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Headshot of Elizabeth Donner

Elizabeth Donner

Title: Head, Division of Neurology, The Hospital for Sick Children
Designations: MD, M.Sc., FRCPC
Phone: 416-813-6659
U of T Positions: Professor, Department of Paediatrics
Chair Positions: Bloorview Children's Hospital Chair in Paediatric Neuroscience
Other Positions: Co-Lead, Garry Hurvitz Centre for Brain & Mental Health


Dr. Donner graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in the Biological Basis of Behaviour from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. Following this, she received a degree in medicine from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She then completed the Residency Program in Paediatric Neurology at the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). During this time, Dr. Donner developed an interest in the care of children with epilepsy, which eventually led her to Boston Children’s Hospital at Harvard University to pursue a fellowship in Clinical Paediatric Epilepsy and Neurophysiology followed by a fellowship in Functional Neuroimaging and Epilepsy. Dr. Donner successfully completed fellowship examinations in Neurology (Paediatrics) and certification in electroencephalography from the Canadian Association of Clinical Neurophysiology. Dr. Donner joined the staff of the Division of Neurology at SickKids in September 2003 and obtained a Masters Degree in Clinical Epidemiology in 2015.


Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) is the most devastating outcome of epilepsy. Dr. Donner leads a research program focused on identifying those most at risk of SUDEP and preventing deaths. Using data from Ontario, her team has demonstrated that 1 in 1000 children with epilepsy per year die of SUDEP. Current studies are working to identify genetic markers for sudden death in children with epilepsy and understand the other risks of premature death in people living with epilepsy.

Dr. Donner is also the Principal Investigator of a prospective study of ketogenic diet therapies for children with drug-resistant epilepsy. In collaboration with EpLink, the Epilepsy Research Program of the Ontario Brain Institute, Dr. Donner is investigating the effect of diet therapy for epilepsy on family functioning and quality of life.

Education and experience

  • 1988–1992: Bachelor of Arts, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 
  • 1993–1996: Doctor of Medicine, McMaster University Hamilton, ON 
  • 2000: Certification in Electroencephalography, Canadian Society of Clinical Neurophysiologists 
  • 2001: Fellow, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada Neurology (Paediatric)
  • 2001–2003:  Fellowship in Pediatric Epilepsy and Function Neuroimaging, Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard University, Boston, MA, USA
  • 2014–2015: Masters of Science,  Clinical Epidemiology and Health Science Research, Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation,  University of Toronto 


  • 2018: Michael Bahen Chair in Epilepsy Research, University of Toronto
  • 2018: Associate Editor, Seizure
  • 2015: Nominee for 2015 Kenneth M. Viste Jr., MD, Patient Advocate of the Year Award 
  • 2012: Teaching Award, Division of Developmental Paediatrics, University of Toronto
  • 2014: National Population Health Study of Neurological Conditions Synthesis Panel
  • 2010–2014: Secretary-Treasurer, Canadian League Against Epilepsy
  • 2010: Junior Faculty Award for Clinical Excellence in Paediatric Medical Care, Department of Paediatrics, University of Toronto, SickKids
  • 2010: Epilepsy Toronto H.O.P.E. Award, in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the epilepsy community 
  • 2010: CANMeds Award, Division of Neurology, The Hospital for Sick Children


  1. Bain E, Keller AE, Ho J, Whitney R, Pollanen MS, Williams AS, Donner EJ. Drowning in Epilepsy: A Population-Based Case Series. Epilepsy Res. 2018;145:123-126.
  2. Harden C, Tomson T, Gloss D, Buchhalter J, Cross JH, Donner E, French JA, Gil-Nagel A, Hesdorffer DC, Smithson WH, Spitz MC, Walczak TS, Sander J W, Ryvlin P. Practice Guideline: Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy Incidence Rates and Risk Factors. Report of the Guideline Development, Dissemination, and Implementation Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Epilepsy Society. Neurology. 2017;88:1674–1680.
  3. Keller A, Bradbury L, Wang L, Donner EJ. Effectiveness of Antiepileptic Drug Tapering in the Pediatric Epilepsy Monitoring Unit. Epilepsy & Behav. 2018;87:83-88.
  4. Verducci C, Hussain F, Donner E, Moseley BD, Buchhalter J, Hesdorffer D, Friedman D, Devinsky O. SUDEP in the North American SUDEP Registry: The full spectrum of epilepsies. Neurology. 2019;93(3):e227-e236.

"We tried everything": Team of Toronto surgeons doesn't give up on young girl with persistent seizures

Neurosurgeons from SickKids and Toronto Western Hospital (TWH) have performed the first deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat drug-resistant paediatric epilepsy in Canada. With only 40 published cases of the procedure being performed in children for this condition, Andi Dreher, 9, is among the first in the world to undergo this treatment.

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Creating communities of practice for epilepsy

On Purple Day, Drs. Elizabeth Donner and Carter Snead share their perspective on the need to help bridge an understanding of what it means to live with the impacts of epilepsy, and the launch of Project ECHO Ontario: Epilepsy Across the Lifespan.

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