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Celebrating Sunnybrook's young investigators, innovation and the legacy of an inspired mentor

March 15, 2021

The Dr. Sandra Black Centre for Brain Resilience & Recovery at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is honoured to announce the recipients of the "Donald T. Stuss – Young Investigator Research Innovation Award" in memory of Dr. Donald Stuss, a deeply missed colleague, friend and visiting scientist of Sunnybrook Research Institute who passed away in 2019.

“This award is in honour of Don and his legacy. He was a remarkable scientist who was brilliant, talented and who truly cared about bringing people together with the common goal of improving the lives of others to better humankind,” says Dr. Black, the scientific director of the Dr. Sandra Black Centre for Brain Resilience & Recovery, a cognitive neurologist and the director of the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Research Program. “It’s also an exciting opportunity to recognize young scientists whose research is taking the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s and related dementias in innovative and promising directions for the future.”

Dr. Stuss was an internationally renowned expert in expanding understanding of frontal lobe function in the brain. He was the founding president of the Ontario Brain Institute and founding director of the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Centre. In addition to his many internationally acclaimed accolades in the field of neuropsychology, Dr. Stuss was appointed to the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada.

“Don surrounded himself with enthusiastic and brilliant collaborators, and found delight in facilitating their art and science,” say Dr. Stuss’ family members Lourenza Fourie, David Stuss and Leanne Stuss. “The 'Donald T. Stuss – Young Investigator Research Innovation Award' is a most fitting tribute to Don’s work, his passion for science and especially the values he espoused: Mentoring young scientists was paramount. This award also reflects the lifelong professional relationships and friendships with his peers at the Dr. Sandra Black Centre for Brain Resilience & Recovery. We are deeply touched that they are honouring Don in this way.”

Congratulations to Dr. Jenny Rabin and Dr. Maged Goubran, recipients of the "Donald T. Stuss - Young Investigator Research Innovation Award," which recognizes scientists whose novel research in Alzheimer’s and dementia-related disorders is focused on the prevention of mental decline and the promotion of brain resilience. Award recipients will receive a $50,000 grant in support of investigative studies in this field.

“Jenny Rabin and Maged Goubran are rising stars,” says Dr. Black. “They’re incredible scientists whose respective research work in Alzheimer’s disease and related-dementias are paving the way for a deeper understanding about brain circuitry and how these complex networks can be influenced to discover improved treatment options and better outcomes for patients in the future.”

“It is a thrill to acknowledge the recipients, Dr. Jenny Rabin and Dr. Maged Goubran,” the family adds. “This level of achievement reflects your hard work and dedication. We hope (for that would have been Don’s voice), that you will experience the ongoing feeling of excitement at new discoveries and seeing the rewarding translational impact of your work. Well done to both of you! We wish you ongoing success and much joy in your lives and careers.”

Dr. Rabin is the Neuropsychology lead of the Harquail Centre for Neuromodulation at Sunnybrook, scientist in the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Research Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute, and an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine (Neurology) at the University of Toronto. Her research combines multi-modal neuroimaging techniques, wearable devices and sensitive neuropsychological tests to investigate modifiable lifestyle factors (i.e. physical activity and vascular risk) that can protect against Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, her research in the Harquail Centre for Neuromodulation focuses on characterizing the cognitive, behavioral and psychosocial changes following treatment with neuromodulation, such as focused ultrasound, a minimally invasive technology being studied to treat challenging brain disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and major depressive disorder.

“This award is particularly meaningful to me because it was Don Stuss who first inspired me to become a neuropsychologist,” says Dr. Rabin. “In honour of Don’s influence on my career path, I would like to use the funds from this award to train and mentor my own students. I only hope that I can inspire my trainees the way Don inspired me!”

Dr. Goubran is a scientist in physical sciences and the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Research Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute, and assistant professor of medical biophysics at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on the development of novel artificial intelligence and computational methods to probe, predict and understand brain circuitry and model brain pathology in neurological disorders, such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injury.

“I am very honoured and humbled to be a recipient of this award celebrating Dr. Stuss’ impactful legacy,” says Dr. Goubran. “I hope that our work continues his vision, adds to his instrumental contributions in neuroscience and translates to improved patient care.”

“Don connected with everyone he met, including young scientists,” says Dr. Black. “In his last years, he came in weekly to work on several projects and publications meeting with scientists and trainees on their work. He was a respected mentor who was happy to not only share his knowledge with these young researchers, but he loved speaking with them. He often said that he learned a great deal from the postdocs and young scientists who made him feel very hopeful about the future of brain sciences, prevention strategies, treatments and the discoveries to be made by these young minds.”

Read more: Meet the recipients of the "Donald T. Stuss Young Investigator Research Innovation Award"