Current Studentship Award Recipients

Recipients of the Leong Centre Studentship Award represent the fields of family medicine, paediatrics, and public health. Their research disciplines include population health, social epidemiology, health policy and management, and social and behavioral sciences.

More information about the Leong Centre Studentships and application instructions can be found here


Lydia Li

Lydia Min Li, PhD Student

Supervisor: Dr. Mark Wade, Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the University of Toronto

Project Title: Using Machine Learning to Understand School-Based Predictors of Mental Health among Canadian Children and Adolescents

Award Year: 2022

Read Lydia's Bio

Lydia Min Li is a PhD student in the Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the University of Toronto. Her academic interest centers around fostering resilience and the mental health of disadvantaged children and adolescents, including those who have been exposed to trauma and adversities. Her project aims to: 1) compare machine learning methods and traditional statistical methods in predicting positive and negative mental health outcomes in Canadian children and adolescents participating in the School Mental Health Survey (SMHS); 2) compare and quantify the predictive power of school-related risk and protective factors reported by different informants on mental health outcomes. The knowledge generated from this project can help program developers, and policymakers make informed decisions regarding the inclusion and allocation of services that target the most robust predictors of mental health, thus facilitating the well-being of school-aged children and youth in Canada.


Shawna Grossman, PhD Student

Supervisor: Dr. Linda Iwenofu, C. Psych., OISE, University of Toronto

Project Title: The Influence of Anti-Black Racism on Stress in Black Children and Youth in Canada: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Award Year: 2022

Read Shawna's Bio

Shawna Grossman is a doctoral student in the School and Clinical Child Psychology program at OISE, University of Toronto. As a clinician-in-training, Shawna is interested in supporting the holistic health and wellbeing of children, adolescents, and emerging adults from various cultural and linguistic backgrounds. She has previously completed a practicum placement at the Toronto District School Board, and she is currently on practicum placement at Surrey Place.

Her research interests are centered around social determinates of health and the promotion of equitable and accessible mental health care for children and youth. Shawna is currently conducting a systematic review focused on the impacts of perceived racial discrimination on stress and related mental health outcomes among Black children and youth living in Canada.


Rebecca Balasa, RN, MScN, PhD Candidate

Supervisor: Co-Supervision by Dr. Amaya Perez-Brumer & Dr. Dionne Gesink, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

Project Title: Improving Child Sex Trafficking Identification and Referral Practices in Ontario Pediatric Emergency Departments: An Intersectional Mixed Methods Study

Award Year: 2022

Read Rebecca's Bio

Rebecca Balasa is a doctoral candidate at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, and a Registered Nurse working in the Emergency Department and on the Sexual Assault Nursing Team at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). Rebecca is conducting a mixed methods study, using Delphi and qualitative methods, to examine child sex trafficking identification and referral practices in Ontario pediatric Emergency Departments. This work seeks to contribute to the province’s Bill 251, Combating Human Trafficking Act, which supports the government’s Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy Plan, and to provide evidence-based recommendations for clinical practice guidelines.


Melissa Perri, PhD Candidate

Supervisor: Dr. Patricia O'Campo, Executive Director, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael's Hospital

Project Title: Mapping the Needs of Children Who Live in Households Experiencing Domestic Violence

Award Year: 2022

Read Melissa's Bio

Melissa Perri is a PhD candidate at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. She has a Master's of Public Health, in Social and Behavioural Health Sciences, from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the intersections of housing, harm reduction, violence, and gender. Her project seeks to change the current intimate partner violence evidence base by elevating the voices and preferences of children affected by violence. Using a concept mapping approach, this project aims to inform the set of services to be made available to families participating in an at home intimate partner violence intervention titled Safe at Home-Hamilton.


