Facebook Pixel Code
Banner image
About the Institute

Profile of Gregory Borschel

Staff photo
Dr. Gregory Borschel

Dr. Gregory Borschel, MD, FACS, FAAP

  • Associate Scientist, Neurosciences & Mental Health
  • Surgeon, Plastic Surgery
  • Assistant Professor, Departments of Surgery and Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering

1. Where are you from?/Where did you study?
I was born on an army base at West Point, New York and I moved around a fair bit as a kid. I was raised all over the United States but mainly in the Midwest. I went to medical school at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and then to the University of Michigan for my residency training and a research fellowship in neuromuscular tissue engineering. I came to SickKids for a fellowship in paediatric plastic surgery and then I went to Washington University in St. Louis for three years as a staff surgeon at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. I returned to SickKids in 2009.

2. What are you researching right now?
Our lab is investigating nerve regeneration. Nerve injuries are a huge problem and right now we only have sub-optimal solutions. We are looking at how we can improve outcomes after nerve injury and repair and are doing so in a number of different ways. With our collaborators Tessa Gordon and Molly Shoichet, we’re using growth factors to try to drive regeneration and we are looking at electrical stimulation as a way to try to improve nerve regeneration. We’re also using allografts, which are basically donor nerves that have been processed that we use as scaffolds to support nerve regeneration. With our postdoctoral fellow, Matthew Wood, we are utilizing advanced biomaterials as delivery vehicles and our postdoctoral fellow Steve Kemp is using novel pharmacologic agents to try and protect neurons during regeneration. The goal of our work is to enhance the recovery currently possible with current techniques by adding these new modalities.

3. Who is your all time favourite scientist, and why?
I’m going to go with Dr. Joseph Murray. In 1954 he completed the first successful kidney transplant and also produced a large volume of transplantation research. Dr. Murray was awarded with the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1990 and remains the first and only plastic surgeon to earn this honour. He made a relevant contribution that is still in wide use today.

4. What in your opinion is the single most important scientific breakthrough, and why?
Organ transplantation. It leveraged an entire field of basic research into something that is readily clinically applicable. It started over 50 years ago and is still relevant today and considerable advances continue to be made in the field. Plastic surgeons have played a prominent role in this breakthrough, especially Dr. Murray.

5. What are your major interests outside the lab?
I have two kids and I spend a lot of time corralling them. I have a daughter who’s seven and a son who’s five and keeping up with them takes up all of my time. In addition I enjoy scuba diving and distance running. I ran in the Toronto waterfront marathon in September which was just about the end of me but I may go back for more.   

6. Why science?
The clinical work that I do is fascinating but while we’re in the operating room, we’re always asking: Why is it this way? Why are we limited by this? How can we fix this problem? I think we always have a natural interest to take the clinical problems that we see and try to address them in the lab. And going hand-in-hand with that, you hear about scientific advances and as a clinician-scientist, you then have the opportunity to bring them back to a clinical setting. For me it was a natural fit. It just makes sense to be a clinician and a scientist.

7. Why SickKids?
During my residency training, our program director Dr. William Kuzon was a graduate of the Toronto plastic surgery residency program. During my eight years in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I always heard about how awesome Toronto was and how fabulous SickKids was and that I needed to go there. Since I was interested in paediatric plastic surgery, that naturally led to my applying to SickKids for a fellowship for a year. Then I went back to the States and I worked there and I was recruited back to SickKids. I was attracted to the environment because I think it’s basically the number one children’s hospital in the world for clinical care and research. The people here are fabulous, there’s no end to the number of incredibly smart and collegial people here. Every day it seems that I meet some new person who is just amazing in some way. Administratively the focus is rightly placed on providing world-class clinical service and also fostering a world-class environment for academic surgery and research. I haven’t found any equal institution worldwide. An added bonus - Toronto is an incredible city, of course.

8. What is the most controversial question in your field right now?
It revolves around face transplantation. To me, the most provovactive questions are whether we should do it at all, whether it is ethical, and should it be offered for children. My partner Dr. Ronald Zuker and I have examined some of the ethical and scientific questions surrounding that issue. It’s highly controversial right now, but it my opinion, it is worthwhile to investigate and potentially offer for highly selected individuals. 

9. What are you reading right now?
Well, I’m in the midst of writing a grant proposal with my collaborator Tessa Gordon, so I’m reading all about nerve injury and molecular pathways related to nerve regeneration. But I’m also reading Rex Murphy’s Canada and other Matters of Opinion.

10. If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering a research career, what would it be?
I would say get involved early, find a great mentor, and don’t take no for an answer. Start working on it as early as possible. Be persistent, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If possible try to get into a program in which you can obtain a graduate degree of some sort and really dig in and enjoy it. Find something that you really feel passionate about, that will keep you busy and that you won’t get bored of investigating for decades.   

11. What does The Research & Learning Tower mean to you?
It represents an opportunity to consolidate all of the great minds within our research institute. It also represents an opportunity to upgrade some of our physical equipment and make our labs more efficient. Finally, it also provides a platform with which to highlight and showcase some of our research to the public, our elected officials and other sponsors. 

March 2011

View scientific profile »»