Our team

MaxiMoM

 

Meet the team behind MaxiMoM

Combining their research, clinical, milk banking, and discipline-specific strengths, principal investigators, Drs. O’Connor and Unger, have become international leaders in optimizing human milk for very low birth weight infants. This research could not be done without the dedication and enthusiasm of our large team of staff, trainees, collaborators, and family advisors!

Principal investigators

 
Dr. Deborah O'Connor- MaxiMoM Principal Investigator

Deborah O'Connor PhD RD

Dr. O’Connor is the Chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto and a Senior Associate Scientist at the SickKids Research Institute. Dr. O’Connor is a recognized authority in neonatal nutrition and is frequently asked for her expert opinion in preparing national and international maternal and neonatal nutrition guidelines. Dr. O'Connor is also interested in understanding the factors that affect the folate and one-carbon (e.g. vitamin B12) nutrient status of women, infants, and young children. In particular, her work investigates the role folic acid fortification, vitamin and mineral supplementation and colonic bacterial folate biosynthesis play on the folate status of women of reproductive age. Folate and other one-carbon nutrients are critically involved in the prevention of birth defects and emerging evidence suggests these nutrients also play important roles in epigenetic programming of adult disease.

Sharon Unger MD

Dr. Unger is a neonatologist at Sinai Health, a scientist at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, a professor in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto (U of T) and a mother to three teenage daughters. She comes from New Brunswick and attended Dalhousie University Medical School. Following pediatrics residency on the East Coast, Dr. Unger completed fellowship training in neonatal-perinatal medicine at U of T. Along with Dr. O'Connor she was a primary investigator for the Donor Milk for Improved Neurodevelopmental Outcomes (DoMINO) trial which is the largest blinded randomized controlled trial in donor milk use as a supplement to mother's milk. This trial provided the evidence required to launch the Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank for which Dr. Unger is the medical director. Drs. Unger and O'Connor have had continuous funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for more than the past decade and together serve as the primary investigators for the MaxiMoM: Maximizing Mothers' Milk Program of Research.

Dr. Sharon Unger- MaxiMoM Principal Investigator

Staff

 
Susanne Aufreiter- Research Associate

Carleigh Jenkins BASc

Research coordinator

carleigh jenkins

Nicole Law PhD CPsych

Neuropsychologist

      

Nicole Law- Neuropyschologist

Dubraiicka Pichardo MSc

Research coordinator

        dubraiicka.pichardo@sickkids.ca

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Alexia Lambis MEd

Research assistant & Psychometrist

 

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Colleen Farrell MSc RD

Clinical Research Dietitian

       colleen.farrell@sickkids.ca

 

Collaborators

Collaboration is at the heart of our work. The consortium of neonatal intensive care units and organizations are an integral part of the MaxiMoM program. Through these collaborators, we reach many of the infants born very low birth weight in Canada each year. This level of integration and collaboration makes the MaxiMoM program a unique network not found anywhere else in the world. Established research contracts, electronic data collection, a biobank, and support from the Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank place MaxiMoM in an ideal position to rapidly and effectively answer research questions and implement practice change.

Humber River Hospital

Lakeridge Health 

Mackenzie Health 

Markham Stouffville Hospital 

Toronto East Health Network

North York General Hospital

Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank 

Scarborough Health Network

Southlake Regional Health Centre 

Sinai Health System 

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

The Hospital for Sick Children

Unity Health Toronto

Universite Laval

University of Alberta

University of Ottawa

University of Toronto

Trillium Health Partners 

William Osler Health System

 
Family

The MaxiMoM Family is a group of parents who have participated in our studies and who provide feedback for our study initiatives.  We are thankful for the support and contributions of the MaxiMoM Family to ensure that our research is accessible, relevant and meaningful to the families we aim to support. Click the link below if you are interested in learning more about joining our advisory group!  