Paul Yoo, MScA, PhD

Supervisor: Dr. E. Ann Yeh, Division of Neurosciences and Mental Health, The Hospital for Sick Children 

Project Title: Participation, Environment, and Key Clinical and Health Outcomes in Children with Multiple Sclerosis

Award Year: 2023

Read Paul's Bio

Paul Yoo is an occupational therapist by training and a postdoctoral fellow working in the Pediatric Neuroinflammatory Disorders Program. He joined The Hospital for Sick Children after completing his PhD in Rehabilitation Science at McGill University, Montreal, where he developed the Child Community Health Inclusion Index (CHILD-CHII). His research focuses on lifestyle outcomes and environmental/contextual factors that can improve health outcomes in children with Multiple Sclerosis and other disabilities/chronic illnesses. He is an amateur coffee enthusiast, avid runner, and bookworm.


Dr. Eduardo Gus, MD

Supervisor: Dr. Natasha Saunders, Staff Pediatrician, Division of Pediatric Medicine, The Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto

Project Title: Specialized Burn Centre Care in Ontario for Children and Adolescents: A Population-Based Study

Award Year: 2023

Read Eduardo's Bio

Dr. Eduardo Gus is a staff surgeon at The Hospital for Sick Children, and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto. He completed his medical degree at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, and undertook General Surgery and Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery specialty training in Porto Alegre, Brazil. He is a Plastic Surgeon since 2010. Dr. Gus pursued fellowship training in adult and pediatric burns, pediatric plastic surgery, and breast reconstruction at the University of Toronto, which were followed by an appointment at the Victorian Adult Burns Service, in Melbourne, Australia. He returned to the Division of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery in 2021, to join the Burn Program at the Hospital for Sick Children. Dr. Gus' clinical practice interest encompasses acute and reconstructive burn surgery, complex wounds, scar management, laser therapy, skin lesions, and breast conditions in the pediatric population. His research interest centres on understanding burn epidemiology and informing policies for burn injury prevention.


Sabastian Koprich, MPH Student

Supervisor: Dr. Sarah Edwards, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

Project Title: Voicing the Health Needs of Métis Children

Award Year: 2023

Read Sabastian's Bio

Sabastian Koprich is a Métis scholar descended from the verified Métis Solomon and Berger/Beaudoin family lineage. His traditional territory is Waaseyagami-wiikwed, the Shining Waters Bay, also known as Georgian Bay in Ontario. Sabastian is currently pursuing an MPH in the Indigenous Health stream at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. He completed his BSc in Biology at Trent University, where he evaluated the burden of cardiovascular disease on Métis citizens in Ontario for his thesis. Sabastian is interested in promoting distinctions-based health research of Indigenous peoples. As a Métis citizen, there is a specific emphasis on Métis health and wellness in his research. Disaggregated reporting and analyses of health data are critical for distinct Indigenous communities to make a difference in their health needs. He currently works at ICES as a graduate student research assistant.

The Métis Nation of Ontario has recognized a gap in services for Métis children in primary school and entering secondary school (aged 5-14). In collaboration with ICES, his project will be an environmental scan looking at examining child health indicators for Indigenous children, understanding current Métis-specific health outcomes, and compiling existing programming and services available to Métis children. Additionally, this project integrates sharing circles, an Indigenous methodology, to discuss health needs with Métis children and their primary caregivers. Understanding what Métis parents and children prioritize for their health, as well as further sources of evidence, such as data, programs, and services that have been developed to inform program planning, will help the Métis Nation of Ontario address this gap.


Dr. Jennifer Jairam, MSc, PhD

Supervisor: Dr. Joel Ray, Clinician Scientist at Unity Health Toronto, and Professor in the Department of Medicine and Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto

Project Title: Downward Income Mobility Between Pregnancies and Risk of Adverse Infant Outcomes

Award Year: 2023

Read Jennifer's Bio

Dr. Jairam is a Postdoctoral Fellow and Epidemiologist. She holds a PhD in Epidemiology from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, and an MSc in Population Epidemiology from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University. She is affiliated with Unity Health Toronto, ICES, and the Leong Centre for Healthy Children at the University of Toronto and SickKids. Her overall research aim is to improve the health and well-being of mothers and their infants among diverse populations. She uses epidemiologic methods and health and social administrative data to address disparities in maternal and child health across the life course.

