Research chair in children's diseases a first in Canada

Foundation for Children with Intestinal and Liver Disorders raised $3.5 million to fund chair

by Hilary Thomson staff writer
the first research chair in pediatric gastroenterology in Canada, valued at $3.5 million, has been established at UBC.

"This is a remarkable addition to our medical research program," says President Martha Piper. "The new knowledge generated will provide real momentum in advancing care for these devastating illnesses."

Research chair funding -- including a $500,000 contribution from UBC -- was raised by the child Foundation (Children with Intestinal and Liver Disorders) which began in 1995 to find a cure for disorders such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and liver disorders.

The recruitment of a researcher to fill the position is under way. Research will be based at BC's Children's Hospital, currently the only consultation and treatment centre in the province for pediatric gastrointestinal disorders. One-third of all pediatric consultations in the province relate to digestive system problems.

"This endowed chair has been made possible by very many caring people," says Grace McCarthy, president of the child Foundation. "From large donations from industry and companies to the efforts of children who have collected small amounts of change, we have had wonderful support. We are especially pleased to have had a provincial government contribution of $ 1 million."

Disorders may be acute or chronic and affect children of any age from premature babies to adolescents. Symptoms of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis include inflammation and ulceration of the digestive tract, pain, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, chronic fatigue and extreme weight loss or gain.

Children with these diseases experience significant absences from school and many hospitalizations and medical interventions.

Treatment includes steroid drugs followed by a series of medications taken daily for life or surgery to remove ulcerated areas of the digestive tract, including colostomy.

UBCDean of Medicine Dr. John Cairns says, "The child Foundation began their efforts by establishing a $3 million goal with volunteers from the community. They have delivered on that promise and at the same time raised awareness in our province and elsewhere of these diseases which, because of their nature, were seldom discussed."

"Our dream of a Centre of Excellence in Gastroenterology is now a reality," McCarthy says. "Our focus now is the funding for a state of the art laboratory. A program of care from research bench to bedside gives patients help and hope."

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