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Dear Friends and Colleagues:

In this first issue of 2014, we discuss progress on a number of fronts, including new roadmaps for two of our flagship programs – Cure and Care – as well as the latest news from the Rick Hansen Spinal Cord Injury Registry, how to reach us during continued phone service interruption, and updates on a number of projects and research conducted by our network partners.

As always, we welcome your feedback and questions.

At this time of unprecedented scientific progress and transformative global communications technology, a world without paralysis after SCI is possible. In the meantime, please feel free to peruse this newsletter and our website for information related to the Institute’s projects and initiatives, and information on spinal cord injury research that might be of interest to you.

Wishing you all the best for 2014 and beyond.

Bill Barrable

Chief Executive Officer

Inside this Issue

Phone service for RHI employees at Blusson Spinal Cord Centre

Cure and Care Program Updates

RHI announces three scholarships to promote its Best and Brightest Program

Update on RHSCIR

Perinatal care for women with spinal cord injury workshop

Webinar on pressure ulcer management for clinicians

Start of stem cell study offers hope to patients with spinal cord injuries

Approval of NeuRx DPS by Health Canada


Phone Service for RHI Employees at the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre

You may have attempted to call one of us at the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre recently and met with failure. Unfortunately, the majority of phone lines at Blusson had a service disruption in December. Building occupants are transitioning from one phone system to another and we now have new phone lines in working order. Please make note of our new main lines:

phone RHI Main Switchboard: 604.827.2421 | RHI Main Fax: 604.827.1669

All RHI staff have received new direct lines, please contact them by email to get their current numbers. Email remains the same and you can always reach us at or via your RHI contact. We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your patience while we transition our phone systems.

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Cure and Care Program Updates

We recently published “roadmaps” for our Cure and Care Programs, detailed descriptions of strategies, goals, committee makeup and more. RHI’s Cure Program is focused on supporting cure discoveries through pre-clinical research through to evidence-based practiceIn consultation with experts and international representatives from various stakeholder groups, the program will develop a strategy for RHI's role in cure-focused research efforts internationally. Our Care program, meanwhile aims to identify and fill gaps in knowledge regarding the clinical management of SCI as well as to promote best practices in SCI care delivery based on existing evidence for Canadians who are newly injured or those living with an existing SCI. While improved care will benefit the patient directly, the Care Program is also tightly linked to the Cure Program in that the standardized practice of care are a necessary precursor to the multi-site clinical research and trials to be undertaken in search of cures. To peruse the roadmap documents, click here and here.

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RHI Announces Three Scholarships to Promote its Best and Brightest Program

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As part of RHI’s Strategic Direction for 2013-2018, one of RHI’s main strategies is its Best and Brightest Program. The goal of this program is to nurture new SCI researchers and provide mentorship opportunities with well-established SCI investigators. RHI is pleased to announce three partnerships with organizations across Canada to provide funding opportunities to young Canadian SCI researchers. 

Rick Hansen Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship

The University of Ottawa, in partnership with RHI intends to support a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the field of spinal cord injury research. Through this Postdoctoral Fellowship, the University and RHI intend to support a high quality researcher in the University’s Faculty of Medicine program, whose research is primarily focused 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.

Please note that details regarding application and complete submission criteria will be posted on the University of Ottawa website shortly. A link will be provided here and on the university website - please check back often. Deadline to submit an application is February 28.

MSFHR 2014 Scholar Award

The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR), in partnership with RHI, intends to support a Scholar Award in the field of spinal cord injury research. Through this Scholar Award, MSFHR and RHI intend to support a high quality researcher whom will focus his or her research efforts on Knowledge Translation (KT) activities, preclinical or clinical research in the area of SCI.

Deadline to submit a letter of intent is January 28. To view complete eligibility criteria, visit www.msfhr.org/rick-hansen-institute.

MHRC/RHI Postdoctoral Fellowship

The Manitoba Health Research Council (MHRC), in partnership with RHI intends to support a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the field of spinal cord injury research. Through this Postdoctoral Fellowship, MHRC and RHI intend to support a high quality researcher whom will focus his or her research efforts preclinical or clinical research in the area of SCI. 

Deadline to submit an application is January 31. More information can be found at mhrc.mb.ca/funding-opportunities/programs/postdoctoral-fellowships/

We strongly encourage all eligible researchers to apply for this funding. RHI would like to thank Western Economic Diversification Canada for support of its Best and Brightest Program.

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Update on RHSCIR

Learn more about the Rick Hansen SCI Registry in this short video.


