New rehab lab extends school's research reach

by Gavin Wilson
Staff writer

The opening of an off-campus research centre this summer highlights a new focus on research and community outreach in the School of Rehabilitation Sciences.

The Rehabilitation Research Laboratory, which will be operated in partnership with the B.C. Rehabilitation Society, will open at G.F. Strong Centre by September.

The lab will look at biological, behavioural and social issues that could lead to better evaluation and treatments for people with impairments and disabilities.

One of its major aims will be to foster collaboration between clinicians and scientists through mentoring programs, seminars, workshops and programs for visiting scientists and clinicians. Several faculty members will be based there.

"Our goal is not just to conduct research, but to nurture a research environment for rehabilitation that integrates expertise ranging from basic science to clinical evaluation," said school director Prof. Angelo Belcastro.

The lab is also part of a strategy of community outreach, which is viewed as a crucial role given the school's status as the only accredited rehabilitation school in the province, he said.

The School of Rehabilitation Sciences educates health professionals in occupational therapy and physical therapy and advances the science of rehabilitation through research and teaching.

"With a core faculty linked between two major rehabilitation institutes, we will be reaching out to the province to create a network of partners. That's the really exciting part," Belcastro said.

The project will cost $750,000, with the School of Rehabilitation Sciences providing equipment, personnel and expertise for the new lab while the B.C. Rehabilitation Foundation funds its construction.

The facility will house offices and labs for graduate students and fellows, seminar/interviews rooms, and observation rooms.

The new faculty members who will be based at the Rehabilitation Research Lab are:

* Assoc. Prof. Anne Carswell, whose research interests are focused on the health of older adults with disabilities.

* Asst. Prof. Janice Eng, whose research examines the effects of aging and neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease and stroke on functional movement.

* Asst. Prof. Donna MacIntyre, who is interested in learning more about effective exercise programs for patients who have been on bedrest, or are inactive because of a disease or condition and who have muscle atrophy.

Another new faculty member, Asst. Prof. Darlene Redenbach, has joined the muscle-injury focus group in the school.

The new professors bring the number of faculty in the expanding school to 20 full-time. Grad student enrolment is up too. In its third year of operation, the graduate study program has 15 master's candidates and three interdisciplinary PhD candidates enrolled.