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Darren Cheng

Darren Cheng

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?
A: I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, and completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto with a specialist in Neuroscience. I have been very involved in student life at Victoria College at U of T, co-managing a student lounge, planning orientation week in 2015, working as a tour guide, and most recently worked as a Residence Don this past school year. I also had the privilege of completing an undergraduate research project under the supervision of Dr. Jonathan Downar at Toronto Western Hospital and volunteered in his research clinic for treating major depressive disorder with non-invasive brain stimulation.

Q: What compelled you to pursue stroke research?
A: I have always had a keen interest in people, how they work, and their recovery, which ultimately led to my study of neuroscience at U of T. After I began working in a research clinic, I gained a serious appreciation for working with people clinically, especially in the field of neuroscience and neurological disorders. My interests in people and recovery, and my desire to pursue clinical research led me to seek out the opportunities available in the field of rehabilitation sciences. My decision to focus on stroke was ultimately motivated by the personal impact stroke has had on my own family, and what I’ve learned about its impact on people from around the world.

Q: What is the focus of your research?
A: I am currently completing my master’s at the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute under the supervision of Dr. Nancy Salbach. The focus of my research is to test the validity and reliability of recently developed stroke-specific protocols for administering the 10-metre walk test and 6-minute walk test in inpatient and outpatient settings. These walk tests are very useful in rehabilitation and research by capturing changes in response to treatment interventions and providing measures of walking ability relevant to the ability to walk in the community, such as crossing the street or grocery shopping. The protocols under investigation allow for physical assistance and use in patients with aphasia, and will also be tested using more accessible walkway lengths, which would allow for their use for a broader range of patients and in more clinical settings.

Q: At what stage are you in your research, and what are your current future plans?
A: I have just completed my first year of my master’s program and will conduct my research throughout this summer and fall at Bridgepoint Rehabilitation Hospital. I am currently finalizing my proposal for Ethics Board approval at Bridgepoint and hope to begin recruitment and data collection by July, followed by data analysis in the fall and winter, and defending my thesis by spring of 2018. My future plans are still changing and evolving with the experiences I’m gaining from my degree, but I ultimately hope to continue working in the field of rehabilitation and recovery.

Q: How do you and others benefit from being part of the National Trainee Association?
A: The CPSR’s National Trainee Association provides a useful and interactive space for stroke researchers and trainees to connect. Opportunities to learn and share skills, knowledge, and experiences are indispensable for trainees in any field, but are especially important for stroke research. The growth of trainees is supported through valuable resources such as the SPiN workshops and NTA Webinar series, opportunities I look forward to taking as I continue my journey as a trainee.

Q: What other interests do you have?
A:
I dabble in many hobbies and have more extracurricular interests than I have the time to participate in. I have a massive appreciation for plants and gardening, knit when I have the chance, and experiment with film photography. I have also designed posters and logos for student organizations, performed in a musical production last year, and took up rock climbing last year. At the end of the day, I love being creative, stimulated, and working with interesting people.