As the Rick Hansen SCI Registry approaches its ten year anniversary, we’d like to take a moment to say thanks to the over 70 principal investigators, RHSCIR coordinators and clinical staff from the 31 facilities across Canada who have put forth a tremendous effort to collect, share and interpret the data obtained through the registry. As of the time of this newsletter, RHSCIR has over 3,900 participants and we expect to reach 4,000 by mid-February, marking a significant milestone and establishing RHSCIR as the most robust and comprehensive data source on individuals with traumatic SCI in Canada. There have also been a number of exciting updates to share, some of which include:

    • Preparing for release of RHSCIR 2.0 – this significant update, which incorporates feedback from the RHSCIR network and subject matter experts updates the type of data being collected to ensure it can answer the most current research and clinical questions, in addition to aligning with Accreditation Canada's new SCI Acute & Rehab Standards. Stay tuned for a launch in Spring 2014.
    • Abstracts accepted at CSS and ASIA – RHI is enjoying a banner year with 13 abstracts and one poster accepted at the upcoming American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) Annual Meeting in Texas this May; and four abstracts accepted at the Canadian Spine Society's Combined Scientific Conference, presented in Lake Louise in February. The majority of the data used in these publications came from RHSCIR and is a great example of the national RHSCIR network’s efforts to share the data.
    • RHSCIR data used in WHO report – RHI's work on the incidence and prevalence of SCI in Canada using data from RHSCIR was recently used in a World Health Organization report on International Perspectives on Spinal Cord Injury. Read the full report here. 

To learn more about RHSCIR, please click here or watch the video (above right). 

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Perinatal Care for Women with Spinal Cord Injury Workshop

 MG 5870Funded by a grant from RHI, a one-day workshop was held in November 2013 involving consumers, clinicians and researchers with an interest in sexuality, SCI, fertility and reproductive health. The goal of the workshop was to initiate a collaborative process for addressing the significant gaps in knowledge and services for women with SCI. The workshop was organized and facilitated by Dr. Stacy Elliott, Kate McBride, Shea Hocaloski, Melanie Basso, Karen Hodge and Lynsey Hamilton.

Through a series of facilitated discussions, workshop participants validated three themes that emerged from a synthesis of survey responses: a lack of knowledge both for consumers and care providers; gaps in access to services and information; and a need for collaboration both between the consumer and health care providers and amongst health care providers throughout the perinatal journey.

Workshop participants then envisioned a “roadmap” that would guide and empower consumers, their families, and health care providers at all stages of the perinatal journey. Creating the roadmap would “connect the dots” in the journey, link resources that are already available, and establish a collaborative framework for addressing the remaining gaps. This roadmap would allow consumers to: identify where they are in their perinatal journey; determine what information they need to know and/or ask at each stage; thereby promoting access to the resources necessary and increasing the likelihood for a positive outcome, regardless of their geography.

It is rare to help a group of individuals join together who represent a varied number of organizations, backgrounds, personal and professional experiences, but who have a vested interest in improving the perinatal care of women with SCI. One participant on the day referred to the “great energy, great knowledge” in the room.

Overall it is the connections that were made during the workshop that will be invaluable to future perinatal care for women with SCI. The general consensus of the workshop participants was that the day was one of inspiration and hope for the future. 

To view the full executive summary of the perinatal workshop click here.

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Webinar on Pressure Ulcer Management for Clinicians

In partnership with Coloplast Canada and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, RHI is sponsoring a webinar for clinicians on the Canadian Best Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Pressure Ulcers in People with Spinal Cord Injury. The webinar will be presented by Dr. Pamela Houghton, Dr. Karen Campbell, Dr. David Keast and Chris Fraser.

The webinar will run live twice on January 28 (12 pm and 6 pm EST), and will be archived and available online for one month afterwards. To register for this webinar, visit www.coloplastwoundcareprogram.com/register/


stemcellPhoto source: CTVNews.ca 

Start of Stem Cell Study Offers Hope to Patients with Spinal Cord Injuries

A segment on CTV News recently featured RHI Cure Committee members Drs Steve Casha and Michael Fehlings and their work on a clinical trial involving stem cell transplantation in individuals with spinal cord injury. Funded by Stem Cell Inc., the results on the effectiveness of the stem cell transplantation are still a “long ways away” according to Dr. Casha. However, this trial may provide better insight into the safety and feasibility of stem cell transplants for SCI repair. As members of RHI's Cure Committee, Drs Casha and Fehlings role will be to help guide RHI's work to support and complement efforts in SCI cure and regeneration therapies for the benefit of people with SCI.

To watch the news story and read the article, click here.


breathing device TorontoStarPhoto source: thestar.com 

Approval of NeuRx DPS by Health Canada

U.S.-based Synapse Biomedical Inc., received approval from Health Canada for its NeuRx Diaphragm Pacing System (DPS), designed to assist people with SCI who lack control of their diaphragms and are ventilator-dependent. With this Health Canada approval, SCI patients throughout Canada can access this technology that was only previously available to clinical trial participants or through the Medical Devices Special Access Program. The approval is based on patient data supplied from clinical trials at hospitals in the US and Canada, including Vancouver General Hospital, and is a great example of the power of the Rick Hansen Institute network. Read about the RHI connection here.

This story was also recently featured in the Toronto Star. Read it here.

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