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Quality of Life Study

Team Bios

Dr. Brian Nieman, PhD
Scientist, Translational Medicine, SickKids

Dr. Brian Nieman is an imaging scientist working at the Mouse Imaging Centre at SickKids. He is the lead investigator for the Quality of Life study and provides expertise in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and image analysis to the team. His past work has included development of MRI technology for characterizing brain anatomy, especially comparing different populations over the course of development. Dr. Nieman is responsible for overseeing the project with particular focus on the imaging components. view scientific profile

Dr. Ellen van der Plas, PhD
Post-doctoral Fellow, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine

Dr. Ellen van der Plas completed her PhD training in cognitive and developmental neuroscience. In her previous work, she examined how brain development may change as a result of congenital disorders such as cleft lip and palate. The goal of her current work is to discover the biological mechanisms that cause problems in thinking and learning abilities in children and teenagers who have been treated for childhood cancer. She played a crucial role in designing the study. Dr. van der Plas is currently a faculty member at the University of Iowa, and continues to collaborate with SickKids’ team members on the various research projects related to childhood cancer survivors.

Dr. Brenda Spiegler, PhD
Director of Psychology, Neuropsychologist, Department of Psychology, SickKids

Dr. Brenda Spiegler is the Director of Psychology at SickKids and a paediatric neuropsychologist in the Oncology Program. She has over 20 years of experience providing clinical neuropsychological services to children with cancer and her research has addressed neurocognitive late effects of treatment for childhood cancer. Her role in the Quality of Life project is to support the neuropsychological assessment. Dr. Spiegler has been pivotal in developing the neuropsychological assessment battery to measure concentration, attention and executive function. view department profile

Dr. Russell Schachar, MD, FRCPC
Psychiatrist and Senior Scientist, Psychiatry and Neurosciences & Mental Health, SickKids

Dr. Russell Schachar is an expert in cognitive and genetic studies of child psychopathology, in particular in relation to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Dr. Schachar’s research examines how genetic and environmental influences interact from the moment of conception and over time to influence thinking, feeling and actions causing problems in attention, learning and behaviour. Dr. Schachar has developed a task to assess the ability to cancel an ongoing response called the Stop Signal Task. This task is used as part of the assessment in the Quality of Life study. view scientific profile | view lab website

Dr. Shinya Ito, MD, FRCPC
Division head of Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, Department of Paediatrics
Senior Scientist, Translational Medicine

Dr. Shinya Ito is the Principal Investigator of the N-PhenoGENICS project. The Quality of Life Study and N-PhenoGENICS are closely linked to one another. Dr. Ito is the Head of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, and an attending physician in the paediatric drug consultation service and DART (Drug Allergy Reaction & Toxicology) clinic. His research is focused on mechanisms of drug transport in breast milk and the long-term side effects of drug on children, including how genes influence drug responses (Pharmacogenetics). Dr. Ito offers his expertise in pharmacogenetics to the project. view scientific profile

Dr. Johann Hitzler, MD, FRCP(C), FAAP
Staff Haematologist, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Section Leukemia Lymphoma
Senior Scientist, Developmental & Stem Cell Biology, SickKids

Dr. Johann Hitzler is a both a clinical oncologist and research scientist in the field of childhood leukemia. He brings expertise related to the diagnosis and treatment of childhood leukemia and lymphoma to the study team. Dr. Hitzler will oversee participant recruitment and the treatment-related data extraction. These data will be used to analyze relationships between specific leukemia treatments and neurocognitive late effects experienced by survivors of childhood leukemia. view scientific profile

Dr. Leigh Spencer Noakes, PhD
Research Fellow, Mouse Imaging Centre, SickKids

Dr. Leigh Spencer Noakes obtained a PhD in chemistry from McMaster University, where she specialized in solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Currently, Dr. Spencer is applying her knowledge of magnetic resonance techniques to study the long term side effects of chemotherapy on the developing brain. Using magnetic resonance imaging in mice, she is interested in determining the effect of individual chemotherapy agents on the brain and comparing the impact of each agent on neuroanatomy. 

Laura Hopf, MA
Clinical Research Project Coordinator, Department of Psychology, SickKids

Laura Hopf joined the team in the summer of 2016 as the Psychometrist/Research Coordinator. She completed her undergraduate degree in psychology at McGill University, followed by her master’s degree in developmental psychology at New York University. Hopf is responsible for data collection process, including the administering of participant neuropsychological tests to measure their performance in a variety of areas including behaviour, attention and problem-solving abilities. Hopf also plays a key role in participant recruitment. Children/youth and their families will spend most of their study visit day with Hopf. She makes sure participants successfully complete the various research components. She can answer any questions you may have about participating in the quality of life study.

Patrick Te, Hons B.Sc.
Clinical Research Project Coordinator

Patrick Te completed his undergraduate degree in psychology and neuroscience at McMaster University. He is the research assistant on the team who manages study logistics, data collection and database organization, along with Laura Hopf. Te is mainly responsible for participant recruitment, sample collection and ensuring that study visits run smoothly. 

Reeji Blesson, M.Sc., post-graduate diploma (clinical research)
Research Volunteer

Reeji Blesson completed her master’s in biotechnology and has a diploma in clinical research from Oxford College. She helps with database organization and quality control.

Elizabeth Wanstall, Hons. BA and B.Ed.
Research Volunteer

Elizabeth Wanstall completed undergraduate degrees in psychology and in education at York University, Glendon College. She is currently an MA student at York University in the Clinical-Developmental Neuropsychology program. She completed her undergraduate thesis on quality of life and cognitive outcomes in leukemia survivors, and continues to help with the team with the maintenance of the database.

Laura Galin-Corini
Research Student

Laura Galin-Corini is in her fourth and final year of study at Glendon College, York University, completing an Hons. B.Sc. in Psychology and Biology. She is currently writing her undergraduate thesis on the contribution of cumulative chemotherapy exposure to outcomes in survivors of childhood leukemia. Her main responsibility is updating the chemotherapy database via retrospective review of medical files.

Katie Polanic
Administrative Assistant, Translational Medicine, SickKids

Katie Polanic is the Administrative Assistant of the Mouse Imaging Centre at the Hospital for Sick Children where she provides administrative support to Dr. Brian Nieman. Her role in the Quality of Life Study is to support the team and to handle various administrative duties and tasks.