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Meet the winners of the Geoff Fernie Impact Awards

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Kite is a proud home to over 120 trainees, who play an important role in moving research forward within the Toronto Rehab community and the world at large. The Geoff Fernie Impact Awards pay tribute to the post-doctoral fellows (PDFs), doctoral and Masters’ students who go above and beyond their call of duty to serve the community and make real impact through their research. 

The winners of the 2020 Geoff Fernie Impact Awards are Shabnam Haghzare, Kramay Patel and Naaz Kapadia-Desai. Honourable mentions go to Lazar Jovanovic and Jacqueline Nestico. 


Shabnam Haghzare
Shabnam is a PhD candidate at KITE, and her research looks into the acceptability of self-driving cars by older drivers and investigates how autonomous vehicles can be improved through machine learning algorithms. She has served as Toronto Rehab’s Trainee Executive Committee President and is the current president of the AGE-WELL trainee committee. Shabnam generously volunteers her time to our KITE Young Innovators youth outreach program to engage with elementary and secondary school students to promote STEM. She is an excellent role model, particularly for young women.


Kramay Patel
Kramay is a PhD student at KITE. His research focuses on the self-regulation of brain activity as a treatment for individuals suffering from medically intractable epilepsy. Just over the past few years, Kramay has led the summer student recruitment process at the Rehabilitation Engineering Lab to ensure the students we recruit get the most enriching experience from their time with us. Last year, he pitched, planned and organized the inaugural CRANIA conference that brought together the entire neuromodulation and neurotechnology community in Toronto. Most recently, he co-founded Stitch4Corona, a community-based initiative that has gathered over 700 volunteers across the GTA to stich face masks to tackle the acute shortage of PPE, and has donated over 15,000 face masks to protect our frontline workers and the most vulnerable populations in our city.



Naaz Kapadia-Desai  

Naaz is a PhD candidate and clinical physiotherapist at our Rocket Family Upper Extremity Clinic. Her research aims to improve rehabilitation outcomes related to upper extremity function in individuals with stroke and spinal cord injury. Back home in India, Naaz gave back to the community during her downtime, providing volunteer care to patients who could not afford it. Naaz has taken the lead in providing a clinical context to the biomedical engineering research being conducted in our labs. She quickly became an expert in the use of Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) went on to train many therapists at the national level in the use of this technology. 


Lazar Jovanovic 

Lazar is a PhD candidate at Kite, whose research is focused on developing and testing a new intervention that combines brain-computer interfacing (BCI) and functional electrical stimulation (FES). Lazar has developed one of the most advanced brain-computer interfacing systems specifically designed for clinical work. Lazar’s volunteer work is focused strongly on science outreach. He set up an exhibit at Toronto’s Science Rendezvous fair to demonstrate FES technology. At the Da Vinci Engineering Enrichment Program, Lazar delivered a lecture for high school students on human-machine interfacing with a live demonstration of robotics. Lazar was also awarded a grant from the Faculty of Medicine to create a mobile toolkit that will help to promote graduate student mental health, wellness, and resilience

Jacqueline Nestico 

Jacqueline is a Master’s student at KITE and her research aims to better understand the impact of movement on stability during walking. She is the Co-President of the Rehabilitation Sciences Graduate Student Union (RSGSU) and Co-Managing Editor for rehabINK magazine's spring issue. Jacqueline has been collaborating with the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute (RSI) Director and the Faculty of Medicine’s Alumni Relations team to create a networking resource for RSI students and alumni. She volunteered at Holland-Bloorview where she facilitated youth participation and involvement in recreational activities with peers. Jacqueline has also volunteered at Boundless Biomechanical Bracing, assisting clinicians in providing clients with appropriate orthotic devices and collecting outcome measures to better understand how the devices are improving client mobility. 


Big congratulations to all the winners! Your hard work and dedication to the community is making a huge impact on countless lives at Toronto Rehab and the community at large.