Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological health conditions in children, and yet in the early 1990s, when Dr. Gabriel Ronen joined the Department of Pediatrics at McMaster University, there was no deicated program to help children with the condition living in the Golden Horseshoe.
Though well trained and backed by years of experience as a Pediatric Neurologist, Ronen - now professor in the Department of Pediatrics-wanted to do more than just treat children; he wanted to improve their quality of life.
For that reason, Ronen has undertaken years of research into quality of life for children with epilepsy-and continues to do so. He feels fortunate to see that his work has raised the profile of issues that weren't considered important just two decades ago.
In the mid 1990s, Ronen began his first research project: a study to understand what children with epilepsy and their families consider important in terms of quality of life and self-perception. That study was followed by another-this time funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research-that has been looking into the psychosocial and biomedical factors that affect children with epilepsy. His most recent study looks at the impact of enhanced physical activity in children with epilepsy. (Pictured above Dr. Gabriel Ronen)
"I have devoted my research to these children and their families," he says. "When I came to McMaseter in 1991, there was a need to look after children with epilepsy in the region. I thought, 'How can I best improve their life?' Well, it turns out that you never know unless you ask them."
In addition to his extensive research work, Ronen is currently collaborating on a book on ethics in developmental disabilities with developmental pediatrician and fellow McMaster researcher, Dr. Peter Rosenbaum, who collaborated with Ronen on their earlier book, Life Quality Outcomes in Children and Young People with Neurological and Developmental Conditions: Concepts, Evidence and Practice, which was published in 2013.
"That was very gratifying, very satisfying," Ronen says of the publication. "It deals with quality of life and how to measure issues that are important for patients, and to recognize opportunities to help these people."
Ronen's dedication to his patients and to research that helps children with epilepsy everywhere has not gone unnoticed. In the last two years, a local family who directly benefitted from Ronen's work, "organized a fundraising event with the proceeds going to support Dr. Ronen's research program, as well as clinical care for children with epilepsy at our hospital," notes Dr. Brandon Meaney, Division Head of Neurology in the Department of Pediatrics. "They raised over $50,000. A third fundraiser was planned for 2015 and the family expected an even bigger turnout..."
While Ronen considers the gesture "quite amazing" Meaney says it just illustrates how appreciative people are of Ronen's commitment and dedication to helping children.
"He has improved the lives of countless children with epilepsy and their families," Meaney says. "Rather than simply focusing on treating their seizures, he wanted to understand the relationship between having-and being teated for-epilepsy, and one's quality of life.