Recipients receive scholarships worth up to $20,000.
KITE trainees Anita Kaiser and Anna Huynh have received the 2023 TD Graduate Scholarship for Students with Disabilities while Kiah Spencer has received a merit award.
The awards, funded by TD Bank, support students with disabilities who are either a part of, or plan to be enrolled in, a rehabilitation-related graduate program leading to a master’s or doctoral degree.
Recipients receive scholarships worth up to $20,000 to cover academic and disability-related expenses.
“Promoting the activities of rehabilitation science researchers who have diverse experiences and perspectives enriches the scientific field and enhances its overall strength,” said Dr. Jennifer Campos who is a KITE senior scientist, Associate Director, Academic, and associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto.
“This year's TD Scholarship recipients have already demonstrated exceptional merit and remarkable achievements within the rehabilitation sciences and we look forward to witnessing their future impact."
This is the third time Kaiser has received the TD Graduate Scholarship. She was a recipient of the award when it debuted in 2005.
“Receiving this award means a lot to me as it values what my lived experience with disability brings to the table as a researcher,” said Kaiser, who is currently a fourth-year PhD candidate at the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute (RSI) at UofT.
Kaiser’s PhD project seeks to develop and validate a tool that tracks participation in activity-based therapy for people with spinal cord injury or disease in a community-based setting. The data generated from this tool will assist with treatment planning for individual patients and inform system wide health decisions.
Activity-based therapy is is an intervention that targets activation of the neuromuscular system below the area that has been damaged with the goal of retraining the nervous system to recover a specific motor task.
This can be achieved through a variety of ways, for example, using robotics, electrical stimulation, or repetitive movement training.
“I chose to study activity-based therapy because I believe in its potential to improve the quality of life and recovery trajectory for people living with spinal cord injury,” said Kaiser.
This is the fourth year Huynh has received the award.
Her research focuses on developing a shared decision-making tool for managing bulbar symptoms in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Some bulbar symptoms are slurred speech, increased coughing and choking, excessive drooling. These symptoms can lead to a severe decline in speech and swallowing function as well as reduced quality of life and shortened life span.
“This scholarship has made a tremendous difference in not only allowing me to pursue my doctoral studies the past three years, but also reaffirming my aspirations to pursue a career in research,” said Huynh, who is a part of KITE’s Vocal Tract Visualization Lab and is a third-year PhD candidate in UofT’s RSI.
“My hope is that my work will help promote a person-centred approach to ALS care that can support healthcare professionals to make decisions about speech and swallowing management that better reflect the needs of patients and their families.”
Spencer received a one-time merit award of $5000 to recognize her overall strong candidacy and excellent potential for success.
Her research investigates the utilization of focused transcranial ultrasound stimulation to alleviate tremor for patients with Parkinson’s disease.
“I feel honoured and privileged to receive this award,” said Spencer, a member of CRANIA co-director Dr. Luka Milosevic’s lab, and is in the final year of her master’s program at UofT’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering.
“My goal is to advance current treatment standards in focused transcranial ultrasound stimulation and deep-brain stimulation in order to positively impact the lives of patients and their families.”