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About the Institute

Profile of Lisa Robinson

Dr. Lisa Robinson

Dr. Lisa Robinson, MD

  • Scientist, Cell Biology
  • Staff Physician, Nephrology
  • Canada Research Chair - Leukocyte Migration in Inflammation and Injury
  • Associate Professor, Paediatrics, University of Toronto
  • Project Leader, Kids Science

Where are you from and where did you study?
I am originally from Toronto and I received my undergrad and my medical degrees at the University of Toronto. I did an internal medicine internship at Toronto General before going on to complete my Paediatrics residency at the University of Western Ontario in London. I then went on Duke University in North Carolina where I did a fellowship in paediatric nephrology and also completed my research training.

What are you researching right now?
My main area of research is inflammation. The common element of many diseases including arthritis, multiple sclerosis, transplant rejection and cardiovascular disease is inflammation. When inflammation occurs in the body, the white blood cells migrate to the inflamed vessels or organs and can intensify the inflammation. I am currently studying the pathways of the white blood cell migration and looking for treatments to prevent this migration and subsequent increased inflammation.

Who is your all-time favourite scientist, and why?
Someone that I admire immensely is Dr. Sergio Grinstein. He is one of the brightest humans that I have ever met and he exemplifies how science should be done. He is a consummate scientist; has such focus and is always thinking about the questions and the clinical links in his research. When I first considered coming to SickKids, Sergio was someone that I contacted and he was so amazing and helpful. He is an incredible mentor and all of his students have ended up in great places, doing amazing work.

What are your major interests outside the lab?
One of my main activities is mentorship. I am the project leader for a program here at SickKids called Kids Science. To me, it is hugely important to try and reach out to kids who are getting lost or have been forgotten in the system. Through this program we try and reach out to these kids, tell them they can do it and show them the opportunities in front of them. If we can just reach these kids and convince them to stay in school, the possibilities are endless.

I also try and spend as much time as I can with my kids and my husband. My kids are 12 and nine now and they are the coolest individuals. They have gone through all of these amazing stages in their lives and I try to be there for them as much as I can. I make the time to attend their soccer games, their basketball tournaments and their music recitals. At the end of the day, my family is what is most important to me.

Why science?
As a clinician-scientist, it was the medical work that actually brought me to the science. I guess it was the frustration I experienced when working in a clinical setting and being expected to use the standard treatments and diagnostics because they were the methods that had always been used. Getting down to the molecular and cellular level, these treatments did not always make sense and did not really address the problems. I became interested in drilling down to understand the problem and develop ways to address it more effectively.

I have been lucky because I get to do both – the clinical application and the research to develop those applications.

Why SickKids?
SickKids is such a neat place. The hospital itself is such an amazing facility with the volume of patients we treat and the remarkable number of experts we have available in virtually every field. And that is coupled with the Research Institute which also hosts an incredible slate of world renowned scientists doing important research. I have been in a number of different institutions, and have never experienced this model of collaboration between the patient care and the research. There is this amazing link, the people are extremely collaborative and it really helps us all to succeed.

What is the most controversial question in your field right now?
I am currently studying mechanisms for preventing white blood cell traffic. One area that we are looking at that is certain proteins that seem to be able to block the white blood cell traffic, thereby reducing the increased inflammation in the damaged areas. What is not understood is whether these proteins block all traffic. Where the controversy comes in is that there are other cells and processes that need to move to the damaged areas in order to help the body to regenerate. We want to avoid hindering those healing processes when using these proteins as blockers, but still prevent the inflammation. We will have to undertake more in vivo study in order to better understand these proteins and the possibilities around these kinds of treatments.

November 2008

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