A bridge-builder and leader focused on innovative research
Dr. Birken is an expert in the area of childhood obesity. She’s also a natural bridge builder; with Dr. Patricia Parkin and Dr. Jonathon Maguire, Dr. Birken leads The Applied Research Group for Kids (TARGet Kids!), North America’s largest patient-oriented and practice-based research network, which follows the growth and development of approximately 12,000 children in Toronto, Montreal, and Kingston—from birth through childhood. Dr. Birken herself is leading several collaborative research projects, including PROMOTE, which focuses on childhood growth in the early years and its impact on cardiometabolic health. Another project—Fit for School, Fit for Life—investigates the impacts of growth in the early years on kids’ readiness for kindergarten.
“Dr. Birken has become one of Canada’s leaders in research on childhood growth,” says Dr. Trevor Young, Dean of the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and Vice-Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions, who is currently Acting Vice-President and Provost at U of T. “Her unparalleled expertise makes her an ideal candidate to help lead the Leong Centre’s research agenda.”
As the Edwin S.H. Leong Chair in Child Health Intervention, Dr. Birken will measure and identify meaningful child health outcomes. She will also develop innovative and pragmatic implementation strategies and clinical interventions based on leading, up-to-date research. Her work will support the larger vision of the Leong Centre, which is led by co-directors Dr. Eyal Cohen and Dr. Astrid Guttmann.
“Throughout her career, Dr. Birken has led innovative intervention research focused on children,” says Dr. Cohen, speaking on behalf of himself and Dr. Guttmann. “She is also an extraordinary mentor, a critical role in the Leong Centre as we work to foster the next generation of child health research leaders.” Dr. Birken’s work has focused on interventions that are germane to the goals of the Leong Centre—parenting interventions, periconception health, public health partnerships, and many more.
“We are delighted to have Dr. Birken’s leadership and vision,” says Dr. Meric Gertler, President of U of T. “There has been a global rise in chronic disease among children, especially those who are underprivileged and at-risk. Dr. Birken will help the ground-breaking Leong Centre develop the evidence-based strategies we need to improve the lives of young people around the world.”
“Dr. Birken is a brilliant researcher and a true collaborator,” notes Dr. Ronald Cohn, President and CEO of SickKids. “She is creating innovative solutions to help ensure that all children, regardless of background, can lead happy, healthy lives.”