New Investigators: meet Robin Hayeems

As a researcher, Robin is excited about making an impact on child health. She began working in the Child Health Evaluative Sciences Program at SickKids in January 2014. This year, she was one of six successful applicants to receive a New Investigators Research Grant, which will support her research project: Costs and Clinical Consequences of Paediatric Whole Genome Sequencing.

What does that mean exactly?

“While genome sequencing (looking at an individual’s entire DNA makeup) enables improved diagnoses in many cases, it is expensive, not yet widely accessible, and generates information that can be ethically controversial or of uncertain value,” said Robin. “Before we make decisions about how and for whom we adopt new technologies like genome sequencing, we need to understand its downstream benefits, risks and costs.”

SickKids staff member sitting at a computer in her office
The New Investigators Research Grant, which provides support to child health researchers early in their careers, will enable Robin to (1) hire a highly trained research coordinator to assist her in executing all components of her work, (2) support a graduate student to build capacity for health services and policy research in genetics moving forward, (3) develop a database in which to collect and store data generated from this and future work, (4) purchase software to conduct the analytic component of the work and (5) attend academic meetings and decision-maker tables to share her findings.

In short, the grant is going to make Robin’s research possible.

"Genetic technologies are becoming increasingly sophisticated"
“Securing New Investigator funding will not only ensure an important piece of research is conducted, but it also significantly improves the odds of securing research funds in the future,” Robin said in regards to the importance of the New Investigators grant program.

“Research funding budgets are constrained, so funding opportunities are increasingly limited for scientists. When new investigators are required to compete for the same research dollars as seasoned experts, opportunities for success decrease even further.”

The application process for a New Investigator Grant is very competitive. This year, 61 applications were received and put through an extensive peer panel review made up of researchers, clinicians and scientists. The successful applicants receive up to three years of funding support to research new advances that have the potential to make an impact on child health outcomes.

“Genetic technologies are becoming increasingly sophisticated and, in turn, are bringing new opportunities and challenges to healthcare,” said Robin. “With my research, I hope to shed light on how these new technologies will not only impact patient care, but also our healthcare system.”