November 21, 2019
Dr. Allison Sekuler, Baycrest’s Vice-President, Research and Sandra A. Rotman Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience, was named one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award recipients in science and technology.
The award, presented by the Women’s Executive Network, recognizes the highest achieving female leaders in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. Award-winners were announced on Wednesday, November 20, 2019, and her achievement was celebrated at the annual 2019 Awards Gala.
Dr. Sekuler, who is also a professor at the University of Toronto and McMaster University, was honoured for her scientific achievements, leadership and longstanding dedication to advancing underrepresented groups in science and engineering, including women and Indigenous peoples.
Dr. Sekuler is managing director of Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute and Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation, and under her leadership, the Rotman Research Institute became the first, non-university-based research organization to endorse Canada’s Dimensions Charter that aims to foster increased research excellence, innovation and creativity through greater equity, diversity and inclusion. As the scientific headquarters to Canada’s largest national dementia research initiative, the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, these perspectives aid Baycrest as our researchers continue to pursue studies that support Canada’s national dementia strategy.
Dr. Sekuler’s impact crosses borders as well. Along with three other female scientists, she co-founded an international organization to support women in vision science and help exceptional women scientists gain the recognition they deserve, FoVea: Females of Vision et al., funded by the National Science Foundation in the U.S. She has represented Canada at numerous international gender summits. And she currently is working with colleagues from McMaster University and her graduate alma mater, the University of California, Berkeley, to launch a virtual mentoring program that aims to use the power of social media to bring mentors and role models to women around the globe who lack resources in their own area.
“We are delighted that Dr. Sekuler is being recognized for her leadership, her passion for educating the next generation of scientists, and for serving as a champion for women in science,” says Baycrest President and CEO Dr. William Reichman. “Bold ideas and innovative solutions are needed to tackle the public health crisis of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and the development of strong leadership and trailblazers will enable us to make great strides.”
Her passion for supporting underrepresented individuals comes from her early years at one of Illinois’ first racially-integrated schools, says Dr. Sekuler. But it was only later that she realized the impact of her career choice among other females.
“I was fortunate to have supportive parents and strong female role models – my father is a neuroscientist and one of my favourite collaborators; and my mother has degrees in history, teaching, law, and journalism. So my sisters and I were raised to believe that success is not limited by gender,” says Dr. Sekuler. “It was only once I was a professor, when my female students noted how happy they were to finally have a female professor – I was one of only three in the department – that it dawned on me that I wasn’t just a scientist, but a woman in science. I realized how privileged I’d been growing up, and how critical it was to support women and others who had faced challenges I had not, those who didn’t see a path forward in science.”
Despite all her roles and accomplishments, maintaining balance among family, work, and life is something she values for herself and strongly encourages for her students, staff, and colleagues.
“If you only have a career, it is rarely enough,” says Dr. Sekuler. “To help find that balance, we encourage people to take risks and try something new, regardless of their age and stage. Our science shows it’s good for brain health; and if you don’t challenge yourself, you’ll never really know what you can achieve.”
Sections of this text came from a Nov. 22, 2019 article published in The Financial Post titled Championing Women in STEM.
Baycrest is a global leader in geriatric residential living, healthcare, research, innovation and education, with a special focus on brain health and aging. Baycrest is home to a robust research and innovation network, including one of the world’s top research institutes in cognitive neuroscience, the Rotman Research Institute; the scientific headquarters of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, Canada’s largest national dementia research initiative; and the Baycrest-powered Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation, a solution accelerator focused on driving innovation in the aging and brain health sector. Baycrest helps aging adults assess, monitor, maintain and enhance cognition through an innovative portfolio of evidence-based products and services offered through its brain health company, Cogniciti. Fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, Baycrest provides excellent care for older adults combined with an extensive clinical training program for the next generation of healthcare professionals. Through these initiatives, Baycrest has remained at the forefront of the fight to defeat dementia as our organization works to create a world where every older adult enjoys a life of purpose, inspiration and fulfilment. Founded in 1918 as the Toronto Jewish Old Folks Home, Baycrest continues to embrace the long-standing tradition of all great Jewish healthcare institutions to improve the well-being of people in their local communities and around the globe. For more information please visit: www.baycrest.org
About Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute
Now in its 30th year, the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest is a premier international centre for the study of human brain function. Through generous support from private donors and funding agencies, the institute is helping to illuminate the causes of cognitive decline in seniors, identify promising approaches to treatment and lifestyle practices that will protect brain health longer in the lifespan.
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Michelle Petch Gotuzzo
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