Atkinson: Leaders never stop learning … so don’t

Your learning doesn’t end today, in fact, it is just getting started, Stephanie Atkinson told graduates at the Thursday morning session of Western’s 307th Convocation.

“You will need to acquire a cadre of skills beyond those learned in the classroom or the research lab,” Atkinson said. “Seize on opportunities as early as possible; address challenges early on.”

Atkinson spoke to graduates from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Faculty of Science and School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the Thursday, June 16, morning session of Western’s 307th Convocation.

Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Science, honoris causa, upon Atkinson in recognition as one of Canada’s most outstanding nutrition scientists and internationally recognized nutrition leader.

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Atkinson’s world-class research has benefitted the nutritional management of preterm infants and children with diseases such as leukemia and epilepsy that cause bone disorders. Her current research focuses on the concept that nutritional exposures during fetal, neonatal and early childhood life program how the environment interacts with offspring genetics, leading to changes that can alter growth, development and the risk of adult-onset disease.

Atkinson is dedicated to supporting research training for clinician scientists, as evidenced by her longstanding position as McMaster Centre Leader for the Canadian Child Health Clinician Scientist Program. Her leadership has been recognized in appointed roles in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), including the inaugural Governing Council in 2000 and Chair of the Institute Advisory Board of the Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes.

In her citation, Brescia University College interim principal Donna Rogers cited Atkinson as a pioneer and internationally recognized leader who has repeatedly broken new ground in pediatric nutrition.

“Her research is focused on improving the lives of infants and children,” Rogers said. “A world-class researcher in the field of bone metabolism of preterm infants and children with bone disorders, she has helped to address the steroid drug-induced health problems that result in the arrest of skeletal growth in premature infants and children requiring steroid therapy – such as those with leukemia, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis and nephrosis.”

As professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Atkinson focuses her research on clinical trials and epidemiological investigations of the environmental, genetic and biochemical factors during fetal, neonatal and early childhood life.

In recognition of her contributions to the field of pediatric nutrition, Atkinson has received a number of awards and accolades, including the McHenry Award from the Canadian Society for Nutritional Sciences, the Ryley Jeffs Memorial Award from the Dietitians of Canada and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee. In 2012, as a dedicated and accomplished alumna, she was awarded the Carmelle Murphy Alumnae Award of Distinction from Brescia.