Andrea Knight, MD, MSCE, Wins LFA Young Investigator Award
The Lupus Foundation of America awarded its 2020 Mary Betty Stevens, MD, Young Investigator Prize to Andrea Knight, MD, MSCE, currently a pediatric rheumatologist at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Toronto, and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, Canada.
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Dr. Knight has led multiple clinical research projects studying the impact of childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus (cSLE) on cognitive and mental health. After obtaining her medical degree from the Columbia College of Physicians & Surgeons in New York, Dr. Knight completed her pediatric residency and pediatric rheumatology fellowship at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and added a Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania.
During her time at CHOP, she joined faculty as assistant professor of pediatrics at Penn and was affiliated with two centers that were instrumental in developing her thinking and approach to research: The Center for Pediatric Clinical Effectiveness, which focuses on how best to apply the evidence based in the clinical setting, and the Policy Lab, which focuses not only on using the evidence base to change and make clinical practice more effective, but to also advocate for policy change at the state and federal levels.
Having relocated to SickKids in Toronto, Dr. Knight has been excited about the institution’s research program devoted to neuroscience and mental health. She is looking forward to helping advance the thinking about mental health within the medical context. Recent studies have begun to show that chronic stress, trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder have connections to the incidence and even development of autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Some literature even suggests that disease flares may be related to trauma and distress.
Pediatric rheumatologists often observe the effects of distress and trauma in their patients, she remarked. The burden of living with chronic disease in childhood, including trauma due to frequency of examinations and procedures, needles and infusions, can take a toll on mental health in children and caregivers. Patients and families may also be dealing with concomitant economic disparities and other social determinants of health, exacerbating the potential for traumatic stress and mental health problems.
In addition to her appointment at SickKids, Dr. Knight is vice chair of the Lupus Section for the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA) and co-leader of the CARRA Mental Health Workgroup. “Our work is focused on determining how to improve outcomes for children with lupus and other childhood rheumatic disease. One of our projects is looking at the impact of adverse child events on outcomes in kids with juvenile arthritis, which I think is an important area of study across our patient populations,” she says.
Of the LFA Young Investigator’s Award, Dr. Knight says, “It’s really a testament to all of the collaborations that we’ve developed surrounding mental health and psychiatric comorbidity for lupus. An award like this helps propel the work, and hopefully the increased awareness [because of the award] will inspire others to think about these issues in their own arenas.”