Graduate students with disabilities often encounter financial barriers due in part to the high cost of adaptive aids, technologies and resources needed to enable their studies. In 2005, TD Bank started funding scholarships at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute to support graduate students with disabilities. Meet this year’s scholarship recipients.
Anita Kaiser, PhD student, University of Toronto
Anita Kaiser became quadriplegic as a result of a motor vehicle crash in 1996. She was one of the inaugural recipients of the TD Scholarships and received support for 2 years when she was doing her Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Science at the University of Toronto.
Anita is passionate about increasing access to ABT (activity based therapy) in rehabilitation and the community for people living with spinal cord injury (SCI). It is this passion that has motivated her to pursue PhD studies. Over the past year, Anita took the initiative to develop a tracking tool for ABT. At the Canadian ABT Summit in March, the absence of a tracking mechanism for participation in ABT (e.g. tracking of mode, intensity, frequency and performance of ABT) was identified as a gap. Anita presented her tracking tool at the summit and her contribution was voted the “Most Novel Idea” by the attendees! For her PhD research she will further develop, validate and implement the tracking tool.
Anita is a strong advocate within the SCI community to help educate her peers on healthy living, promote inclusion and increase active participation in research, and address systemic barriers within society that prevent people living with SCI from living the life they choose. She has served in various capacities with the Canadian Spinal Research Organization, Canada International Scientific Exchange Program and Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, to name a few.
Anita is poised to make a significant contribution to the SCI rehabilitation field.
John Shepherd – Master’s student, University of Toronto
John Shepherd has been supported by the TD Scholarship program since August 2017 and will be completing his master’s soon.
John is motivated by a desire to better understand the impact of SCI and similar disabilities at the level of the health system and health policy; he is also an advocate for issues of concern to people living with disabilities. His overarching career goal is to make a contribution to the research and clinical management of spinal cord injury. He hopes to do this as a scientist within a clinical organization, as a program officer with a research funder, or in a policy role in a government or research organization.
John has been living with a spinal cord injury for 15 years and appreciates the impact of a well-informed and responsive health care system. He is active as a community volunteer, and has served on the boards of Toronto Rehab and Spinal Cord Injury Ontario.
Jaewoong Moon – PhD student, University of Toronto
Jae’s research focuses on children’s rehabilitation, landing him the special $5,000 “KITE- Toronto Rehab Research Training Award for Students with Disabilities.”
In Jae’s own words: "I am a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto and have a background in neuroscience at Queen’s University. I chose my current field to meld engineering practices with neuroscience principles. Developing brain-computer interfaces (BCI) to restore communication in motor impaired individuals is my passion. Being trapped in a body you are meant to control, unable to speak or communicate with your loved ones is certainly a mixture of visceral emotions such as fear and frustration. I hope to relieve people of these anxieties through my research/academic career. With my imagination unshackled, I began to dream of holistic, augmentative BCIs that enable effective communication and full environmental control; a complete mastery of technology purely by the mind which I refer to as “cyber-telekinesis”. The development of such BCIs is my ultimate career goal. I strive for originality and innovation.”
On behalf of everyone at The KITE Research Institute, congratulations Anita, John and Jae!