York professor receives award in recognition of her work to improve pain management in children

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Rebecca Pillai Riddell

Faculty of Health Professor Rebecca Pillai Riddell has been awarded the prestigious 2019 Jeffrey Lawson Award for Advocacy in Children’s Pain Relief. The award, which is presented by the American Pain Society, recognizes her advocacy efforts to improve management of pain in children.

“Using my program of research to be able to advocate for pained infants who do not have the ability to speak for themselves is a passion that motivates me every day,” says Pillai Riddell.

The Associate Vice-President Research at York University, Pillai Riddell is a full professor and the director of the Opportunities to Understand Childhood Hurt Laboratory (OUCH Lab). As a clinical psychologist and a basic-behavioural scientist, her research program over the past 20 years has focused on the critical role caregivers play in shaping the development of infant pain responding and what caregivers can do to reduce pain in young children.

Pillai Riddell has created the OUCH Cohort, the largest to date, to examine the development of behavioural pain responses in infants over the first five years of life. Through stringent observational procedures and powerful statistical models, she has built an unrivaled body of literature examining the mechanisms by which parents influence the expression of pain in their young child.

Going beyond the theory, Pillai Riddell has integrated her passion in promulgating the power of parents into national and international initiatives that target both parents and health professionals directly. Her research is supported by all four major federal research funding councils (Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation).

In addition, Pillai Riddell is an award-winning mentor who is dedicated to training the next generation of research leaders. In addition to her own large behavioural science laboratory, she helps lead the Pain in Child Health initiative (Co-Principal Investigator from 2014 to 2018, the Co-Chair for 2015 to 2017), an international training program for graduate research trainees that has worked with more than 300 trainees worldwide since its inception.

The award was presented to Pillai Riddell during the 2019 American Pain Society’s Scientific Meeting held April 3 to 6 in Milwaukee, WI.

The Jeffrey Lawson Award was established in 1996 in memory of Jeffrey Lawson, whose mother, Jill, brought to the attention of professional organizations the practice of performing surgery and other procedures on children without the benefit of analgesia. The award recognizes advocacy efforts to improve management of pain in children.