Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?
I grew up in rural Alberta, and headed to the University of Alberta to complete my undergraduate degree in Psychology. I began volunteering in Dr. Fred Colbourne’s stroke research lab and decided to stay for a PhD. I completed my thesis work looking at mechanisms of recovery using animal models of stroke. Then I moved to California for a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University, where I studied stem cell treatments following stroke. My second post-doc took me back to Canada, where I shifted from using basic animal models to clinical studies of stroke recovery. I have been learning neuroimaging techniques in the Brain Behaviour Laboratory at the University of British Columbia under the supervision of Dr. Lara Boyd.
What compelled you to pursue stroke research?
Nearly half of individuals with stroke live with some form of impaired cognition and an even greater proportion live with chronic motor deficits. These impairments greatly hamper functional independence and significantly decrease quality of life. My goal is to conduct research that increases what we know about how the brain recovers from injury, leading to enhanced therapies that will improve the lives of individuals living with stroke.
What is the focus of your research?
Covert lesions occur without any noticeable symptoms and therefore frequently go undetected. Recently, in a study funded by CPSR, I found that individuals with more covert lesions did less well after stroke; they had impaired memory, planning, and attention as well as worse arm function. This work was done at a single time with patients who were at least 6 months after stroke, meaning that it was limited to looking at outcome rather than assessing how people and their brains change after stroke. My current research will start early and repeatedly image and test outcome through the first year after stroke. My aim is to characterize how covert lesions impact the amount and timing of motor, cognitive, and psychosocial recovery after stroke.
At what stage are you in your research, and what are your current future plans?
I am in the final stage of my postdoctoral fellowship and I am currently looking for an academic position in stroke research.
How do you and others benefit from being part of the National Trainee Association?
The CPSR National Trainee Association provides an excellent opportunity to build connections with other stroke researchers from across Canada. The association’s focus on building interdisciplinary skills and collaborations, through such programs as the SPiN workshop, is highly beneficial to developing a translational approach to stroke research.
What other interests do you have?
My two young children ensure that I never go bored or stay still for too long. We enjoy exploring the many beaches, forests and mountains in and around Vancouver.