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10/21/21 Dr. Kim Anderson-Erisman Awarded Neilsen Visionary Prize

Kim Anderson-Erisman, PhD, a professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at MetroHealth Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, has received the 2021 Neilsen Visionary Prize awarded by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation.

She is one of three people honored this year by the foundation, the largest private funder of spinal cord injury (SCI) research, education, clinical training and programmatic support in the U.S. and Canada.

The Neilsen Visionary Prize "celebrates influential voices who show great potential to expand or advocate for new ideas for those living with a disability," and its recipients reflect qualities "from being unafraid to take bold risks, to boundless determination and passion, to the ability to inspire others," the foundation said in its October 20 announcement.

The honor comes with a $1 million unrestricted prize.

"Pure shock," Dr. Anderson-Erisman said she felt when the foundation's leaders broke the news during a Zoom meeting earlier this month, then asked her to keep it confidential until the announcement was released.

"To be thought of a visionary in my field is very humbling to me," said Dr. Anderson-Erisman, who joined MetroHealth in 2018. She is Director of the Northeast Ohio Regional SCI System based at the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute.

"For the last 16 or 17 years of my research, a huge part of it has been about bringing the voice of people with SCI into that research and making it better. I wanted to continually shape the research field to do important and potentially impactful work."

The other two recipients of the 2021 Neilsen Visionary Prize are Wesley Hamilton, whose nonprofit Disabled But Not Really (DBNR) Foundation focuses on fitness and nutrition, support for adaptive athletes and community service programs that highlight the underserved "disabled" community; and Alice Sheppard, an internationally recognized dancer, award-winning choreographer and founder of the disability arts ensemble Kinetic Light.

"That's part of the wonderfulness of this prize," Dr. Anderson-Erisman said. "There are a lot of people in the SCI community who are doing such amazing work.

"I didn't do all of these things for the hope that someone would give me money," she said. "I did them because it's the right thing to do, it's so needed in the SCI community."

Dr. Anderson-Erisman was 17 years old when she sustained a spinal cord injury in a car accident. Her research has focused on translational investigations and bridging the gap between basic science, clinical science, and those living with spinal cord injury. And, it is informed with her own perspective of living with a spinal cord injury.

"It's not enough to just do research", she said. "Is it really going to make any difference in someone's life? That's the perspective I come from and why I go against the grain. My drive has been that, in my lifetime, I want to make things better for other people with SCI."

One such study is following veterans and civilians with SCI, and a family member or support person, in the first year after injury. The goal is to gain a better understanding of their experience — how they define recovery and success and the struggles they face. That study is a collaboration between researchers at MetroHealth, CWRU and the Veterans Affairs Northeast Ohio Health System.

Another study is looking into whether electrical stimulation is more effective than physical therapy in helping individuals with SCI gain use of their arms. Dr. Anderson-Erisman, in collaboration with Dr. James Wilson, is leading the trial at the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute (MRI). Other participating centers include Houston, Toronto and Vancouver.

In addition to supporting MetroHealth's SCI fellowship program for the past several years, the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation has provided financial support to MetroHealth's driver rehabilitation program. In 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the foundation's Emergency Relief Fund also helped MetroHealth address the needs of more than 200 people living with spinal cord injury at high risk for contracting COVID-19.

09/08/21 Spinal Cord Injury System receives $2.3 million grant

The Northeast Ohio Spinal Cord Injury System (NORSCIS) program was recently renewed as one of only 14 federally designated Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Model Systems Centers in the nation. This designation comes with a $2.3 million grant over five years from the National Institutes on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). MetroHealth's spinal cord injury program is the only one in Ohio to receive the designation.

NIDILRR awards SCI Model Systems Center grants to institutions that are national leaders in medical research and patient care. It continues to put MetroHealth on the map as a nationally recognized leader in SCI care and research.

The NORSCIS is operated with Case Western Reserve University. The program is led by Kim Anderson, PhD, and James Wilson, DO, faculty in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) and the MetroHealth Center for Rehabilitation Research.

"For more than a half century, MetroHealth has been Northeast Ohio's leader in care for individuals with spinal cord injury," said John Chae, MD, MetroHealth Vice President of Research and Sponsored Programs and Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation "We provide the highest level of comprehensive specialty services to patients with spinal cord injury, from the point of injury through rehabilitation and into the community as they regain quality of life."

MetroHealth's Rehabilitation Institute was recently recognized by U.S News & World Report as #24 in the nation and #1 in Ohio for the care of patients recovering from complex conditions such as SCI, stroke, traumatic brain injury and critical burns. Last year, Newsweek designated the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute as one of our nation's best rehabilitation hospitals.

The Northeast Ohio Regional Spinal Cord Injury System (NORSCIS) program at MetroHealth is focused on generating new knowledge to improve the lives of individuals with traumatic SCI. We accomplish this through research and treatment, drawing on more than 20 years' experience as a Level 1 Adult Trauma Center.

NORSCIS provides a comprehensive continuum of care for individuals with SCI that includes emergency medical services, acute care services, acute medical rehabilitation services, and post-acute services; conducts high quality research that is targeted at reducing the health burden of SCI by generating evidence-based interventions; and contributes significant numbers of under-represented minorities to the National SCI Database.

The site-specific research project will test the feasibility of early administration of gabapentin (a drug used to control seizures and pain) to enhance neurologic recovery. This multi-disciplinary grant includes co-investigators Drs. Christina Oleson (PM&R), Michael Kelly (Neurological Surgery), Nimitt Patel (Trauma), and Douglas Gunzler (Population Health). 

Dr. Anderson is a Professor of PM&R and Dr. Wilson is an Assistant Professor of PM&R at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. 

07/21/21 Dr. Kilgore awarded $2.6 million NIH grant to develop an implanted device to measure health status

Kevin Kilgore, PhD, staff scientist in the departments of Orthopaedics and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), was awarded a $2.6M, 4-year grant from National Institutes of Health. The goal of the project is to develop an implanted device that can measure health status and predict disease states.

The proposed implanted device, called the "Lifeline", measures parameters such as body temperature, photoplethysmogram, electrocardiogram, audio, and acceleration. Taken together, these measures may be able to predict the early onset of autonomic dysreflexia (specific to spinal cord injury (SCI)), pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and pulmonary embolism.

These comorbidities are among the top causes of death in SCI. Early treatment may prevent them from progressing to life-threatening conditions. The Lifeline device will be incorporated into an existing modular implant system that Dr. Kilgore's team has previously developed, called the "Networked Neuroprosthesis."

Dr. Kilgore is the P. Hunter Peckham and George J. Picha Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Dept. of Orthopaedics and PM&R, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU).

His co-investigators include Niloy Bhadra, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, Dept. PM&R, CWRU; Michael Fu, PhD, Assistant Professor, Dept. Electrical, Computer & Systems Engineering and PM&R, CWRU; Pedram Mohseni, PhD, Professor of Electrical, Computer, & Systems Engineering, CWRU; Laleh Najafizadeh, PhD, Associate Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Rutgers University; and Brian Smith, BScHons, Director of Implant Development, Biomedical Engineering, CWRU.