Award: Taylor Prize celebrates trailblazer in paediatric endocrinology
Dr. Heather Dean, the 2021 J. Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine recipient, has changed the lives of countless children and youth living with diabetes throughout the course of a 33-year career as a researcher, educator, advocate and Winnipeg-based clinician.
A Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba, she was among the very first researchers to bring attention to youth-onset type 2 diabetes, particularly among Canadian Indigenous youth. Her research into the screening, treatment, prevention and epidemiology of type 2 diabetes in children has had a national and international impact not only for endocrinology, but has resulted in advancements in understanding paediatric health service delivery and public health, Indigenous health, and innovating the transition to and navigation of adult care for adolescents living with diabetes. She has published more than 140 peer-reviewed articles during her research career.
Her exceptional commitment to wholistically bettering the health and well-being of children, and particularly those with diabetes, also inspired Dean to contribute to the advancement of research training and clinical practice in endocrinology in Canada and around the world.
A proponent of interprofessional education, Dean contributed significantly to research in this area, and brought an inter-professional emphasis to her teaching and administrative roles at the University of Manitoba, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, the Canadian Pediatric Endocrine Group, and many other national and international organizations, until her retirement in 2015.
Awarded annually by Robarts Research Institute at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, the J. Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine recognizes scientists with exceptional impact; individuals who are innovative within their research discipline and inspiring researchers worldwide. Dean embodies these values and achievements, both in her service to her patient community and to the medical community.
Dean graduated with her medical degree from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario in 1975, before pursuing paediatrics and paediatric endocrinology training in Montreal, Ottawa and Winnipeg. She joined the faculty at the University of Manitoba in 1981, eventually undertaking numerous leadership positions within the Department of Paediatrics and the Faculty of Medicine, including Associate Dean and Faculty Lead of Interprofessional Education.
During her tenure as the Section Head of Paediatric Endocrinology at the University of Manitoba (1990-2005), Dean led the development of the Diabetes Education Resource for Children and Adolescents (DER-CA), which provided specialized, evidence-based care to children and youth with diabetes. The DER-CA established the first Canadian population-based clinical database of paediatric diabetes patients, and was also the first paediatric endocrinology team to integrate mental health expertise and clinical outreach.
Through her work with the DER-CA, Dean also advocated for the adoption of national guidelines related to the treatment of adolescent diabetic patients. She also served on expert committees for type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents at both the Center for Disease Control (Atlanta, 1998) and at the National Institute of Health (Bethesda, 1999).
In 2003, Dean helped establish and served as the original primary investigator of the Next Generation Cohort – which studied the offspring those with youth-onset type 2 diabetes. This cohort has since produced new evidence and theories that have furthered scientific understanding of pre- and post-natal risk factors for type 2 diabetes, and contributed to the overall study of the developmental origins of health and disease.
Dean has also been an active advocate of summer camp programs for youth with diabetes, and has provided medical service to the Canadian Diabetes Association’s camping program for many years both at a local level at Camp Briardale in Manitoba, and at a national level, by serving on the national medical standards committee.
Dean has been the recipient of several awards from the Canadian Diabetes Association, Canadian Paediatric Society and the University of Manitoba. She has also been honoured with the Robert Volpe Distinguished Service Award from the Canadian Society of Endocrinology & Metabolism (2001), the Prix d’Excellence from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (2009), a Fellowship with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (2012), and many more.
The story of her research career has been captured in two recently published books, Diagnosing the Legacy: The Discovery, Research and Treatment of type 2 diabetes in Indigenous Youth (2018) by Larry Krotz, and Beyond Banting: From Insulin to Islet Transplant, Decoding Canada’s Diabetes Superstars (2021) by Krista Lamb.
Dean will be presented the J. Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine at the Robarts Research Institute’s annual Taylor Symposium in London, Ontario, in late 2021.