Dr. Alexander Rauscher joined BC Children's Hospital as an Investigator in early 2015. Dr. Rauscher is also an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UBC and a Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Developmental Neuroimaging. He spoke about his research interests and the potential his work has to make a difference in the lives of children and families.
What are you working on right now?
Dr. Alexander Rauscher: My research focuses on developing new methods for using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify brain damage in infants and children. In many cases, clinicians are only able to diagnose brain damage in babies and children when they begin to show signs of behavioral changes or developmental delays. It may take years after the initial injury for these symptoms to manifest. With better MRI techniques, we could diagnose the same injuries within weeks. The earlier we know a child has suffered brain damage, the earlier we can start interventions and treatments.
How did you originally become interested in this area of research?
AR: My academic background is in physics and engineering, and I wanted to apply my training in a practical way that would make a positive difference in people's lives. I was drawn to working with MRIs in particular because the technology is so versatile. MRIs use electromagnetic fields to create images of the human body and we can control the sequence of these fields with software without altering the underlying hardware. This makes an MRI machine like a smartphone in some ways – scientists all over the world can develop new software applications that can be loaded onto the machine at no cost, just like phone apps. Because MRI scanners don't rely on radiation like X-rays and CT scanners, patients can have multiple scans safely, making it easier for us to use MRI technology to monitor diseases over time.
What drew you to CFRI?
AR: I wanted to focus my research on the young brain because it's such a challenging and potentially rewarding area of study. As children grow, their brains develop and change; however, illness and injury can also cause changes to brain tissue. We need to find better ways to distinguish between normal brain development and irregular changes so we can diagnose brain damage earlier and ensure children receive appropriate treatments. People who suffer brain injuries in childhood have to live with the effects for an entire lifetime. By improving the diagnosis and treatment of brain damage in young patients, we can make a huge impact on lives of children and families.
What are some things you like to do outside of work?
AR: My favorite thing to do is spend time with my two-year-old daughter. I also love to go backcountry skiing. There are lodges all over British Columbia where I can spend a week exploring the backcountry and searching for deep powder. I'm drawn to backcountry skiing because it's both enjoyable and challenging. You have to work as a team with your fellow skiers to avoid avalanches and other potential risks.
Dr. Rauscher's research is made possible by the support of BC Children's Hospital Foundation.