2017 SubPageImage

 Dear friends and colleagues:

It has been an exciting and extremely busy past few months for the team at the Rick Hansen Institute since our last update. To name just a few: we’ve entered into a number of new partnerships that will advance collaboration in spinal cord injury (SCI) research, secured additional funding, published a paper describing RHI’s model for change and hosted over 85 participants from across the country at the first Access to Care and Timing project workshop. We look forward to the many advances that will result from these initiatives.

Inside this Issue

Network Development


Funding Partnerships

RHI Project News

Story of Inspiration: My Wonderfully Ordinary Life

All of this work was made possible with the support of the RHI network – researchers, clinicians, coordinators and other staff and our donors and funders – whose dedication and hard work is helping to accelerate progress in SCI research and care. We are also grateful to everyone in the SCI community who continue to support our efforts and other individuals and organizations that are making a difference in the lives of people living with spinal cord injury, particularly the team at the Rick Hansen Foundation which continues to raise awareness and precious funds for SCI and physical disabilities 27 years after it was founded.

I hope you enjoy reading this issue of the CEO Update. Should you have any questions or comments regarding our projects or the content of this newsletter, please let us know.


Bill Barrable
Rick Hansen Institute



MB Announcement Mar2014
Rick Hansen thanks the Government of Manitoba for its renewed support as Manitoba Health Minister Erin Selby and CPA Manitoba Executive Director Ron Burky look on.
ON Announcement DM April 2014Rick Hansen poses with Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation Reza Moridi (right) and Difference Maker award recipient and RHI network member Dr. Michael Fehlings at the Government of Ontario funding announcement.
China2014 MOU
Maria Barrados (ACI) Bill Barrable (RHI) and Dr. Jie Qiao (PUTH) sign partnership agreements in China with the Hon. Rona Ambrose, Hon. Li Bin and members of the 4th Canada-China Health Policy Dialogue looking on.
IMG 1531
Hon. Suzanne Anton checks out ICORD's Lokomat robotic gait training device.
IMG 1737 LR
Hon. Michelle Rempel with Rick Hansen outside the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre.

Network Development

Provincial partnerships announced in Manitoba and Ontario

Researchers, clinicians and people with spinal cord injuries received a huge boost from the Governments of Manitoba and Ontario with announcements of renewed funding to support SCI research and care in these provinces. RHI and our partners are very grateful for the support of the Governments of Ontario and Manitoba who have played a leading role in supporting SCI research and community services in these provinces by providing critical investments and services.

On March 4, the Government of Manitoba announced that it will be investing $3 million over five years with the Rick Hansen Institute and Canadian Paraplegic Association (Manitoba) Inc. to help Manitobans with spinal cord injuries successfully transition back into their homes and jobs and further advance health care and research initiatives in the province. The funding builds on a $3 million investment made in 2008 to support work over five years. The announcement was made by Manitoba Minister of Health Erin Selby along with Ron Burky, Executive Director of CPA Manitoba and Rick Hansen, CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation and Bill Barrable CEO of RHI.

Read how SCI research has progressed over the years in this Winnipeg Free Press article

On April 1, the Government of Ontario announced that it will be investing $15 million over three years with the Rick Hansen Foundation and Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation (ONF) to advance SCI research and care for residents of the province. This new investment supports the participation of Ontario researchers and clinicians in national and international translational research and best practice implementation projects including those sites participating in the Rick Hansen SCI Registry (RHSCIR) and Knowledge Mobilization Network projects, and also support RHSCIR network facilities seeking accreditation through Accreditation Canada’s Acute & Rehab Standards for spinal cord injury. The announcement was made by Ontario Minister of Research and Innovation Reza Moridi and emceed by Robert Belle, President and CEO of the University Health Network, along with Rick Hansen, Bill Barrable, Kent Bassett-Spiers, CEO of ONF, Barry Munro, Board Chair of ONF, Dr. Michael Fehlings and Dr. Milos Popovic.  

back to top

Read more about the people who will benefit from this investment in this Toronto Star article.

