Creating a brighter future for children through research
BC Children’s Hospital treated over 138,000 children last year, diagnosing serious illnesses, applying life-saving treatments, and supporting patients’ physical and mental health.
All of this work was built on research, which lays the groundwork for transforming the health of BC’s kids — both now and in the years to come. Researchers at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute are constantly working to turn questions into answers and make scientific discoveries that advance knowledge and improve care for children and families.
Over the past few decades, incredible strides have been made in medical science, steadily improving the outcomes for many sick kids, but countless children still face challenges from severe illnesses like cancer and heart disease. Research is the path to progress, eventually leading towards potential cures and better outcomes.
Despite the numerous obstacles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers launched many new projects and took lead roles in initiatives designed to tackle some of the greatest health challenges facing children. Powered by the generosity of donors, BC Children’s Hospital has created an environment where impactful, life-changing research thrives.
One campus, many possibilities
BC Children’s Hospital is a world leader in pediatric health care. One reason why the hospital attracts some of the brightest minds in pediatric medicine is because BC Children’s Hospital and its Research Institute are located on a single campus, along with mental health and developmental services and rehabilitation facilities — all together representing one of the few fully integrated medical campuses in Canada.
This allows researchers and clinicians to immediately translate new research insights into hospital care and, conversely, take insights from care back to the research lab. Most experts here work as both clinicians and researchers, allowing them to see the results of their research firsthand and apply them to future studies.
The following are just three examples of how this integrated system has driven significant progress in pediatric medical research this past year.
Improving care through technology
Researchers have been using data and technology to improve patient care, looking for better ways to diagnose and treat serious childhood illnesses. New and innovative technologies are equipping researchers to better prevent and treat illnesses, increase education and improve the quality of life for kids across the province.
For example, stem cell research may lead to the development of life-saving advances and treatments. Thanks to generous support from Mining for Miracles, BC Children’s is now home to first-of-its-kind technology that will quicken the research and development of new therapies for serious illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and others (see the “A new frontier in modern medicine” donor spotlight for more details). Researchers have also launched studies that use artificial intelligence to more accurately diagnose and classify concussions, and employ virtual reality to reduce the anxiety of children undergoing medical procedures.
Turning COVID-19 obstacles into opportunities
When the pandemic first emerged in 2020, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute quickly focused its resources on finding ways to understand and treat the virus. With the disruptions of COVID-19, researchers were forced to rethink their approaches and methods, adjusting and modifying aspects of the research process to better fit into a new normal.
Researchers studied the biology of the virus, its impact on people, how it affected society at large and the benefits of the vaccines.
Among BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute’s many COVID-related break¬throughs was the development of the COVID-19 gargle test, which has become a global standard for testing for COVID-19 in children, without the need for an invasive nasal swab. Another key success involved improvements in patient recruitment and consent processes, which led to much faster progress of studies and results.
“Many of the adaptations we made during all the public health restrictions have been transformative. Our collective experience has taught us an important lesson: just because things have been done a certain way for decades doesn’t mean it’s the best way.”
– DR. QUYNH DOAN, INTERIM SENIOR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT BC CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE
Creating better outcomes for chronic childhood illnesses
From cancer to diabetes to rare diseases — researchers specializing in chronic childhood illnesses are devoted to finding the best ways to prevent, diagnose, treat, and even one day cure these diseases. Operating in a facility that’s just steps away from the hospital, many of these researchers are able to provide direct care to these children and use their experience to advance future research development.
The many research studies assessing complex illnesses conducted over the past year range from developing new tests to diagnose childhood brain tumours to making more accurate diagnoses of severe heart conditions.
Research is powered by donors
Donor generosity is the engine that drives research forward. With support from donors like the Jack and Doris Brown Foundation, the James Family Foundation, Mining for Miracles and many others, researchers are redefining the limits of pediatric medicine, driven by the ultimate goal to improve the lives of children who need help — today and tomorrow.