Program Overview

The Child Health and Human Development Program (CHHD) was created after collective reflection in several key areas. Since early life events and factors have the potential to dictate lifelong human health, it is essential to increase our understanding of these factors in order to develop novel detection methods and therapies. Besides needing to learn more about genetics and developmental processes, we are now starting to see that early environmental factors may modulate epigenetic changes that can affect health changes decades later. Chronic childhood disease also plays a role in cognitive and identity development, underlining the need to amalgamate the strengths of researchers in many disciplines into a single, unified program. The CHHD Program therefore builds on four main themes that study different aspects of child health and human development: 

  • Human reproduction and development 
  • Molecular and cellular determinants of child health 
  • Neuropsychological and vision health
  • Health outcomes in childhood disease.

Dr. Constantin Polychronakos is a tenured professor in the Department of Pediatrics at McGill University and has been appointed program leader of the Child Health and Human Development (CHHD) Program at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC). A pediatric endocrinologist, he was a co-leader of the Endocrine-Renal research axis at the RI-MUHC from 1998-2008. He runs a world-renowned laboratory in the field of diabetes that focuses on the molecular genetics and immunology of this disease. Dr. Polychronakos has played a key role in completing the first genome-wide association studies for both types of diabetes and has heavily contributed to our knowledge of the role of the thymus in immune self-tolerance to tissue-specific proteins. Dr. Polychronakos has authored or co-authored over 160 peer-reviewed publications, many in such highly esteemed journals as Nature, Nature Genetics, PNAS, Diabetes and PLOS Genetics. His research has been supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the National Institutes of Health, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the Canadian Diabetes Association, Genome Canada, and Génome Québec. Apart from his clinician-researcher duties, Dr. Polychronakos is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medical Genetics (Impact Factor 6.3) based in the UK. Most recently, he has been elected into the Royal Society of Canada, which is the country's top academic honour available to artists, scholars, and scientists.

Dr. Hugh Clarke is a professor and Director of the Research Division in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at McGill University, and an affiliated member of the Department of Biology and of the Division of Experimental Medicine. He is also one of the two associate program leaders of the Child Health and Human Development (CHHD) Program at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. Dr. Clarke's research program centres on the development of the oocyte within the ovary prior to ovulation and fertilization, with a particular focus on how the oocyte and the neighbouring cells of the follicle communicate to ensure that the oocyte develops normally and can give rise to a healthy embryo. This work may help clinicians to diagnose and treat infertility in women. Dr. Clarke's research is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. He currently holds the Richard Cruess Chair in Reproductive Biology at McGill University, one of the highest academic awards bestowed on a faculty member by the University.

Dr. Bethany Foster is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and associate member of the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health at McGill University. She has been appointed one of the two associate program leaders of the Child Health and Human Development (CHHD) Program and acts as the Associate Scientific Director and Advisor for the Pediatric Centre for Innovative Medicine (CIM) at the Glen. Dr. Foster is also a pediatric nephrologist and clinical epidemiologist. Her research focuses on improving the long-term outcomes of children and young adults with kidney transplants. She is currently spearheading a National Institutes of Health-funded, multi-center study to examine the efficacy of a novel intervention aimed at improving medication adherence among young recipients of kidney transplants (11-24 years of age).

With her doctorate from McGill University resulting in a Nature Genetics publication and years of event planning, web design and organizational experience, Dr. Noha Gerges is well positioned to manage the Child Health and Human Development Program. After easing 31 wet labs into the Glen site in winter 2015, she understands what it takes to be successful in this new environment: patience, creativity and collaboration.