Lois Ward, a pillar of the KITE community, steps down after more than 20 years

Institute’s research operations manager will be remembered for her dedication, resilience and unwavering commitment to excellence.

Lois Ward, a pillar of the KITE Research Institute, is stepping down after more than 20 years.

The Institute’s longtime research operations manager – who helped shepherd the careers of countless scientific trainees and was a key member of the team that built KITE into a world-renowned research facility – will be retiring at the end of March.

“It’s been the journey of a lifetime being a part of KITE’s transformation from a small institute with a couple of floors at University Centre to a 50,000-square-foot facility that is the leading rehabilitation research centre in the world,” said Ward. 

Ward joined KITE, which was then called the Toronto Rehab Research Institute, in 2004, as the executive assistant to former Institute Director Dr. Geoff Fernie. 

As the institute grew in stature, so did Ward’s role. In her current role she provides operational guidance to scientists, trainees and staff in matters related to human resources and finance. 

She has also contributed to the creation of various standard operating procedures and is the publisher of the KITE Weekly – a bulletin containing research news, events and other updates tailored to the KITE community. 

“She’s created a culture of excellence that has been the driving force behind the Institute’s growth,” said Dr. Milos R. Popovic, Director of both KITE and the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto. 

“Her professionalism, and most importantly her kindness, has left a lasting impact on those of us who have been lucky to work alongside her.” 

The sentiment is echoed by KITE Senior Scientist and Associate Director - Academic, Dr. Jennifer Campos, who says she owes much of her success to Ward’s guidance and support. 

“From my first day at KITE (Ward) took me under her wing. She very quietly built up my confidence and championed me to others, which led to essential connections within and beyond the institute that really helped foster my career, personal development, and growth,” said Dr. Campos.

In the years since, the pair have worked together on multiple initiatives that have helped to foster a culture of inclusivity and support for trainees, including workshops, lunch and learn sessions, and the development of various student scholarships. 

Together they manage the TD Graduate Scholarship for Students with Disabilities, which supports students with disabilities who are enrolled in a rehabilitation-related graduate program that leads to a master’s or doctoral degree. Recipients receive scholarships worth up to $20,000 to cover academic and disability-related expenses.

“Ward has always been a champion for all students,” said Dr. Campos. “She’s constantly looking for new ways to support them financially, in their professional development, and to foster their overall wellness.”

As Ward bids a final adieu to KITE, she acknowledges that what she'll miss most isn't the groundbreaking research or exciting projects, but the people.

“The vibrant tapestry of individuals made each day at KITE a joyful experience,” said Ward. “I look forward to seeing how the institute will continue to grow and elevate healthcare.”