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Gayatri Aravind

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?
A: I am Physical Therapist trained in India. I moved to Montreal to pursue my Ph.D. with Dr. Anouk Lamontagne at McGill University, examining obstacle avoidance abilities in persons with visual neglect after stroke using a novel virtual reality environment. Subsequently, I moved to Toronto to pursue my Post-Doctoral Fellowship with Dr. Nancy Salbach at the University of Toronto. Here, along with pursuing my research, I am involved with coordinating a 3-site, pilot randomized controlled trial evaluating the impact of a group-based, task-oriented community exercise program on balance, mobility and activities of daily living function of individuals with stroke. My long-term goal is to work with healthcare policy makers to make effective rehabilitation programs available and affordable to more Canadians.

Q: What compelled you to pursue stroke research?
A: In the course of my Physical Therapy studies, I continually observed the challenges involved in treating adults and children with neurological deficits. The process of motor learning of new skills or re-learning of previously established skills intrigued me, and led me to pursue clinical practice in neurological rehabilitation. Observing how the recovery of walking in the community and independence were deemed to be primary goals of rehabilitation for most of my patients with stroke, I was drawn to research involving mobility and balance in persons with stroke.

Q: What is the focus of your research?
A: I am interested in exploring the factors influencing the sustainability of group, task-oriented community exercise programs that incorporate a healthcare recreation partnership (CBEP-HRP). The benefits of task-oriented training for individuals with stroke have already been established. Currently, however, only a few such programs are available in Ontario and British Columbia. While some programs have been running successfully for years, others have been discontinued. By interviewing the providers (recreation, hospital and health system partners) as well as the users (people with stroke and caregivers) of such programs, I aim to develop a program guide that would describe how a CBEP-HRP should be implemented in a given area, in a particular type of recreation centre, and under a particular health system structure to facilitate its successful adoption, so that more Canadians may benefit from it.

Q: At what stage are you in your research, and what are your current future plans?
A: Presently, we are finalizing the research proposal. The short-term plans are to: 1) obtain research ethics board approval to proceed with the study, 2) recruit recreation sites where a community based exercise program that incorporated a healthcare recreation partnership (e.g. the “Together in Movement and Exercise (TIMETM)” program) is being or was previously offered, and 3) recruit the stakeholders involved in the delivery or of these programs, to explore their perceptions of multi-level factors influencing the sustained implementation of these program. Subsequently, we will develop implementation plans tailored to different types of recreation providers to guide the successful implementation of CBEP-HRPs like the TIMETM program and other similar programs and optimize their probability of sustained implementation, even in provinces where the CBEP-HRP model has not been introduced.

Q: How do you and others benefit from being part of the National Trainee Association?
The CPSR National Trainee Association is a helpful platform especially for emerging new scientists. It provides a sense of community by encouraging networking and collaborations among students and researchers with different backgrounds and experiences. I intend to utilize this resource to its maximum to obtain guidance and feedback about my current research and develop new collaborations for future endeavours.

Q: What other interests do you have?
A: Apart from stroke research, I am an avid hiker and enjoy exploring new terrains with my family and my dog. I am a trained classical singer with special interest in Carnatic music. I enjoy pursuing new skills such as coding/programming, mindfulness meditation, and am more recently dabbling in baking with occasional success.