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Research Newsletter - October 2011

In This Issue

Dear Colleagues,

Fall tends to arrive with a renewed spurt of productive energy - this year invigorated by the cross country relay to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Rick Hansen Man In Motion World Tour, which left Cape Spear, Newfoundland on August 24.  For us, that means an opportunity to update Health Canada about the progress and importance of the work being done across Canada and internationally; and to engage with provincial governments to renew their investment in spinal cord injury research so that our work can continue. Please come out to cheer on the Relay when it goes through your community. A complete schedule can be found at www.rickhansenrelay.com.


Inside the Institute, the Rick Hansen Spinal Cord Injury Registry (RHSCIR) is undergoing rigourous beta testingusing data access procedures with cleaned data collected from all Registry sites. In this testing phase, RHI will work with investigators across Canada to walk them through the process.  By the first quarter of 2012, data access procedures will be finalized and a call for applications opened.

Thank you all, for your support and collaboration, and stay tuned for our next Translational Research newsletter in a few months.


Dr. Marcel Dvorak, Scientific Director
Rick Hansen Institute


In Brief: RHI Key Project Updates

  • Congratulations to neurosurgeon Dr. Eve Tsai for her nomination in the Health Sciences category, for Women of Influence Magazine’s Top 25 Canadian female influencers of the year. Nominated for her achievements in bringing clinicians and researchers together to develop better treatments for patients with spine and brain diseases, Dr. Tsai works closely with RHI as one of our lead investigators, and is the local PI for RHSCIR and CAMPER in the Ottawa region. She is an Associate Scientist, Neuroscience, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute; Neurosurgeon, Division of Neurosurgery, The Ottawa Hospital; and Assistant Professor, Division of Neurosurgery, University of Ottawa. Look for Dr. Tsai in the Women of Influence Magazine's Winter Issue.
  • Access to Care and Timing – completed 23/25 surveys of RHSCIR facilities (Level 1). Site mapping (level 2) has been done for Vancouver, Calgary and Hamilton and three more sites are scheduled for September and October, in Toronto and Quebec.
  • RHSCIR – Revisions to the RHSCIR data set are being finalized following input from the rehabilitation RHSCIR leads. The RHSCIR amendment for moving sites onto the RHI Global Research Platform (GRP) has been sent to all sites. Finally, a paper describing the development of RHSCIR was accepted by Spinal Cord Journal. www.rickhansenregistry.org
  • E-Scan – data analysis is being conducted and content for the Atlas drafted, with a target date of March 2012 for the final product.  The Atlas will be the first iteration of the project, with a plan to move to a “SCIRE-like” website in coming years.
  • SCI Community Survey – Close to 800 individuals with SCI have completed the survey since the launch in May. www.sci-survey.ca
  • CAMPER – Vancouver will begin recruiting their first subjects pending approval of an administrative protocol amendment.  Our new CAMPER project manager, Daniel Rogers, is a welcome addition to our team and is working hard to get all the sites up and running.
  • RHI continues to make progress towards implementing the Global Research Platform (GRP) at our international pilot sites in Brisbane, Australia; Beijing, China; and Tel Hashomer, Israel. Furthermore, over the summer, RHI has continued to increase its international engagement with a series of productive meetings in Western Europe. We hope that these meetings will lead to some exciting news that can be announced soon.


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RHI First Agency Outside US to Join Consortium for Spinal Cord Medicine

With the recent news of RHI joining the Consortium for Spinal Cord Medicine, RHI is pleased to announce that it has appointed Dr. Peter Wing (Interim Chair of RHI’s Translational Research Advisory Committee and Clinical Professor, Division of Spine, Department of Orthopaedics, University of British Columbia) as liaison on the consortium Steering Committee.  Peter is well known in the SCI research and clinical community for the development of guidelines in Acute Care Management.

We look forward to joining the other members of the Consortium, and to new collaborative opportunities for us all.