Her project will examine maternal downward income mobility between two consecutive births and the associated risk of adverse infant outcomes in the second birth relative to mothers who remain in the same income area between births.

Pearl Zaki

Dr. Pearl Zaki, PGY-2 Pediatrics Resident

Supervisor: Dr. Vann Chau, Attending Neurologist and Associate Professor, University of Toronto, Department of Pediatrics

Project Title: The Intersection of Social Disparity, Neonatal Hippocampal Development, and Cognition in Infants with Congenital Heart Disease

Award Year: 2023

Read Pearl's Bio

Dr. Pearl Zaki is a second year Paediatric Neurology resident at the University of Toronto. She completed medical school at the University of Toronto and her undergraduate studies at the University of Waterloo in Health Studies. It was through her undergraduate courses that she developed a keen interest in the social determinants of health (SDoH) In her postgraduate training, she hopes to further explore the SDoH and their impact as they pertain to brain health, both in childhood and lifelong. 

Her project will explore the relationship between hippocampal development, cognition, and social disparity in children with congenital heart disease, to better understand whether: (1) SDoH impact the trajectory of hippocampal maturation in infancy and (2) SDoH modify associations between hippocampal maturation and childhood cognitive outcomes.


Chaoran Dong, PhD Student

Supervisor: Dr. Petros Pechlivanoglou, Senior Scientist, The Hospital for Sick Children and Associate Professor, Institute for Health Policy Management and Evaluation University of Toronto

Project Title: The Value of Reducing Geographical Disparities in Access to Pediatric Cancer Care in Ontario

Award Year: 2023

Read Chaoran's Bio

Chaoran Dong is a PhD student in the Health Technology Assessment Stream at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto. Her research interests primarily focus on economic evaluations in serving vulnerable populations, particularly with respect to priority setting and resource allocation in the healthcare system. Her project aims to 1) assess the economic impact of reducing geographical disparities in pediatric cancer care access through the current provincial program for households with varying socioeconomic status, and 2) to guide future expansion of the program or/and adoption of the program from different provinces. The results of this project will help understand the value of improving geographic accessibility for pediatric cancer patients in Ontario , which will address knowledge gaps in the current studies.


Kayla Esser, MPH Student

Supervisor: Dr. Julia Orkin, Medical Director, Complex Care Program; Staff Physician, Division of Paediatric Medicine, The Hospital for Sick Children

Project Title: Understanding the Psychiatrist Role in Caring for Caregivers of Children with Medical Complexity: A Retrospective Chart Review

Award Year: 2023

Read Kayla's Bio

Kayla is a master's student studying epidemiology in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. Her research at The Hospital for Sick Children aims to improve care for children with medical complexity and their caregivers, specifically by providing mental health support to caregivers, and facilitating the transitions from paediatric to adult health care, and from NICU to home. She has also worked as a student epidemiologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Centre for Vaccine Preventable Diseases. She attended McMaster University for an undergraduate degree in Arts and Science, majoring in psychology. 

Her project will evaluate the novel role of a psychiatrist in treating caregivers of children with medical complexity and the clinical recommendations associated with diagnostic assessment and treatment for this population.



Past Studentship Recipients

Victor Do, MD
Award Year: 2021
Supervisor: Dr. Sanjay Mahant, Associate Scientist at Child Health Evaluative Sciences, SickKids
Project Title: Improving Hospital Care for Children and Families with Limited English: A Qualitative Study

Katherine Bailey, MD, MSc
Award Year: 2022
Supervisor: Dr. Alene Toulany, Department of Adolescent Medicine, SickKids
Project Title: Health Equity Considerations for Youth Transitioning from Paediatric to Adult Care: A Scoping Review