The Edwin S.H. Leong Centre for Healthy Children announces the appointment of two inaugural co-executive directors

Jan 13, 2020

Dr. Astrid Guttmann and Dr. Eyal Cohen will lead the Leong Centre’s work in improving child health through precision prevention.

The Edwin S.H. Leong Centre for Healthy Children brings together fundamental research in epidemiology, machine learning and AI, and public health to generate and evaluate breakthrough interventions to help raise healthier, happier children.

Now, the Leong Centre has taken a major step toward fulfilling this ambitious goal with the appointment of Guttmann and Cohen as inaugural co-Executive Directors. Together, they will lead the Centre in reducing health inequities by focusing on some of the most important problems in child health, which disproportionately affect socially vulnerable populations.

Both doctors are renowned University of Toronto professors with in-depth knowledge of U of T’s pool of researchers, its partner institutions such as The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the Vector Institute, and its access to invaluable data and scientific expertise through ICES (formerly known as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences).

Two renowned professors focused on health care policy and care for children with complex needs

“I am delighted to be leading the Leong Centre alongside Dr. Cohen,” says Guttmann. “Together, we bring our expertise to translate U of T’s leading child health research into actionable policy recommendations to have a direct impact on kids, families, and society as a whole. Dr. Leong’s incredible generosity has ensured we have the resources to make this happen.”

“Our work is fundamentally about answering the question: how do we deliver better health and social care to kids and their families, particularly those who are most vulnerable?” adds Cohen. “The Leong Centre is poised to provide important answers to these questions, and I’m excited to begin this work alongside my colleague, Dr. Guttmann, and in partnership with the many incredible researchers here at U of T and beyond.”

Guttmann and Cohen each have impressive—and extensive—resumes in child health.

Guttmann’s work focuses on public health and health care policies, as well as their impact on populations that have higher health-care needs as a result of underlying physical and mental health conditions or social vulnerability, including immigrant and refugee populations. She is a professor of paediatrics with a cross-appointment in Health Policy, Management and Evaluation and the Epidemiology Division at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, as well as a Staff Pediatrician and Senior Associate Scientist at SickKids. She is also Chief Science Officer and Senior Scientist at ICES.

Cohen’s research looks at how to create health-care systems and policies that can better support children with complex health-care needs such as cerebral palsy and rare inherited diseases. Cohen is a professor of paediatrics at the University of Toronto with a cross-appointment in the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, co-founder of the Complex Care Program in the Division of Paediatric Medicine, and Program Head of the Child Health Evaluative Sciences program in the Research Institute at SickKids. He is also an Adjunct Scientist at ICES.

The Leong Centre’s unique mission: to prevent poor health in children

Guttmann and Cohen’s expertise will inform and support the Leong Centre’s unique mission—to develop and evaluate effective evidence-based practices, interventions and policies to prevent poor health and developmental outcomes in children, while also improving outcomes for children with disabilities and chronic conditions. Ultimately, this ‘precision prevention’ approach will lead to solutions that help children to set a trajectory of health throughout their life.

“Dr. Guttmann and Dr. Cohen are renowned child health researchers with deep knowledge of U of T’s signature strengths in this vital field,” says U of T president Meric Gertler. “As co-Executive Directors of the Leong Centre, they will hit the ground running. Their leadership at U of T, SickKids and ICES will accelerate our world-leading research, leading to groundbreaking discoveries and positive interventions that will enable a healthier future for countless children.”

“Translating our wealth of child health data into leading evidenced-based approaches requires a unique mix of clinical and research expertise, as well as an eye for innovative health-care models,” says Dr. Ronald Cohn, President and CEO of SickKids. “We are fortunate to have these skilled and compassionate clinician-scientists at the helm of this exciting initiative.”