading another one of his biographies. The reason I look to someone like Einstein as a favourite scientist is because he was profoundly interested in the relationship between science and society and showed a keen interest in the politics of the day. He was very influential in issues surrounding geopolitics and human freedom and he could solve the world’s problems and the problems of the universe on paper. Albert Einstein was an absolutely fascinating individual.  

4. What are your major interests outside the lab?
I really enjoy all forms of wilderness travel in Northern Canada. Whether I am on skis or holding a paddle I am happy. I like to be far away from cities and their buildings, cars and noise.  

5. Why science?
Science gives us the ability to explore the problems that children are living with around the world. On the clinical front we are able to look after patients one at a time very well, especially in Canada. But there are all sorts of problems that have yet to be solved. Research allows progress to be made against important determinants of child health, which means learning more about important causes of death and disability.

6. Why SickKids?
SickKids is an excellent place to work because it allows health care professionals to go back and forth between clinical and research environments and to work with trainees from around the world. The goal of SickKids to fully integrate clinical care, research and education is becoming more of a reality each year.

7. What is the most controversial question in your field right now?
The field of injury prevention is often challenged. Some think that it is not worth looking for environmental or societal changes that would prevent injury because they see injury as the fault of the victim. We are trying to prove that this is not true. For example, even though it is in their best interest to do so, people do not always cross the street safely. That is why we are hoping to create a safer traffic environment.

The results of our studies usually call for relatively simple and relatively cheap environmental modifications that make people safer and can save lives. Our most recent paper on playground injuries is quite a good example. It’s very straightforward. If you fall off play equipment in Canada you are going to land on a CSA approved surface, either wood fibre or sand. We found out that sand is five times safer than wood fibre. It takes a little bit of science to find out something that seems rather simple and obvious. What’s interesting is that it happens to be true and it will make a difference to injuries without having to take down any monkey bars. 

January 2010  

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