Click here for the full news release.


SCI Champion Tests Online Fitness Support for People with SCIDalton_Wolfe

When someone incurs a spinal cord injury in Canada, they are treated at one of 15 specialized care centres. But, once they return home after rehabilitation, especially if they are in rural or remote areas, there are no health and fitness centres capable of supporting their specialized needs. Studies show that persons living with SCI have increased risk of cardiovascular disease as well as a greater likelihood of a variety of secondary complications resulting in more hospital visits and more costs to the health care system.

“Exercise has been demonstrated to have numerous benefits for individuals living with spinal cord injury,” says Dr. Dalton Wolfe, Associate Scientist in the Program of Aging, Rehabilitation and Geriatric Care in the Lawson Health Research Institute, London, Ontario. “These range from enhanced health through the prevention of secondary health complications to improved subjective well-being.  But it’s very difficult to stay fit without the right support and one of the biggest barriers to that is distance.”

To address this priority issue, Dr. Wolfe and his team, in collaboration with SCI Action Canada, with funding from the Rick Hansen Institute, are looking at the feasibility of the internet as tool to help solve the problem and to see if they can increase overall physical activity participation levels by using internet-based fitness programming in conjunction with an action planning and coping planning intervention. In the Online Physical Activity and Nutritional Counselling study (OPAN) people participate in fitness and nutrition classes, and also receive individual counselling – all through video conference.

The in-home exercise classes are geared to level of injury and mobility. An initial phased approach – already completed with four participants who have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease,  in a hospital setting – is now being continued as a series of four successive nine-week classes involving participants from a local setting, and then will go national. The four-month seated-aerobics program  of twice-weekly, 45-minute sessions, led by an experience fitness leader, includes  a 10-minute warm-up phase, a 25-minute aerobic phase and a 10-minute cool-down, and incorporates upper-extremity flexibility exercises and deep breathing. Instructors accommodate varying levels of function and fitness and enable a slow progression of intensity, and participants monitor their heart rate and blood pressure.

“It’s about empowering people to manage their own lives better,” concludes Dr. Wolfe. “We know that physical activity is a good thing and it’s especially important for people with SCI to be as active as possible. If this works, we hope to expand the services and find a way to sustain an on-going program.  From the preventative and self-management perspective, if people look after themselves better, and services can be delivered more efficiently, then health care costs can be greatly reduced.”

PHOTO – Dalton Wolfe (top) and his team work to develop programs to encourage physical activity amongst individuals with SCI.

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Man In Motion 25th Anniversary UpdateGTH_Lamarque_2

“Many In Motion – Unis En Mouvement” Relay

For the next nine months, The Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay will progress through 600 Canadian communities, passing on the Rick Hansen Medal produced by the Royal Canadian Mint.  So far, the reception has been enthusiastic – and the weather mostly cooperative – in the Maritimes, following the August 24 kick-off in Cape Spear.  By the middle of October, the Relay will have arrived in Quebec.

Click here for our list of communities and dates where you can cheer on some of the 7000 people who will run, walk, wheel or bike across the 12,000 km journey.  There will also be gala events held in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver to recognize collaborative leadership and honour the progress made in accessibility and research towards a cure for paralysis after spinal cord injury.

PHOTO – Relay participant Ginette Thibault-Halman, RHSCIR site coordinator and Research Coordinator in the Division of Neurotrauma at Dalhousie/NS Rehab hands over the Rick Hansen medal to fellow participant Kevin Lamarque, RHI board member and Chair of CPA-NS (with Molly, the cocker spaniel)



Interdependence 2012 Conference & Exposition – May 15-18, 2012, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Interdependence 2012 will offer a progressive agenda in response to opportunities, challenges and developments in accelerating progress towards improved physical access to the built environment, and a cure for paralysis after SCI.