RHI teams up with Accreditation Canada International and Peking University Third Hospital

In 2011, RHI signed an agreement to strengthen cooperative SCI research and rehabilitation initiatives in China. It is with pleasure that RHI announces it is making this agreement a reality and will be working with Peking University Third Hospital (PUTH) and Accreditation Canada International (ACI) to develop and implement best practice standards for acute and rehabilitative care for spinal cord injuries in China. The signing ceremony took place in Beijing with Dr. Jie Qiao, President of PUTH, Bill Barrable, CEO of RHI and Maria Barrados, Chair of Accreditation Canada International, as part of the 4th Canada-China Health Policy Dialogue hosted by the China National Health and Family Planning Commission and Public Health Agency of Canada. The signing was attended by the Hon. Rona Ambrose, Canada’s Minister of Health, and the Hon. Li Bin, Minister of the China National Health and Family Planning Commission.

In addition, this agreement also marks the establishment of the first international Rick Hansen SCI Registry site at PUTH. The Registry (or RHSCIR) is considered a model for multicentre collaboration and clinical study management for SCI research. The Registry site at PUTH will enable Chinese researchers and scientists to contribute to the international development of best practices, exchange data with global colleagues, and ultimately – through access to a larger population of subjects for clinical trials – participate in multicentre international clinical trials that will lead to the advancement of new treatments in all parts of the world. PUTH is one of China’s leading hospitals for SCI research and houses one of the country’s best spinal surgery departments. Partnerships such as these provide a unique opportunity to learn and combine best practices developed in China and Canada that will ensure that the approximately 60,000 individuals in China that receive spinal cord injuries every year receive the best possible care and health outcomes.

Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification Michelle Rempel and BC Minister of Justice, Suzanne Anton visit BSCC

Home to RHI, the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre is a state-of-the-art facility located in Vancouver, BC. It brings together over 300 professionals to provide a one stop shop for research innovation, collaboration and treatments for people with spinal cord injuries. Blusson also houses Vancouver Coastal Health’s Brenda & David McLean Integrated Spine Clinic and UBC Faculty of Medicine and VCH Research Institute’s International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD). Along with colleagues at ICORD and VCHRI, RHI was pleased to host BC Minister of Justice, Hon. Suzanne Anton (MLA, Vancouver-Fraserview) and Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, Hon. Michelle Rempel (MP, Calgary Centre-North) and was able to showcase Blusson and the innovative work taking place in the building.

For more photos from the announcements and tours, check out our Facebook page! 

back to top


RHI paper on bridging the translational “valleys of death” published in Journal of Healthcare Leadership

The RHI team has published a paper on the Model for bridging the translational 'valleys of death' in spinal cord injury research in the Journal of Healthcare Leadership. The paper describes the current state of SCI research and the many obstacles that occur during translational research – the phase of research where basic health research is translated into clinical application. RHI has developed a unique model, called Praxis – from the Greek word for “doing” – which attempts to overcome the “valleys of death”. Effectively bridging these “valleys” will reduce costs, improve health care outcomes and improve the lives of people living with SCI. In addition the paper also includes a case study on how the model works as applied to pressure ulcer management.

Learn more about RHI’s Praxis Model.

Read the full paper from the Journal of Healthcare Leadership. 

RHI paper to be published in Journal of Neurotrauma

RHI’s Research team is also celebrating another paper that will soon be published in the Journal of Neurotrauma. The paper, entitled Minimizing errors in acute traumatic spinal cord injury trials by acknowledging the heterogeneity of spinal cord anatomy and injury severity: An observational Canadian cohort analysis, highlights the importance of accounting for the different types and severities of spinal cord injuries which should be considered in clinical research to ensure accurate results. All of the data used in this paper came from RHSCIR and the paper is a great example of the national RHSCIR network’s efforts. Once the paper is published, a link will be provided on our website, Twitter and Facebook pages. Stay tuned! 

back to top

Funding Partnerships

UOttawaUniversity of Ottawa postdoctoral fellowship opportunity

As part of RHI’s Best & Brightest Program, RHI is pleased to share a funding opportunity for a postdoctoral fellowship through the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine program. In partnership with the university, the Rick Hansen Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship intends to support a postdoctoral fellow in the field of SCI research whose primary focus is on knowledge transfer and/or implementation sciences related to SCI. The recipient will also have the opportunity to participate in various knowledge transfer-related projects currently funded by RHI and its SCI partners.

