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Women in Transplantation Networking Session

Tuesday May 02, 2023 - 17:30 to 18:30

Room: Grand Georgian

15.1 Overcoming barriers to career advancement as a woman in the field of transplantation

Jayne Danska, Canada

Senior Scientist, Professor
Genetics and Genome Biology, REsearch Institute
Hospital for Sick Children
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Dr. Jayne S. Danska holds appointments as the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Chair in Molecular Medicine, Senior Scientist and Associate Chief, Faculty Development & Diversity Office at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), and Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at University of Toronto (UofT) in the Departments of Immunology and Medical Biophysics. Dr. Danska’s passion for science began after studying Genetics at Kenyon College in Ohio, U.S. She then went on to obtain a PhD in Genetics and Molecular Biology at Cornell University in New York, U.S. Recognizing her own talents in science, she pursued a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Immunology at Stanford University in California, U.S. 

Born and raised in New York City and educated in the U.S., Dr. Danska’s independent career began when she moved to Canada and joined SickKids as a Scientist with an academic appointment at UofT as an Assistant Professor. Since joining SickKids, Dr. Danska has built an internationally recognized research program that studies mechanisms underlying immune system diseases, and applies this knowledge to advance their diagnosis, prevention and treatment, particularly for Type 1 diabetes and acute lymphoid leukemia. Dr. Danska leads multidisciplinary projects and collaborates with esteemed researchers. Her productivity has led to many scientific discoveries with global impact in medicine, placing Canada at center stage, and currently leads clinical trials that are testing revolutionary treatments for pediatric autoimmune diseases and cancer. Her research program is regarded as high priority and visionary, illustrated by her currently active projects supported by $4.6M in funding. She currently mentors multiple doctoral students and has trained and graduated 34 students over the past two decades, many of whom have received prestigious awards and progressed to establish impactful careers. 

Dr. Danska has been remarkably influential across the global scientific community. Her research revealed the unforeseen causal relationship between sex hormones and autoimmunity, drawing attention to sex as being a key determinant for autoimmune diseases, many of which are far more prevalent in females. This landmark study was published among the highest impact journals, Science (2013), and has been cited 1,467 times to date. Dr. Danska challenged the status quo for how biomedical research was conducted, as majority of preclinical research studies failed to analyze sex as a contributing variable. She advocated, using evidence-based research, for study designs to include capturing variations within and between sexes, leading to treatments with reduced health risks and societal costs. The findings from the study contributed to key policy shifts within the largest government funding agencies for biomedical research across U.S. and Canada. Her influence was paramount and highly sought, having spoken in more than 50 lectures and conferences worldwide between 2014-21, and held a seat on the Science Council in the Organization for Study of Sex Differences, in Washington, D.C., since 2013. In 2016, Dr. Danska was appointed Chair of College of Reviewers at the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Canada’s largest biomedical research funding agency. In this role, Dr. Danska was instrumental in advocating for adoption of best practices and adjudication criteria to incorporate sex and gender-based designs and analyses in biomedical research. 

Beyond Dr. Danska’s scientific productivity, she is an active advocate and mentor for women’s careers in science. Her dedication to empowering women began early when she was a key member of the “Status of Women Mentorship Project” (2001-09), and later a keynote speaker at the Women’s Health Research Institute (2015). As the Associate Chief, Faculty Development & Diversity Office, Dr. Danska leads training programs and research career support for women at all career levels but particularly for early-career researchers. In these programs, she actively pairs young women researchers with a mentorship group to help navigate early-career decisions that build thriving research programs. In many ways, Dr. Danska’s initiatives have created an environment that will propel women scientists to be promoted for and achieve awards and distinctions, setting a precedent at SickKids and across Canada for generations to come.

Working as an advocate for women and underrepresented minorities in sciences, Dr. Danska established the Research Institute Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), to identify and disrupt systemic barriers to inclusion and career advancement to enhance research excellence. Dr. Danska built a team of EDI experts to advance EDI strategy across the foundations of SickKids’ care, research and education. Her team has developed a policy framework and EDI Action Plan from the analyses of demographic and intersectional data on EDI indicators and lived experiences from responses of over 1,550 faculty, staff and trainees. Her EDI influence extends beyond SickKids, as she also participates on the Steering Committee and University of Toronto’s Office of EDI in the Faculty of Medicine. Furthermore, in 2020 Dr. Danska’s team has created an ongoing webinar series of “Dialogues in Diversity” in partnership with University of Toronto to foster discussions centered on EDI in pediatric health research, where enrollment reached 400-500 each session.  

Dr. Danska’s scholarly achievements include 90 publications (5,450 citations), many of which have been published in the highest impact journals (Nature and Science), inventorship on 4 successful patents, invited reviewer for preeminent journals, and participated in Broadcast and Podcasts interviews, including on CBC: Quirks & Quarks. She is the recipient of many awards for research excellence, including Premier’s Research Excellence Award and Research Scientists Award from National Cancer Institute of Canada. In 2022, Dr. Danska was selected as “Top 100 most powerful women in Canada” by WXN.

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