Owerko Centre Conference

Owerko Centre Conference

An annual conference focused on research

The Owerko Centre conference is an annual spring event hosted by the Owerko Centre at The Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute. Each conference is aligned with the mission statement of the Owerko Centre: To optimize brain and mental health for children and families through research, education, and community engagement.

A distinct theme or focus area is explored at each conference. The themes, agenda, and invited guests are carefully selected and curated by an internal conference organizing committee that meets regularly through the year.  

Previous Owerko Centre Conferences

Keynote speakers: 

Dr. Samuele Cortese, MD, PhD 
Pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment for ADHD

Dr. Jennifer Crosbie, PhD 
Spit for Science: A population approach to disentangling the etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders

UCalgary speakers: 

Dr. Brandy Callahan, PhD 
ADHD After Childhood: Emerging Findings About ADHD Into Later Life

Dr. Chad Bousman, PhD 
Personalized Prescribing of ADHD Medications 

Panel discussion: 
Dr. Kara Murias, MD, PhD, FRCPC
Assistant Professor, Departments of Pediatrics, Clinical Neurosciences and Psychiatry, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary; Pediatric Neurologist, Alberta Children's Hospital. 

Dr. Heather Baker, PhD, RPsych 
Director, Clinical Services, CanLEARN Society

Dr. Elaine Bland, MD 
Family Physician, Mental health Lead, Calgary Foothills Primary Care Network

Dr. Iliana Ortega, MD, FRCPC
Division Head Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Calgary 

Dr. Gabrielle Wilcox, PsyD, NCSP, RPsych
Associate Professor, School and Applied Child Psychology, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary

Trainee presentations: 

Jennifer Williamson; Supervisor: Dr. Carly McMorris
Understanding the Mental Health Experiences of Autistic Students in Higher Education in Canada: A Mixed Methods Approach

Oghenefejiro Erome-Utunedi; Supervisor: Dr. Morris Scantlebury
The Role of CCL2 and its Receptor CCR2 in Vagal Heat Sensitization as Possible Mechanism for Febrile Seizures

Shefali Rai; Supervisor: Dr. Signe Bray
How Much is Enough? Optimizing Data Collection for Pediatric Functional Connectivity Research

Lilit Antonyan; Supervisor: Dr. Paul Arnold
Polygenic Risk Score Analysis of Structural Brain Changes as Candidate Endophenotypes of Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors

Catherine Lowe; Supervisor: Dr. Emma Climie 
Miss Diagnosed: Girls and Women with ADHD

Dr. Meaghan Perdue, PhD; Supervisor: Dr. Catherine Lebel
Altered Markers of Brain Metabolism and Excitability are Associated with Executive Functioning in Young Children Exposed to Alcohol In Utero


Dr. Laura Graham, PhD, Associate Professor, Silberman School of Social Work, Hunter College, The City University of New York, New York

Addressing the needs of LGBTQIA+ youth on the spectrum: A call to action

Dr. Kristen Gillespie-Lynch, PhD, Associate Professor, Psychology, College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center, and Director, Advanced Certificate Program in Autism Spectrum Disorders and Building Bridges Project REACH, The City University of New York, New York

Dr. TC Waisman, EdD, MA, Leadership, Policy & Governance; Leadership and Training Coach, Autism Training Academy, Vancouver, BC

Talk Title: Neurodiversity & Intersectionality: It Matters

Grant Bruno, PhD Student, Paediatrics, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta

Insights into Autism and First Nations People: Perspectives from a Parent, Community Member, and Researcher 

Internal Speaker: 

Dr. Meredith Maroney, PhD, RPsych, Assistant Professor, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary

Dual spectrums: The intersectional experiences of sexual and gender minority autistic individuals

Academic & Community Panel: 

  • Moderator: Dr. Carly McMorris, PhD, Associate Professor, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary
  • Melia Wylie, Two-Spirit and LGBTQINAP+ Programs Facilitator, Centre for Sexuality
  • Jess Lopez, Neurodiversity Support Advisor, Student Wellness Service, University of Calgary
  • Dr. Caroline Westwood, Psychologist, Child and Adolescent Addiction & Mental Health Specialized Services, Alberta Health Services 
  • Dr. Kristin Lalji, Psychologist, Mood, Anxiety and Psychosis Service (MAPS), Alberta Health Services
  • Dr. Shylo Cliffe, Social Worker, Child and Adolescent Addiction & Mental Health Specialized Services and Psychiatry Program Community Clinic, Alberta Health Services
  • Emily Coombs, Autistic Researcher and Advocate, Graduate Student, University of Calgary

3-minute Trainee Flash Talks: 

  • Samarpreet Singh, Supervisor: Gerald Giesbrecht, PhD, Dept. of Paediatrics; Associations and Interactions of Delivery Mode and Antibiotic Exposure with Infant Cortisol level: A Correlational Study
  • Ceilidh MConnell, Supervisor: Deinera Exner-Cortens, PhD, Depts. of Psychology and Psychiatry; Preventing Youth Suicide with a Virtual Human Training: Best Practices for Establishing a Youth Advisory Group
  • Madison Long, Supervisor: Catherine Lebel, PhD, Dept. of Radiology; Trajectories of gray matter volume development in toddlers and young children with prenatal alcohol exposure
  • Mashiat Zaman, Supervisor: Dr. Tim Shutt, PhD, Dept. of Medical Genetics; Investigating the mechanistic basis of Mitofusin2 variants leading to disease. 
  • Dr. Stephanie Chipeur, JD, DCL, Supervisor: Jennifer Zwicker, PhD, School of Public Policy; Paying Family Caregivers of Children with Disabilities
  • Stefan Kurbatfinski, Supervisors: Nicole Letourneau, PhD and Aliyah Mawji, PhD, Dept. of Community Health Sciences; Stalking and Harassment Manifest Uniquely Within 2SLGBTQQIA+ and Rural Women Intimate Partner Relationships: Albertan Victim/Survivor and Service Provider Experiences. 


