The Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation operates in a context of competing yet complementary academic and clinical obligations to research, education and service. The Department has addressed this challenge by encouraging department members to focus their contribution in their areas of academic and/or clinical strength. As a consequence, several department members carry the primary responsibility for accomplishing the research mission. A system of merit-based remuneration “the points system” has been implemented for clinicians and embraced by members of the Department.
The research programs of the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation themselves operate within a broader context. Research is conducted under the auspices of the Lawson Health Research Institute (LHRI) and largely within the Program in Aging, Rehabilitation and Geriatric Care (ARGC). Dr Robert Petrella, an adjunct member of the Department of PM&R, is the Beryl & Richard Ivey Research Chair in Aging, Rehabilitation and Geriatric Care, and LHRI ARGC Program Leader.
The new 15,000 square foot Aging, Rehabilitation and Geriatric Care Research Centre opened in the summer of 2006. Department research members have been, and will continue to be, integral to this exciting new Centre. The Centre, with its proximity to clinical programs, is an operating model of clinical research focusing on translation of research to clinical practice and endowments fits well with our clinical research focus.
The St. Joseph’s Foundation, has provided major financial support for the new centre with $9 million for renovations and research endowments for personnel providing further fiscal stability and enabling new young investigators to take advantage of the fellowship and studentship awards.
The Department of PM&R also operates within the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at The University of Western Ontario which itself has strategic directions and opportunities for growth. The multidisciplinary nature of rehabilitation further provides opportunities for collaboration with allied health professionals within the Faculty of Health Science and their PhD Program in Rehabilitation Sciences. Affiliations with the University also provides great opportunity to existing post-graduate programs such Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the Neurosciences Program, Kinesiology etc, but also through the developing PM&R Residency program.
The Lawson External Scientific Review provided a ringing endorsement for the research work of our department within the LHRI Program of ARGC noting the “very strong” and appropriate focus on “knowledge translation” and how the ARGC program appeared to “effectively link its three main research activities in a way that enhances clinical practice and care”. The report identifies the strength of ARGC group’s research in terms of its pragmatic approach to research application and its potential impact on clinical care.
Department members have provided leadership at the provincial level, through participation as Executive Committee members and theme leaders in the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care funded Ontario Rehabilitation Research Advisory Network. At the national level, Department members contribute to the strategic priorities and direction of funding of influential organizations such as Canadian Stroke Network, the Ontario Stroke Strategy, the Canadian Stroke Strategy, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Rick Hansen SCI Strategic Alliance and Translational Research Network and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation. It appears that there are currently many more opportunities for funding in the areas of rehabilitation, than at any previous time; this trend may have been guided by the demographic imperative (i.e. the increasing proportion and numbers of Canadian citizens arriving at the advanced age where major rehabilitation services are required). As well, new funding opportunities in SCI research provide another opportunity for increasing research.
The Department has, in the past, focused its research primarily in the areas of Stroke and Assistive Devices. Neuromuscular Rehabilitation and Spinal Cord Injury. There has also been an ongoing commitment to the area of Pain and Disability and Amputee Research. Each of these areas has been led by clinicians specializing in this area of practice working in association with PhD scientists.
As noted above, the Department has up until now focused its research activity in three distinct clinical areas:
• Stroke Rehabilitation & Assistive Technologies
• Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation
• Spinal Cord Injury