Associate Professor
phone: 6048752000 ext:5200
fax: 6048227624
Research Graduate Student Opportunities

Current Research Graduate Students – Liisa currently supervises MSc and PhD students in Rehabilitation Sciences, as well as MOT student projects.

Future Research Graduate Students – Liisa is accepting applications from students interested in research MSc and PhD programs. Visit the Rehabilitation Sciences Research Graduate Programs Website for more information.

Occupational Profile

Liisa completed her Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Medicine in 1985. She was trained in both Physical Therapy (PT) and Occupational Therapy (OT), but when a great OT job opened up at B.C. Children’s Hospital in the NICU and in the Neonatal Follow-up Program, she took it, working clinically for almost 20 years. During that time, she received her M.A. specializing in Measurement and Statistics. She then completed her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2004. She joined the School of Rehabilitation Sciences, Division of Occupational Therapy (Now Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy) as a faculty member in 2005. She also works as a Scientist at the Child and Family Research Institute.

Research Interests & Specialization

Preterm infant and animal studies suggest that exposure to pain and other stressors may alter brain development. For example, human infant and animals studies show that a single painful event can induce long term behavioural changes and decrease expression of genes coding for proteins that are protective against neuronal cell death. These alterations may then contribute directly and indirectly to the ways in which the central nervous system processes future painful events and ultimately to the developmental impairments found later in these children. Liisa’s research program, the Developmental Care Program, focuses on finding ways to assess and treat effectively pain and stress in preterm infants in the NICU. Her long-term objective is aimed at improving the health of preterm infants by minimizing the impact of the NICU environment and painful/stressful procedures on the development of the brain. Outside of work, you can find Liisa gardening, fixing up her house, swimming, jogging or walking the dog, reading mystery novels or watching movies.

Teaching Interests

Measurement, Research design, Pediatrics, Pain/Stress

Activities & Memberships

Professional Associations

Member, Canadian Association of Occupational Therapy (CAOT)
Member, Canadian Pain Society (CPS)
Member, International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP)
Member, College of Occupational Therapists of British Columbia (COTBC)

UBC Faculty Committees

MOT Admissions Committee
Graduate Research Program Committee
FOM Nominations Committee
Member, Department of Pediatrics – Research Education Committee
Member, School of Public and Population Health – Maternal Child Health Theme Advisory Committee

Other Committees

Member, Child and Family Research Institute – Training and Education Committee
Member, Child and Family Research Institute – Developmental Neurosciences Cluster Executive Committee
Member, Pain in Child Health 2 – CIHR Strategic Training Initiative – Evaluation and Mentorship Committee
Member, B.C. Children’s Hospital Clinical Research Committee
Member, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Clinical Research Group

Selected Publications

Behavioural Indicators of Infant Pain Scale – Part One

Behavioural Indicators of Infant Pain Scale – Part Two

*links to articles provided when possible*

Williams N, MacLean KE, Guan L, Collet JP, Holsti L.  Pilot testing a robot for reducing pain in hospitalized preterm infants. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health 2019;39(2): 108-115.

Holsti L, MacLean KE, Oberlander TF, Synnes A, Brant R. Calmer: A robot for managing acute pain in preterm infants in the NICU. Pain Reports (Open-Access). 2019;4:e727.


Stokes, R., Holsti, L. (2010). Paediatric occupational therapy: Addressing parental stress with the sense of coherence. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy,77(1), 30-37.

Holsti, L., Grunau, RE. (2010). Considerations for Using Sucrose to Reduce Procedural Pain in Preterm Infants. Pediatrics, 125, 1042-1047

Holsti, L., Grunau, R.E., Oberlander, T.F. and Osiovich, H. (2008). Is it painful or not? Discriminant validity of the Behavioral Indicators of Infant Pain (BIIP) Scale. Clinical Journal of Pain, 24, 83-88.

Arockiasamy, V., Holsti, L., and Albersheim, S.G. (2008). Fathers’ experiences in response to the stress of the neonatal intensive care unit. Pediatrics, 121, e215-e222.

Holsti, L. and Grunau, R.E. (2007). Initial validation of the Behavioral Indicators of Infant Pain (BIIP). Pain, 132, 264-272.

Holsti, L., Wienberg, J., Whitfield, M.F., Grunau, R.E. (2007). Relationships between adrenocorticotropic hormone and cortisol are altered during clustered nursing care in preterm inants born at extremely low gestational age. Early Human Development, 83, 341-348.

Holsti, L., Grunau, R.E., Whitfield, M.F., Oberlander, T.F., & Lindh, V. (2006). Behavioral responses to pain are heightened after clustered care in preterm infants. Clinical Journal of Pain, 22, 757-764.

Holsti, L., Grunau, R.E., Whitfield, M.F., Oberlander, T.F., & Weinberg, J. (2005). Body movements, and important additional factor in discriminating pain from stress in preterm infants. Clinical Journal of Pain, 21(6), 491-498.

Holsti, L., Grunau, R.E., Oberlander, T.F., & Whitfield, M.F. (2004). Specific NIDCAP® movements are associated with acute pain in preterm infants in the NICU. Pediatrics, 114(1), 65-72.