Dr. Stelios Georgiades, PhD  McMaster Children’s Hospital Chair in Autism and Neurodevelopment, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences

Autism Chronogeneity: What does it mean for Research, Policy, and Practice?

Dr. Lucy Lach, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Faculty of Arts; Associate Member, Departments of Paediatrics, Neurology and Neurosurgery, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University

Dr. David Nicholas, PhD, Professor, Associate Dean, Research and Partnerships, Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary

Considering Social Determinants of Health When Navigating Access to Services and Supports: Implications for ALL Stakeholders

Internal Speakers:

Dr. Carolyn Emery, PhD  Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology, Chair Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre; Professor, Pediatrics and Community Health Sciences at the Cumming School of Medicine and Dr. Brianne Redquest, Postdoctoral Associate, Werklund School of Education

Evidence-informed Adapted Physical Activity Programs for Youth with Disabilities: Calgary Adapted Hub Research Opportunities

Child Development Centre Community Panel:

  • Karen Orser, CEO, Luna Child and Youth Advocacy Centre
  • Tanya McLeod, President, The Sinneave Family Foundation
  • Nicki Wilson, Associate E.D, Renfrew Educational Services

Trainee Collaborative Translational Research Presentation

Anything you can do, I can do better! Comparing and contrasting questions asked by model organism research and human neuroimaging studies to better understand the developing brain.

  • Dr. Kathyrn Manning, PhD, Human imaging researcher
  • Dr. Gillian England-Mason, PhD, Child neurodevelopmental researcher
  • Dr. Deepika Dogra, PhD, Zebrafish/human organoid researcher
  • Dr. Jing Zheng, PhD, Mouse/human imaging researcher

3-minute Trainee Flash Talks

  • Kaylan Burns, Supervisor: Dr. Guang Yang, Dept. of  Biochemistry and Molecular Biology: Solving the mystery of a rare neurodevelopmental disorder
  • Dr. Parisa Moazen, Supervisor: Dr. Deborah Kurrasch, Dept. of Medical Genetics: Battle of the sexes for vasopressin development
  • Christiane Roth, Supervisor: Dr. Jennifer Zwicker, School of Public Policy: Measure what matters -  identifying key indicators to align policy and service delivery with child health and well-being
  • Sarah Williams, Supervisor: Dr. Kelly Schwartz, Werklund School of Education: Changes in student mental health and adaptive functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic: does age matter?
  • Dr. Elnaz Vaghef Mehrabani, Supervisor: Dr. Gerry Giesbrecht, Dept. of Paediatrics: The association between maternal pre-pregnancy obesity and child behavior: The role of inflammation
  • Rayyan Zuberi, Supervisor: Dr. Chad Bousman, Dept. of Medical Genetics: Impact of cannabinoid use on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor efficacy and tolerability in adolescents 


Dr. Russell Schachar, MD, FRCP, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto

"Genetics of ADHD: Scientific Progress and Clinical Implications."

Dr. Yona Lunsky, PhD, The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto

"Family Mental Health and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities: Challenges and Innovations."


Internal Speakers:

Dr. Catherine Lebel, PhD, University of Calgary

"Altered Brain Development in Children with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure."

Dr. Carly McMorris, PhD, RPsych, University of Calgary

"Anxiety in Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Effectiveness of Facing Your Fears."


Dr. John F. Cryan, PhD, University College Cork, Ireland 

"A Gut Feeling About the Brain - Microbiome as a Key Regulator of Neurodevelopment and Behaviour."

Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou, MD, Bloorview Research Institute, Toronto

"Thinking Differently About Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Lumping vs Splitting."


Internal Speakers:

Dr. Jane Shearer, PhD, University of Calgary

"Dietary Modulation in Pediatric Neurodevelopmental Disorders: A Translational Perspective."

Dr. Gerald Giesbrecht, PhD, University of Calgary

"‘Sins of the fathers’ and the Psychobiology of Stress: How Good Triumphs over Adversity in the Intergenerational Transmission of Stress."


Dr. Erik Willcut PhD, University of Colorado, Boulder

"Neuropsychological and Neurobiological Studies of ADHD, Learning Disabilities, and Their Comorbidity: Implications for Clinical Diagnosis and Translational Research."

Dr. Jonathan Weiss, PhD, York University, Toronto

"Thinking Differently About Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Lumping vs Splitting."


Internal Speakers:

Dr. Richelle Mychasiuk PhD , University of Calgary

Dr. Tamara Pringsheim, MD, FRCPC, Alberta Children's Hospital