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Rick Hansen Institute appoints new Board Chair and two new board members

July 14, 2017 – The Rick Hansen Institute is pleased to announce the appointments of Katharina Kovacs Burns as Board Chair and Nava Swersky Sofer and Michael S. Beattie as Board members.

"I am pleased to welcome Nava and Michael as new board members and announce Kathy as our new board chair," said Bill Barrable, CEO of the Rick Hansen Institute. "These individuals bring a wealth of experience and expertise in diverse backgrounds in translational research, discovery science and commercialization, and will be tremendous assets as RHI works to provide solutions for people living with SCI."

RHI's Board of Directors is comprised of leading experts in a variety of fields furthering RHI's goals to advance SCI progress by taking a holistic approach to providing solutions to the most complex, debilitating and life-altering human condition. The Board of Directors provides strategic guidance that helps RHI work towards its vision of a world without paralysis after SCI.

Read their biographies below.


Kathy Kovacs Burns lowresKatharina (Kathy) Kovacs Burns, PhD
Senior Manager, Alberta Health Services

Dr. Kovacs Burns oversees interdisciplinary and interprofessional teams in health research, education and practice. Her experience in health and social programs, stakeholder engagement, policy analysis and knowledge translation provides her with an understanding of the needs and perspectives of decision makers and practitioners. Her research expertise and participatory approach, particularly with vulnerable populations (including people with chronic conditions or disabilities, seniors, women and those who have low income or are homeless), provides her with the capacity to analyze individual and group perspectives on the determinants of health, treatment and care and their safety and effectiveness, service access and utilization including needs and gaps, as well as the impacts or outcomes of stakeholder engagement and various practices and policies.

Dr. Kovacs Burns joined RHI's Board of Directors in 2013.

Nava SwerskyNava Swersky Sofer, LL.B, MBA
Director, International Speaker, Innovation & Commercialization Expert

Ms. Swersky Sofer brings over 25 years of international experience as an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, senior executive, innovation and technology commercialization expert living and working in three continents and is a frequently-invited speaker in leading international forums. She is often quoted on Israeli innovation models, including in the best-selling book "Start-Up Nation". She was previously Managing Director of IDCBeyond at IDC Herzliya; President & CEO of Yissum, Hebrew University Technology Transfer; a partner at leading venture capital firms in both the US and Israel specializing in biomedical investing and a VP at Ciba (now Novartis) in the US and Switzerland.

Ms. Swersky Sofer holds a law degree from the Tel Aviv University, an MBA from IMD International in Lausanne, Switzerland and diplomas from the Sorbonne (Paris), the Goethe Institute (Munich) and the Instituto Trentino (Italy). She is a member of the Israel Bar Association, the youngest ever to have been admitted and a retired Captain in the Israel Defense Forces. In addition to private company boards she currently serves on the board of directors of IMI Systems (Israel Military Industries) on behalf of the Israeli government, on the boards of governors of the Tel Aviv – Jaffa Academic Centre and the Ruppin Academic Centre and on the board of Prize4Life, a non-profit dedicated to advancing the cure for ALS.

Michael BeattieMichael S. Beattie, PhD
Professor of Neurological Surgery; Co-Director, Brain and Spinal Injury Center, University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Beattie's research interests concentrate on the neural mechanisms of recovery after brain and spinal cord injury. He and his wife and collaborator, Dr. Jacqueline Bresnahan operate their laboratory at the Brain and Spinal Injury Center (BASIC) at University of California, San Francisco. Their group is known for developing preclinical models to study recovery of function after spinal cord injury, and for studies of the biology of neural injury and repair, and more recently for clinical studies of SCI.