Hayyah Clairman is a MSc Candidate at the Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto; Hospital for Sick Children. As part of her graduate research, she will be working alongside Dr. Jill Hamilton on the study titled: Pathways to eating: Determining eating behaviour phenotypes in children with severe obesity.
How did you become interested in childhood obesity research?
When I was an undergraduate student studying human health and disease, my professors would often incorporate slides related to the increasing rates of obesity into their lectures. I was appalled at how quickly global rates were growing for young children who will end up struggling with obesity and its complications throughout their lives. It wasn’t until I began looking into projects for my Master’s degree that I found the opportunity to make an impact on childhood obesity research.
What are your specific research interests?
My research interests are broad and concern pediatric health and morbidity prevention. Despite the recent growth in treatment programs to address the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity, current intervention models focus on very general (“one size fits all”) recommendations to modify nutritional intake and physical activity. I would like to contribute to changing how society and clinicians think about childhood obesity, as this general approach is ineffective for the majority of cases. I am specifically interested in the psychological factors that cause young people with obesity to overeat and how certain combinations of these factors may appear more commonly in people with particular clinical characteristics (e.g. in females versus males).
Can you describe your role on the research within Team ABC3?
For my thesis, I am working on the cross-sectional analysis for the Pathways study. “Eating Pathways: Determining Phenotypes in Children and Adolescents with Obesity” will determine whether certain eating triggers cluster together into various groups in a pediatric population with obesity. I helped finalize the study plan, pitched the study to various CANPWR sites and facilitated applications to site-specific Research Ethics Boards, and currently monitor data collection on a monthly basis. I will be working with a biostatistician in the coming months to analyze the data we have collected!
What do you hope to gain from participating with Team ABC3?
Before starting my Master’s degree, I had never been part of a national network of researchers and clinicians. I think the collaboration between so many people across the country is a unique and very educational experience. The clinicians who would most benefit from the results of the Pathways study will be the first ones to use the new knowledge we will gain! It is also fascinating to hear about all the other on-going studies being conducted by Team ABC3 members and how they will make a difference to the childhood obesity rate trajectory.
To date, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your own research on childhood obesity? Your biggest success?
I think my biggest challenge has also been my biggest success. Getting the Pathways study going was a long process (it has been about 2 years since the study was conceived!), but we have been able to recruit 150 participants in 8 months! It took a number of months to get all participating sites on board and start data collection. Coordinating a multi-centre study is not easy, but it sure is exciting!
Do you have any additional comments to make?
Team ABC3 brings together world-leaders in childhood obesity research and I am very honoured to be part of this team. I think together we can improve childhood morbidity and I would encourage readers to stay tuned for the results that come from Team ABC3 studies.