Feb 23, 2023

Leong Scholar Akshat Pai receives CIHR Doctoral Research Award

Akshat photo

We are pleased to announce that Akshat Pai, PhD Candidate from the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children, and Leong Scholar, was recently awarded the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Doctoral Award for a novel project titled, “Using the Ontario Marginalization Index to Explore the Impact of Health Inequities on Time to Diagnosis and Outcomes of Stroke in Childhood: A Province-wide Study.” Akshat provides a summary of his project, which focuses on health equity, delays to diagnosis, and outcomes in childhood stroke.

Childhood stroke is one of the leading causes of death in children and responsible for short- and long-term disability in over 60% of survivors with deficits manifesting within the sensorimotor, speech, cognitive, social, mental health, and behavioral domains. The psychological and socioeconomic burden associated with childhood stroke is substantial, with overwhelming demands on families and caregivers. However, the impact of health inequities on time to stroke diagnosis and clinical outcomes remain inadequately addressed. For example, a child living in a single-parent home in rural Ontario may have a drastically more severe post-stroke outcome compared to one living in a dual income household in downtown Toronto.

Due to shifts in Canadian demographics over the past two decades, the impact of equity, diversity, and inclusion on healthcare outcomes is more apparent than ever. By leveraging active collaborations with each of the International Pediatric Stroke Study sites within Ontario, this project will inform public health, community and hospital level strategic planning, and resource allocation so that children can receive the care they need and flourish in Ontario. Its findings will not only allow clinicians to incorporate their knowledge of how health inequities impact childhood stroke care, but also address one of the leading causes of death and disability in children.

Before transferring from MSc to PhD in Summer of 2022, he studied the impact of health inequities on time to diagnosis and outcomes of stroke in children (two manuscripts in preparation) using single-centre data. These study abstracts have been published in Stroke and Annals of Neurology, presented at international conferences, and laid the foundation for this project. Akshat is incredibly grateful for the mentorship and unwavering support he continues to receive from his thesis supervisor (Dr. Nomazulu Dlamini), supervisory committee (Drs. Gabrielle deVeber, Teresa To, Andrea Kassner, Birgit Ertl-Wagner), and the Edwin S.H. Leong Centre for Healthy Children.

Question: What does winning this award mean to you?

Answer: Winning this award truly serves as a testament to decades of continued efforts by the global stroke community in advocating for children’s wellbeing and addressing barriers to timely stroke care for children. Since my passion for serving those experiencing health inequities is deeply rooted in my own upbringing in the Toronto Community Housing Project, I hope to leverage findings from this project to improve health outcomes for vulnerable populations within and beyond Ontario. Thus, I believe that this award will help propel me towards my goal and allow me to realize my potential as a leader in the Canadian research ecosystem.