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I AM KITE PROFILE: Atena Roshan Fekr

Monthly features to profile the next generation of rehab researchers

When Institute Director Dr. Milos R. Popovic introduced the KITE Research Institute to the world two years ago, he had one goal – to redefine and broaden the rehab-specific perception of our work. 

The I AM KITE campaign, launched in January, pays tribute to the diverse up-and-coming talent at KITE who are making a huge impact in the world of rehab science. 

Today we introduce Atena Roshan Fekr, a member of our Home, Community & Institutional Environments team. Her passion for developing smart technologies sets her up for success with helping seniors live safer, more independent lives.

I AM ATENA ROSHAN FEKR
ABOUT ATENA
NAME: Atena Roshan Fekr
EDUCATION: PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering, McGill University
KITE TEAM: Home, Community & Institutional Environments
RESEARCH FOCUS: Technology and aging

PROFILE
Atena Roshan Fekr is an Affiliate Scientist at the KITE Research Institute and an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto. She received her PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from McGill University in Montreal. Atena then pursued her postdoctoral training at KITE with Dr. Geoff Fernie, Creaghan Family Chair of Prevention and Healthcare Technologies.  

Her main research focus is on developing smart technologies that enable people, especially seniors, to live safer and more independent lives. This includes researching three main sub-topics: slip, trip and fall prevention; Program to Accelerate Technologies for Homecare (PATH); and technologies to prevent the spread of infection.

Atena is leading the charge behind the footwear slip-resistance testing program Rate My Treads in our WinterLab. This research has received growing popularity with several international media hits and features. She is also leading PATH, a program designed to accelerate testing and commercialization of new home health technologies for seniors’ home health care. The network has bases in Toronto, Ottawa, Waterloo and Edmonton. Recently, Atena has worked on developing technologies to prevent the spread of infection, primarily COVID-19 in hospitals and long-term care (LTC) homes. 

She has received several prestigious awards and research fellowships at McGill University including the Outstanding Teaching Assistant award and the Joseph S. Stauffer Fellowship from the Faculty of Engineering. Atena also received the Ontario Centers of Excellence (OCE) TalentEdge Fellowship in 2016.

USING ARTIFICAL INTELLIGENCE TECHNOLOGY TO IMPROVE THE LIVES OF SENIORS 

Atena is developing a research team of scientists and students in order to design a tool that determines the slip-resistance of footwear based on an outsole image. The idea is to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) technology into the manufacturing process of footwear companies to help reduce the physical and mental consequences associated with slip-related falls and the cost of injury on Canada’s healthcare system.

In the future, Atena is excited to see the PATH program help seniors and patients continue to safely live at home. This program will improve the detection of health conditions that require intervention and reduce false alarms to caregivers. In the next few years, PATH systems will be installed in more than 350 residential units, producing a big dataset that can be analyzed to further improve and develop the technology.

Research shows that better adherence to hand hygiene (HH) could minimize infection transfers, rates and mortality in hospitals and LTC homes. However, estimates of HH before and after interacting with a patient range from only 30% to 60% in hospitals and even lower in LTC homes. In the next five to 15 years, Atena’s research team will develop tools and approaches to transform conventional thinking about HH compliance and the impact it can have in preventing and mitigating infections in hospitals and LTC homes.

If Atena’s research could change one thing in the world by tomorrow, it would be to make the lives of seniors, families, caregivers and patients easier. She is building three teams working on three critical goals: preventing injury and illness, enabling independence and optimizing care.

WHY KITE?

“My father, who was 75 years old, died of a hospital acquired infection,” Atena says, which led to her changing her career goal to become a scientist. She now studies solutions to help patients recover and live longer and healthier lives. “KITE is the number one rehabilitation research institute in the world where scientists have access to facilities comprising 15 different environmental labs,” she says. KITE provides her the opportunity to expand her Knowledge, propose Innovations, coach Talents and distribute her research Everywhere, fulfilling the KITE acronym.

“The most interesting part of my job is the interaction with students and trainees,” Atena says. “We have different brainstorming meetings every week where there is always something new to learn.” She enjoys working on different projects and seeing how her work has a positive impact on people’s lives.

ATENA AND I AM KITE

The I AM KITE video is “a very nice and motivating video,” Atena says. It “makes me proud of where I work and who I am.” 

Atena likes watching movies, listening to music and dancing with her daughter. She also enjoys cooking, winter sports such as ice skating and playing the santoor, a traditional Persian instrument.