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Happy Family

The
MaxiMoM Family

 

Trainees

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Megan Beggs PhD RD

Research fellow

Optimizing trace element nutrition for infants born preterm

Kathryn Walton- Research Fellow

Kathryn Walton PhD RD

Research fellow

Eating behaviours, caregiver feeding interactions and the dietary patterns of children born preterm

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Jo-Anna Baxter PhD

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Nicole Bando MSc

PhD student

Examining the relationship between early-life nutrition and neural processing speed capacities in infants born very preterm

Research fellow

Exploring associations between maternal micronutrient supplementation, diet and body mass index with breastmilk composition and infant growth

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Michelle Asbury MSc

PhD student

Impact of the mother’s milk microbiota on the gastrointestinal colonization of hospitalized infants born <1250 grams

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Michael Pitino MSc

PhD student

Optimizing the pasteurization of human donor milk using high hydrostatic pressure processing

Sara Shama- PhD Student

Sara Shama MSc RD

PhD student​

Impact of pre- and probiotic properties of mother’s milk on the microbial colonization of very low birth weight infants

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Adrianna Greco MSc RD

MSc student​

Validation of a new methodology to assess vitamin B12 in human milk and concentrations in Canadian human donor milk

Samantha Ismail- MSc Student

Samantha Ismail BSc

MSc student​

Breast milk SARS-CoV-2 IgA and IgG antibodies: ELISA validation and antibody neutralizing capacity

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Jong Yup Sa BSc

MSc student​

How are antibiotic classes and timing of exposure associated with the gastrointestinal microbiota of human milk-fed infants born <1250 g?

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Victoria Colaluca BSc

MSc student

The effect of probiotics on human colonic folate concentration

Former Trainees

Former Undergraduate Students​

  • Akash Kothari BSc

       Current Position: MSc Student, University of Toronto

 

  • Rachel Wong BSc

       Current Position: MSc Student, University of Toronto

Former Masters Students​

  • Colleen Farrell MSc RD

        Current Position: Clinical Research Dietitian, The Hospital for Sick Children ​

  • Dawn Ng MSc

  • Eleanor Reid MSc

       Current Position: Project Manager, Funding Analytics & Operations Support, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

  • Joan Brennan-Donnan MSc RD

       Current Position: Registered Dietitian, Siani Health System 

  • Sara DiLauro MSc RD

       Current Position: Registered Dietitian, The Hospital for Sick Children 

  • Siya Khanna MSc

       Current Position: Medical Student, Nova Southeastern University

  • Susan Trang MSc

        Current Position: Nutrition Research Analyst, Nutrition Regulations Standards Division, Health Canada

  • Yunnie Luk MSc RD

       Current Position:  Registered Dietitian, The Hospital for Sick Children 

Former Doctoral Students​

  • Jane Francis PhD RD

       Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Acadia University

  • Julie Sato (PhD project course, co-supervised)

       Current Position: PhD Student, University of Toronto (Dr. Margot Taylor Lab) 

  • Lauren LeMay-Nedjelski PhD

       Current Position: Medical Writer, EVERSANA

  • Meghan McGee PhD

       Current Position: Project Coordinator, Bridgepoint Research Collaboratory

Former Clinical & Research Fellow​s

  • Abu Ismail MD

  • Amelia Xu PhD

       Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Sinai Health System

  • Amir El Makkawi MD

  • Julia Panczuk MD

  • Kathryn Hopperton PhD

       Current Position: Scientific Evaluator, Health Canada

  • Marina Castro MD

       Current Position: Staff Paediatrician and Neonatologist at Credit Valley Hospital and Mississauga Hospital​

  • Phoebe Kigozi MD 

       Current Position: Neonatologist, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

  • Telford Yeung MD PhD

        Current Position: Staff Neonatologist, Windsor Reginal Hospital

Team Pictures

SickKids Research Institute

Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning

686 Bay Street

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

M5G 0A4

Department of Nutritional Sciences

University of Toronto

1 King's College Circle

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

M5S 1A8

© 2021 MaxiMoM Research

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