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University's Susan Graham to lead research at Owerko Centre

Interdisciplinary research advances our understanding of children's neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, autism
October 12, 2016
Susan Graham will direct the Owerko Centre which draws its support from multidisciplinary researchers across the University of Calgary with expertise encompassing a broad range of neurodevelopmental and child mental health research. Photo by Don Molyneaux for the University of Calgary

Susan Graham will direct the Owerko Centre which draws its support from multidisciplinary researchers across the University of Calgary with expertise encompassing a broad range of neurodevelopmental and child mental health research. Photo by Don Molyneaux for the University of Calgary 

The Owerko Centre research space is equipped with child developmental testing spaces, playrooms with observation suites, labs for the preparation and collection of biological samples and a motor skills examination area. Photo courtesy ACHRI

The Owerko Centre research space is equipped with child developmental testing spaces, playrooms with observation suites, labs for the preparation and collection of biological samples and a motor skills examination area. Photo courtesy ACHRI

Susan Graham, a professor in the Department of Psychology, is taking on a new role as director of the Owerko Centre at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute. The University of Calgary centre is dedicated to studying neurodevelopment and child mental health including disorders such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder.

“This position is very exciting as the Owerko Centre and the researchers within the centre are changing the lives of children by advancing translational research and education in childhood neurodevelopmental and mental health disorders,” says Graham, who is also a member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI).

Owerko Centre dedicated to helping children with brain disorders

The Owerko Centre draws its support from a critical mass of multidisciplinary researchers across the University of Calgary with expertise encompassing a broad range of neurodevelopmental and pediatric mental health research (basic, clinical, health services and population health).

The centre opened in May of 2015 as a new space at the university’s Child Development Centre, made possible thanks to a generous gift from Calgary philanthropists Stan and Marge Owerko to the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Graham a Canadian leader in early child development

Graham held the Canada Research Chair in Language and Cognitive development from 2003 to 2015 at the University of Calgary. She is a recipient of the Izaak Walton Killam Award for graduate supervision and mentoring and the Killam Annual Professor award. Graham’s research focuses on language and cognitive development during the infancy and preschool years. She is a member of the ChILD Research group which explores how children develop language, learning and social understanding. More information about this research can be found at Graham’s Language and Cognitive Development Lab..

 “Susan Graham has long been a research leader in the fields of cognitive development, language processing and psychology in children and I can’t think of anyone more eminently qualified or ideally suited for this important role,” says Richard Sigurdson, dean of the Faculty of Arts. “We in the Faculty of Arts are always happy to partner with the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, and we’re confident that Dr. Graham’s leadership will help the Owerko Centre continue to do great things.”

Neurodevelopmental disorders represent one of the fastest growing health problems in the world, with approximately 15 per cent of children between ages 3 and 17 suffering from one or more diagnosable conditions. Treatment is complex and individualized as children experience medical, physical, emotional, and behavioural difficulties that vary drastically between disorders, and also vary between children with the same diagnosis. In addition, children often experience anxiety and depression due to the complex challenges they face and treatment typically requires support from the whole family and community. Conditions often affect individuals well into adulthood. Surveys of adults with mental health issues reveal that most of them experienced brain development disorders in childhood.

Led by the HBI, Brain and Mental Health is one of six strategic research themes guiding the University of Calgary towards its Eyes High goals.