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Q & A with SCI scientist, Jane Hsieh

RHI: Where were you born?
Jane Hsieh: Taichung City, Taiwan.

SCI scientist, Jane Hsieh

RHI:What was your first SCI related job? 

JS: I was the SCI Research Projects Manager at Parkwood Hospital (London, ON)  in the late 80's.

RHI: Where do you live now?
JS: Toronto waterfront.

RHI: Tell us about your post secondary and graduate studies.
JS: I attended McGill University in Montreal for both undergraduate and graduate training (with a NIH Scholarship). Brenda Milner at McGill was particularly inspiring. (Dr. Milner  was a pioneer in the field of neuropsychology and in the study of memory and other cognitive functions in humans.) Her work in epilepsy, and specifically with the patient "H.M." that led her to discover multiple channels of human memory, are what hooked me in the field of neuroscience.

RHI: What inspired you to pursue a career as a scientist?
JS: A curiosity in all things scientific.

RHI: Why research? What is your area of interest? 
JS: During my undergraduate Honour’s program in Neurophysiology, a requirement was to do an “Independent Study” course where you had to design, implement, complete, write-up and “defend” your project.  It was a very enriching experience and taught me that learning entailed more than reading and memorizing.  The thought of innovating and creating knowledge in “uncharted waters” was very exciting.

While I was studying neurophysiology, the central nervous system (CNS) was thought to be unable to regenerate.  But some of the early work was beginning to show that this was not true.  I wanted to explore this in the clinical world (humans).  That formed my curiosity in restoration of CNS function in humans.

Jane Hsieh (middle) meeting with members of her research team, Jennifer Hunter (right) and Amanda Khan (left).

RHI: Where do you think the next breakthrough will be?
JS: The most compelling learning of my post, post-graduate “education” has been that restoration of function comes in many forms, big and small.  Being able to avoid a pressure ulcer in individuals with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI) by simple preventive strategies, to regaining limb function through to stem cell therapy in those recently injured, both potentially have high impact on activities of daily living and, therefore, quality of life.

The SCI Knowledge Mobilization Network (the Network) is working to provide evidence-based best practice standardization in risk assessment and education for the prevention and management of pressure ulcers across Canada.  The result of this work will ensure that pressure ulcer prevention and management best practices are standardized across Canada and that will result in the reduction of the incidence and prevalence of pressure ulcers.  That will, in turn, result in individuals with SCI enjoying a better quality of life-  whether that means less time less mobilized, or more time being an integral part of their community.  These types of outcomes are harder to measure but have just as much potential impact as the higher tech innovations occurring in SCI research.

RHI: What is your current job?
JS: I wear many different hats as an independent contractor for medical research.  I am honoured to have been appointed as the Executive Director of the Network which is collaboratively funded by the Rick Hansen Institute, the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation and Alberta Paraplegic Foundation.  Additionally, I serve as an Associate Scientist in the SCI Research Program at the Lawson Health Research Institute (London, Ontario) which happens to be the fifth largest research institute in North America.  Further to that, I continue to consult on various international projects that are SCI related.

RHI: What is a typical work day like for you?
JS: A typical work day for me is NOT typical.  I could be facilitating meetings to writing manuscripts to making presentations for the various institutions that I represent.  Not doing the same thing each day keeps me excited about the work that I do.

How would you describe the importance of the Institute‘s work?  We are extremely fortunate to have such an outstanding spokesman for SCI as we have in Rick Hansen.  The work of the Institute functions to elevate the urgency to address the spectrum of life-long complications of SCI, and to play a part in the coordination of these activities on a national and international level.

RHI: Is there anything else you would like to add?
JS: My personal contribution to the field of SCI pales in comparison to those who care and advocate for individuals with SCI.  However, no matter how small my contribution is, I will still strive to do that to the best of my ability.

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