For the SCI Research & Development “pillar” of the conference program, 20 high profile speakers – many well-known to our community - have been confirmed and topics for 12 sessions identified. These include Dr. Jane Lebkowski of Geron Corporation and Dr. Susan Harkema of Frazier Rehabilitation Institute. They will join a few, perhaps, less-familiar speakers to regular SCI conference attendees, to ensure the program is unique.

Because Interdependence 2012 has two distinct – yet complementary – pillars, keynote plenary sessions have been designed to appeal to all delegates. These sessions will focus on four critical themes relevant to both the accessibility and SCI research agendas, and have the potential to inspire a dialogue in pursuit of a more healthy and inclusive world. On a similar note, delegates are encouraged to view the accessibility “pillar” sessions under development.

You are invited to:

The final conference program is expected to be available by the beginning of November. www.interdependence2012.com.

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Staffing Updates

RHI is pleased to welcome the following to its team: Carly Rivers, Research Associate; Aly Amlani, Project Manager for the RHI GRP International sites; Daniel Rogers, Project Manager for CAMPER; Sophia Park, Research Coordinator; Jason Chen, Statistician; and Jenny Chiu, Clinical Research Operations.


RHI Research Recognized at NASS Annual Meeting

Two RHI research projects were selected for the "Best Paper" and "Best Poster" sessions in the upcoming 26th annual North American Spine Society Annual Meeting, November 2-5, 2011, in Chicago – the largest multidisciplinary spine meeting in North America.

In the "Best Paper" session, nominee includes RHI research abstract Incidence and Impact of Acute Adverse Events in Patients with Traumatic SCI to be presented by Dr. John Street; and in the "Best Poster" session, nominee includes Classifying Neurological Impairment and Spinal Column Injuries: Does Administrative Coding Accurately Represent Clinical Diagnoses?, to be presented by Dr. Marcel Dvorak.

Dr. Dvorak will also present Modeling the Processes of Care for Patients with Traumatic SCI in British Columbia.  Also representing RHI at the Annual Meeting are Dr. Michael Fehlings (Director, International Research Development, Rick Hansen Institute and Head of Spinal Program, Toronto Western Hospital), and Dr. Brian Kwon (Associate Scientific Director, Rick Hansen Institute).


Upcoming SCI Conferences

Second Canadian Stroke Congress October 2-4, Ottawa ON, presented by the KMN Group


  • Presentation by RHI’s Director of Best Practice Implementation, Amir RasheedCanadian Stroke Best Practices and Performance Measurement Processes for Innovation Fluency Capacity Building: Ontario Neurotrauma Foundations & RHI – BPI for Secondary Complication of SCI.

Society of Research Administrators Conference, October 23-26, Montreal, QC

  • RHI’s Director of Clinical Research Operations, Erin Cherban, is presenting The Rick Hansen Institute: Lessons Learned from Developing a National Registry into an International Clinical Research Network.

RHSCIR Coordinators Conference, October 27 & 28, Montreal, QC

  • Training on use of Global Research Platform to enter RHSCIR data.

Cervical Spine Research Society 2011, December 8-10, Scottsdale, AZ

  • Podium presentation: Incidence and Impact of Acute Adverse Events in Patients with Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury;
  • ACT model poster – Development of a health progression model (Title: Evaluating Long-term Health and Economic Outcomes in Traumatic Cervical Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) using a Health Progression Model)

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting, February 17-20, Vancouver, BC.

  • ICORD's symposium Curing Spinal Cord Injury: The Need for Global Collaboration will be moderated by Dr. Michael Fehlings (Toronto Western Hospital). Confirmed speakers include Rick Hansen, Dr. Wolfram Tetzlaff (UBC), Dr. Marcel Dvorak (UBC), Dr. Judy Illes (Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics), Dr. Charles Tator (University of Toronto) and Dr. Naomi Kleitman (NIH).

Canadian Spine Conference, February 29 - March 3, 2012, Sun Peaks Resort, (near Kamloops), BC

  • Abstract deadline October 1.


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