Dr. Pillai Riddell's interest in the caregiver-child relationship began as an undergraduate student at York University and has continued through her graduate research training career at the University of British Columbia, Hospital for Sick Children and University of Toronto. She currently is involved with two primary lines of research and participates in the leadership of other programs with colleagues from across the country.
First, she started leading research on the influence of parental and child factors on early childhood pain reactivity and regulation over the first years of life through her work on longitudinal cohorts of healthy children going through routine vaccination. These projects have been or are currently funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Council, Canada Foundation for Innovation, and Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation. To our knowledge, these are the largest cohorts of its kind in the world studying parent-child interactions during healthy child vaccinations. This research has provided critical normative data on the development of pain responses over the first five years of life. We are grateful for our collaborations with Dr. David Flora (York University), Dr. Jean-Francois Bureau (University of Ottawa), Dr. Louis Schmidt (McMaster University), and clinicians Dr. Saul Greenberg, Dr. Hartley Garfield, Dr. Dan Flanders, Dr. Eitan Weinberg, and Dr. Dina Savlov.
Her newest program of research takes an innovative step forward in the exploration of using artificial intelligence to move the practice of infant pain assessment forward. Building on over a decade of research with healthy infants in pain and their parents, Dr. Pillai Riddell has turned her focus to understanding the pain responding of preterm infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units. Recognizing that the key to optimal infant pain assessment will be through distinguishing pain-related and non-pain related distress using multi-modal assessment, Dr. Pillai Riddell began a collaboration with neurobiologists at University College London in 2018 (Dr. Maria Fitzgerald, Dr. Lorenzo Fabrizi, Dr. Laura Jones). This collaboration grew into a large multinational, multiprovincial Collaborative Health Research Project funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (2018-2022) led by Dr. Pillai Riddell. This project also recruited mathematicians (Dr. Steven Wang [NSERC Leader], York University), computer scientists (Dr. Aijun An, York University), clinicians (Dr. Vibhuti Shah, Ms. Carol Cheng [Mount Sinai Hospital Toronto]; Dr. Judith Meek, Ms. Pureza Laudano-Dray [UCLH]), basic scientists (Dr. Cheryl Chow [York University]; Dr. Louis Schmidt [McMaster University]), and social scientists (Dr. Ian Stedman [York University]; Dr. Nicole Racine, Dr. Sheri Madigan [University of Calgary]).