Visit http://www.med.uottawa.ca/grad/eng/ for more details and how to apply. All interested parties are encouraged to apply for this opportunity. Deadline to submit an application is June 30, 2014.

RHI research grant awarded to help develop biomarkers in patients with acute SCI

AOSpineRHI is pleased to announce it has awarded a research grant to AOSpine North America to develop a set of MRI-based biomarkers in patients with acute spinal cord injury. The study will be led by Dr. Michael Fehlings, Chairman of AOSpine North America, Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Toronto and Halbert Chair in Neural Repair and Regeneration at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre, Toronto Western Hospital. The Co-Principal Investigators include Drs. Bizhan Aarabi (University of Maryland), Shekar Kurpad (Medical College of Wisconsin) and Brian Kwon (University of British Columbia). Krembil Neurocience Centre is Canada's largest combined clinical, educational and research neuroscience unit. AOSpine North America, an academic organization devoted to excellence in research, education, innovation and community outreach will be conducting this study over the course of the next two years. 

Learn more about this study.

Status of RHI's open funding opportunities

In February, RHI launched two new open funding opportunities – Emerging Interventions & Innovative Technologies and Preclinical SCI Research Towards Cures. Influenced by discussions with RHI’s Cure and Care Committees, these funding opportunities will directly help advance objectives set out in its Business Plan for 2013-2018 and will ultimately help RHI move closer towards achieving its vision of a world without paralysis after SCI.

The application deadline was April 30 and the review process is now underway. Applicants will be notified of the results process this summer and successful applicants will be announced on RHI’s website.

For more details on these open funding opportunities and key dates, click here.  

RHI Project News

ACTWorkshop April2014ACT workshop participants share ideas and discuss next steps for the project.

Access to Care and Timing project workshop

To report on progress and discuss next steps, the Access to Care and Timing (ACT) project team hosted a national workshop (view workshop agenda) on April 25 where over 85 researchers and staff from the RHI network across Canada converged in Toronto. This workshop was funded by RHI, Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The goal of the workshop was to initiate the development of a collaborative national action plan involving SCI partners and stakeholders that will aim to enhance health system performance across the SCI continuum of care. Stay tuned for the Workshop Proceedings and updates on the national action plan that will be available on the RHI website in the coming months.

The ACT project brings together an interdisciplinary team of health services researchers and professionals, and the UBC Sauder School of Business Centre for Operations Excellence, to study means of improving the timeliness and quality of acute and rehabilitation care for individuals with SCI. The project includes a simulation model which describes the processes of care from the time of injury until discharge into the community. This model will then be used to optimize patient flow through the complex care system, with the goal of maximizing quality and efficiency of care.

Learn more about the ACT project.

New website provided for clinicians to calculate the motor and sensory impairment and severity of a spinal cord injury

isncsci logoThe International Standards for Neurological Classification of Spinal Cord Injury (ISNCSCI) is an examination used to determine the motor and sensory impairment and severity of a SCI. The American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) International Standards Committee is responsible for reviewing and revising the ISNCSCI to reflect current evidence.

In partnership with the International Spinal Cord Society (ISCoS) and a group of international experts, RHI has developed an algorithm which utilizes raw test scores determined by performing the exam (including not testable values) to electronically score and classify a spinal cord injury using the ISNCSCI (revised 2011) scoring rules.

The first complete and fully validated version of the ISNCSCI Algorithm (Version 1.0) was officially launched on May 13, after undergoing rigorous beta site testing. Use of the beta site was quite popular, with over 5,500 return users from 108 countries around the world.

The algorithm will also be available in an open source format free of charge to support groups who want to integrate it into their own research databases and electronic medical records.

To learn more, please visit www.ISNCSCIalgorithm.com.

back to top

Story of Inspiration: My Wonderfully Ordinary Life

Karen developed a spinal cord injury at the age of 15. Despite the many challenges, Karen didn’t let her injury stop her from achieving her goals. She has since gone on to have a successful career as a paediatric social worker, is a passionate advocate for spinal cord injury care and is also a wife and mother of two young children. Click on the video to the right to watch Karen's story.