Online Tools: EBRSR Stroke Engine

Dorothy Kessler

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?                 
A: I grew up in Kipling, Saskatchewan, a town of 1000 people. I was educated as an occupational therapist at the University of Manitoba and then moved to Ottawa for “adventure” and work.  I met my husband in Ottawa and so I stayed. We have three children who are quickly becoming adults, two in university and one in high school.
Q: What compelled you to pursue stroke research?
A: As a clinician, I sought challenge and ongoing learning in my work.  When I started working on the stroke rehabilitation unit, I found both of these and truly enjoyed this area of practice.  In my search for answers to improve the recovery of my clients I found there was much to learn but also much to be discovered. As an occupational therapist, I was concerned about what people would be able to do when they left the hospital.  Would they be able to manage daily tasks? Would they be able to pursue activities that were important and meaningful to them?  I connected with Dr. Mary Egan and we conducted a small randomized controlled trial to explore the impact of client-centred occupational therapy post-discharge.  I did not know at the time that this would start me on the path to becoming a researcher. I worked for approximately 20 years in stroke rehabilitation during which I completed my M.Sc. through a distance program at the School of Occupational Therapy at Dalhousie University.  For my masters thesis I interviewed people who described themselves as living well with stroke to examine what contributed to their success. Using this information, I then went on to do my PhD with Dr. Egan at the School of Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Ottawa; here I carried out a pilot randomized controlled trial of a coaching-based intervention to promote return to participation in meaningful and important activities following stroke.
Q: What is the focus of your research?
A: My research focuses on how people with complex health conditions, particularly stroke, can continue to take part in activities that are meaningful and important to them. 
Q: At what stage are you in your research, and what are your future plans?
A: I completed my PhD in the summer of 2015 and am currently a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Clare Liddy at the Bruyère Research Institute where I am building skills related to health services research. I will start a CIHR-funded postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Deirdre Dawson at the  Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in January 2017.  Following my post-doctoral training, I will seek a tenure-track faculty position or a scientist position at a health research institute. I plan to continue with my research focus while continuing to link with clinicians and persons living with stroke and other chronic health conditions to ensure that my research addresses relevant issues.
Q: How do you and others benefit from being part of the National Trainee Association?
A: Through the National Trainee Association, I have been able to connect with other trainees and researchers who are trying to improve the lives of people with stroke through a variety of approaches. I have been fortunate to attend two SPIN programs where I learned about current bench research, imaging techniques and innovative uses of technology to promote recovery.  Having this broad knowledge base has helped me to understand how research from different areas of inquiry can be integrated to understand and promote stroke recovery.
Q: What other interests do you have?
A: While my son has commented recently that I spend a lot of time at my computer, I make an effort to pursue other interests.  I run to keep in shape. I have completed several half-marathons and one marathon.  Having a goal definitely helps to keep me training. I particularly need to keep fit for hockey. I started playing hockey about 7 years ago and find this to be a lot of fun. I also enjoy cross-country skiing, cycling and just getting outside. I am very fortunate to live in a community where I can cross the street and take a walk in the woods.