An Interview with Dr. Richard

Space to Breathe

Supportive environment enables researcher to study abnormal lung development

Born in The Netherlands, internationally renowned scientist and surgeon, Dr. Richard Keijzer, could have set up shop anywhere in the world. He chose the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba because he knew his work would be supported here. He was right.

“The support I have received has helped me to establish my research program in a very efficient way.”

Q: Explain the research you do here at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba?

A: My laboratory investigates lung development and a disease called congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Babies born with this disease have a hole in the diaphragm and abnormally developed lungs. 10–20% of these babies die after birth and up to 100% experience breathing difficulties after birth. We currently do not understand why their lungs develop abnormally and we do not have a cure for this disease.

Q: What keeps you motivated to continue this research?

A: I treat these babies as a pediatric surgeon in the Children’s Hospital and close the hole in the diaphragm with an operation. However, after the surgery the babies suffer from their bad lungs and I would like to understand why this is and how we can improve their outcomes.

Q: With your credentials you could have worked anywhere. Why did you decide to come to the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba to do your research?

A: I came to the Children’s Hospital Institute of Manitoba because of the excellent opportunity to combine research with clinical work in an inspiring environment and working with experts in pediatric surgery and lung development. The environment offered at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba has helped me to establish things in the past four years that would have easily taken me more than 10–15 years to accomplish anywhere else.

Q: How have donor dollars made a difference in your work?

A: The support I have received has helped me to establish my research program in a very efficient way. I did not have to worry about acquiring the money to invest in certain basic instruments for research as many were available as core facilities within the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba. As such, I could focus on establishing my research group and getting the necessary pilot data to apply for provincial and national research grants.

Q: A generation from now, what difference do you hope your research will make?

A: I hope that by then we will understand why the lungs in babies with this disease develop abnormally and how we can intervene to improve their outcomes. My ultimate goal would be to develop a prenatal intervention (as most of these babies are diagnosed well before birth and only experience problems after birth) to improve their outcomes after birth.

Q: Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba hosts a number of students each year. Tell us how students help with your research.

A: In general 30–50% of my research group consists of students. They help me develop new experiments and inspire me to work even harder on this subject, as they are very motivated as well to understand this disease.

Q: Other than research, what are you most passionate about in life?

A: I am very passionate about my job as a surgeon-scientist. I love the combination of treating patients in the hospital and then taking the problems encountered in the hospital back to the lab to try and improve patient outcomes.

Modified in February 2017.


Your support allows research leaders like Dr. Richard Keijzer to focus on finding solutions to some of the most perplexing challenges in pediatric health.