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Putting the 'talent' in KITE: restart edition

Get to know the restart team, who has been working tirelessly to ensure our safety on-site and to move research forward during this new ‘normal’.

In March, many of us thought shutting down all our in-person research operations would be the hardest thing to do, but as it turns out, restarting our research enterprise safely was even more difficult. 

With rapid response and excellent leadership, we quickly put together a core restart team consisting of many specialized groups, with a focus on moving research forward safely and productively, despite the difficult circumstances. 

With representation from just about every group at KITE and Toronto Rehab, the restart team consists of clinicians, scientists, management and staff with a wide range of skills and insights on safety, education, infection prevention, facilities, operations, etc.  

Let’s meet our stars, who have gone above and beyond their call of duty to help the team at KITE move forward: 

Rabea Aryan has been championing the voice of the KITE trainees and making sure no stone is left unturned.  

Tess del Mundo and Treesa Joseph have been instrumental in ensuring that on-site operational activity continues as planned. Thanks to Tess and Treesa, everyone who ordered a KITE mask got one in the mail. 

Dr. Andrea Furlan has been, and continues to be an exceptional leader in clinical research restart as KITE Site Lead. 

Al-Karim Rehemtula, Nefeteria Wickham, Stephanie Iwasa, Steve Pong and Mohsen Gharakanlou have been about protocols, protocols, protocols since day one. This team has developed all the restart protocols that are enabling the KITE family to keep safe when they’re working on-site. 

Majid Janidarmian has helped the team bring our ideas to life, leading all web projects and ensuring KITE has an effective “Return to Work” contact tracing app.   

Susan Gorski, Dr. Dinesh Kumbhare, Dr. Julio Furlan and Dr. Sukhvinder Kalsi-Ryan have helped build a foundation for KITE Safety and contributed immensely to the Kite Virtual Safety Education session.  

David Langelier, Susan Marzolini, Sarah Munce, Andrew Turner, and Jose Zariffa are KITE’s Clinical Research Division Leads who have been instrumental in leading the reactivation of clinical research at KITE. 

Special shout-out to Susan Marzolini’s PhD student, Lais Vanzella, who has been volunteering to help other researchers facilitate their restart activities by doing some on-site administrative tasks while conducting her own research. This has helped to considerably reduce the need for researchers to come on-site. 

Aaron Ming has helped tremendously in setting up a safe and operational restart. For him, no excel sheet or game plan is too complex!


Jarrett Churchill and Talar Nersesian have been the masterminds of communication, ensuring that the wider KITE team stays up-to-date with the most important information, through social media and institute-wide messaging.  

Darek Wojtowicz, Brijeish Alagh and Maziar Hafezi are the powerful IT trio that work really hard behind the scenes. Their hard work ensures that our institute is able to move forward with our mission despite all current challenges. They work tirelessly, harnessing all their energy and skills to meet the needs of our KITE community. They do whatever it takes to get the job done, and having them on our team makes all the difference.

Simon Rustin and Ryan Ramkalawan lead software development at KITE, and they’re always raising the bar. Their outstanding performance in updating our website and designing web applications helped KITE reach greater heights. 

Janitha Shanmugarajan has been so gracefully turning the complex into simple with an unmatched level of calm!

Esther Oostdyk, Derek Song, Mary Lam, Lois Ward, Vera Zivanovic and Shoshana Teitelman have brought some much needed calm, wisdom, guidance and reason to the team during the heavy pandemic storm. 

Andrew Turner has played a huge role in restarting both clinical and non-clinical research and activating our KITE Facilities. The restart team has been counting on Andrew’s attention to detail for unmatched feedback and advice.

Sophia (Yue) Li has led and coordinated the distribution of PPE among our facility. Thanks to her, each lab has the right amount of PPE they need to keep safe when on-site. 

Anthony Palma patiently led and managed the entire restart team and was involved in each and every project from start to finish. His expertise in operations and project management led to the success of every KITE restart priority. His attention to detail, determination and enthusiasm kept the team going, even they thought they couldn't.

Last, but certainly not least, our director, Dr. Milos Popovic has prioritized the well-being of each and every trainee, staff member, scientist and clinician on the team. He has spared no effort to connect with every member of the KITE family in an empathetic and personal way. No matter the circumstance, Milos always continues to remind us to have fun! 

On behalf of the entire KITE community, thank you so much to the restart team for their hard work and commitment to moving research forward safely amidst this pandemic. In the end, it is our unmatched talent that makes us Canada’s top rehab research institute, and we're proud of that.