Q: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?
A: I am a fourth year doctoral candidate in Dr. Elizabeth Rochon’s Language Sciences Lab at the University of Toronto. I’m also a registered Speech-Language Pathologist and work with stroke survivors in a clinical outpatient setting. I’m originally from Serbia but live in Toronto, which has been my home since the age of five. I love to travel, and spent a year abroad teaching English in the south of France after completing my undergraduate degree.
Q: What compelled you to pursue stroke research?
A: I’ve always been fascinated with the inner workings of the brain and reading case studies which have helped to advance knowledge in this area, such as those described by Oliver Sacks and Alexander Luria. When I started volunteering and working in research labs, and interacting with stroke survivors, it further fuelled my fascination and thirst for knowledge about the brain. It also highlighted the importance of this pursuit of knowledge for people living with the side-effects of stroke. The personal stories that I encounter with each stroke survivor that I meet are very powerful motivators to pursue this line of research.
Q: What is the focus of your research?
A: While many successful interventions have been developed for the treatment of language deficits following stroke, some of the critical factors that make treatment successful are still unclear. Often, two individuals with the same aetiology and severity profiles will respond very differently to language treatment: one will improve, while the other will not. The focus of my research, therefore, is to understand why some, but not all, stroke survivors improve after therapy. I aim to incorporate current models of language processing with current models of executive control, in order to capture a broader picture of the mechanisms underlying language recovery post-stroke. It is my hope that this understanding will eventually lead to more personalized and effective treatment programs for stroke survivors with communication difficulties.
Q: At what stage are you in your research, and what are your current future plans?
A: I am currently in my fourth year of doctoral studies. At the University of Toronto, our dissertation can take the form of three published studies. My first study – a systematic review on the impact of executive control on language recovery – has been completed and published. I am currently working on analyzing data and writing-up studies two and three of my dissertation, which involved assessing and treating individuals with post-stroke communication difficulties. I hope to extend this line of work into a post-doctoral fellowship, and to eventually pursue an academic career in this field.
Q: How do you and others benefit from being part of the National Trainee Association?
A: The National Trainee Association is very helpful in bringing the community of stroke researchers and trainees together both online and in person, and informing us of the latest developments in the field. Of course, it also provides funding opportunities to trainees which are very valuable in pushing our research forward.
Q: What other interests do you have?
A: I am very interested in discovering and learning new things. I love exploring new coffee shops, restaurants, or markets within the city, travelling to places I haven’t been before, learning new languages, and taking photographs. This summer my goal is to be a tourist in my own city, and enjoy Toronto with fresh eyes!