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Centre de recherche

CANCELED: Scientific Conference - Leandra Desjardins

Thriving Beyond Surviving: Supporting Psychosocial Adjustment in Pediatric Oncology

Monday 6 April 2020 from 16:00 at 17:00


  • Leandra Desjardins, PhD, CPsych
    • Psychology clinical and research fellow in pediatric oncology, Hospital for Sick Children
    • Clinical Psychologist, CBT Associates

Dr. Leandra Desjardins is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Hospital for Sick Children where she is active in both research and clinical work. Her research work focuses on social competence, coping, and psychosocial screening in children diagnosed with cancer. As a licensed clinical psychologist, she delivers evidence-based interventions to children, adolescents, and their parents in hospital inpatient, ambulatory outpatient, and private practice settings.

During her graduate training at Vanderbilt University, Dr. Desjardins’ work focused on coping as a resilience factor. Her dissertation research examined coping with disease related stress and social adjustment in children diagnosed with cancer. She was active in delivering a coping intervention to undergraduate students and developed modules for a web-based coping and communication intervention for families of children diagnosed with cancer. During her doctoral training she also developed a more specific interest in understanding the social behaviors of children diagnosed with brain tumors.

Dr. Desjardins’ subsequently pursued residency and postdoctoral training at the Hospital for Sick Children. Her postdoctoral level work has focused on implementing psychosocial screening in pediatric oncology, working to implement the first randomized control trial in pediatric oncology of screening and follow-up with a psychosocial navigator. She has also continued to pursue an interest in understanding the mechanisms underlying deficits in social competence in pediatric brain tumor survivors. Her goal is to develop synergistic social-emotional evidence-based interventions to improve psychosocial adjustment in pediatric oncology, with the potential for application across other pediatric populations.

Dr. Desjardins’ research work has been funded by the Cundill Centre for Youth Depression, the Hospital for Sick Children Psychiatry Endowment Fund, the Centre for Brain and Mental Health, Garron Family Cancer Center, the SickKids Research Institute, and the Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé. As principal investigator, she was most recently awarded a Health Outcomes Catalyst grant for her work investigating the use of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule to better understand social behaviors in pediatric brain tumor survivors.

Dr. Desjardins is passionate about knowledge translation and dissemination. She has shared her work via guest lectures and workshops, membership in the SickKids Psychology Education committee and Ontario Pediatric Oncology Psychosocial Services committee, and enjoys mentoring undergraduate and graduate students.

In her spare time, Dr. Desjardins enjoys exploring new cities, discovering tasty brunch venues, and wishing for snow.

Research talk abstract

Increasing survival rates has led to a shift in focus in optimizing the quality of life of children diagnosed with cancer and their families. Two intervention lines of inquiry are relevant to supporting their optimal psychosocial adjustment: 1) implementing screening measures to identify the psychosocial needs of families, and 2) developing targeted social & emotional interventions addressing these important psychosocial sequelae.

Although psychosocial screening has been established as a standard of care in pediatric oncology since 2015, there has been limited application of this standard thus far. A significant barrier to screening implementation is the limited evidence base on how to follow-up from psychosocial screening results.  An overview of a current randomized control trial in pediatric oncology implementing psychosocial screening and triage to resources will be discussed.

Further, challenges in social competence and elevated internalizing symptoms are often present in pediatric cancer survivors, and are particularly pronounced in pediatric brain tumor survivors. Evidence has accumulated highlighting which coping strategies are most effective in pediatric oncology. However, the nature of the specific social deficits underlying the social problems of pediatric brain tumor survivors is poorly understood. This talk will discuss the steps towards developing a targeted social and emotional intervention for pediatric brain tumor survivors, and implications for application of the intervention to other pediatric populations.

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Updated on 3/18/2020
Created on 3/5/2020
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