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TRI Scholarship: Recipients

Current Recipients

Stefania Moro

Stefania Moro is the first researcher to study auditory and visual processing in a rare group of patients - those who have had one eye surgically removed at a young age due to cancer. Stefania believes that people with a sensory deficit can be trained to adapt, which in turn will result in rich perceptual experiences and less stress on their remaining senses.

Her research explores crossmodal plasticity - or how people with one eye adapt - and whether or not other senses are enhanced and thus compensate for the loss. With support from the scholarship Stefania completed her M.A. in Psychology and is currently undertaking her PhD in Psychology at York University.

Stefania appreciates firsthand the importance of a typically developing visual system, and of achieving a normal sensory experience throughout life. As a child, she suffered a traumatic injury to her left eye.

A former recipient of the Dean's Award of Appreciation for Excellence in Student Leadership and the Walter and Wayne Gretzky Scholarship, Stefania has received a host of other awards for her impressive academic achievement and extensive community service. She has already presented her findings at the highly prestigious international conference of the Vision Sciences Society in Naples, Florida, as well as at the International Multisensory Research Forum in Fukuoka, Japan and Liverpool, UK, and at the International Conference on Plastic Vision in Toronto.

Ivan Solano

After training at the top-ranked University of the Philippines, Ivan Solano began his career as a Physiotherapist. While assisting patients strengthen muscles, improve balance and return to walking, he realized the importance of the built environment and assistive devices in helping people with disabilities attain their goals. His focus became environmental design and assistive technology. Ivan pursued a Masters in Design and Ergonomics at Japan’s Kyushu University, researching wheelchair propulsion on ramps.

A PhD candidate in the University of Toronto’s Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Science, Ivan was awarded the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute Scholarship in Rehabilitation-related Research for Graduate Students with Disabilities as he investigates the use of rollators on ramps among the elderly, and the role of the upper extremities in maintaining balance and mobility.

Ivan was previously awarded an Ontario Graduate Scholarship, and several competitive international academic awards, including the prestigious Panasonic Scholarship Award (Japan), which is awarded to a very select group of young academics in Asia.

Ivan has a working memory deficit, a form of a learning disability, which affects processing and recall of information. He strongly believes that despite the challenges that people with disabilities face, they can achieve and use their personal understanding for the benefit of humanity in creating more inclusive and usable environments.

Meagan Warnica

As Meagan Warnica embarked on her Masters of Science in Biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, she was awarded the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute Scholarship in Rehabilitation-related Research for Graduate Students with Disabilities, as well as an Ontario Graduate Scholarship. In the laboratory Meagan will use experimental, mechanical, and mathematical modelling to simulate falls and to assess their impact on the three most common injury locations for seniors – the head, hip and wrist. She hopes her findings will help minimize both the frequency and severity of falls.

Meagan graduated on the Dean’s Honours List with an Honours Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, completing her thesis on the “Influence of Ankle Stiffness on Balance Control Mechanisms during Quiet Stance”. Meagan was awarded the Dean’s Entrance Scholarship upon entrance to the University of Waterloo.

In 2005 Meagan was a passenger in a motor vehicle collision, which resulted in chronic low back pain and a traumatic brain injury. The experience gave her a greater understanding of how injuries and disability can affect quality of life and contributed to her research interests in injury prevention.

Past Recipients

Eric Wan

Eric Wan received the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute Scholarship in Rehabilitation-related Research for Graduate Students with Disabilities from 2010 to 2012 as he pursued his Masters of Applied Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto. His research focused on the development of a body-machine interface to enable the communication of individuals with severe physical disabilities through selective auditory attention.

A former student of the violin who believed that playing music was important to every child as it facilitated creative thinking, Eric was excited to open up that possibility to children with severe disabilities. He led a team of students in developing and commercializing innovative software called the “Virtual Music Instrument” (VMI), which allowed children who could not manipulate conventional instruments to play music. The VMI won the prestigious da Vinci Award in 2010.

Eric was also awarded the REMAD Scholarship from 2007-2012, and the Centennial Thesis Award during his Bachelor of Applied Science in recognition of excellence in his Design Project thesis work.

Eric, who said he “appreciates the beauty of every piece of technology around me, to an extent not many other people do”, personally benefited from the discoveries of assistive technology scientists. Hospitalized at eighteen years of age, several days after a measles vaccination, he was diagnosed with Acute Transverse Myelitis, an autoimmune neurological disorder that caused paralysis from the shoulders down and respiratory weakness. Assistive devices, such as an adaptive switch that allowed Eric to use the phone soon after he was paralyzed, and the head-tracking device and tiny reflective sticker on his glasses that he uses today to control his computer, enabled him to regain independence and pursue higher education.

Jason Angel

With support from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute Scholarship in Rehabilitation-related Research for Graduate Students with Disabilities, Jason Angel pursued his Master’s at the University of Waterloo in the Environmental Studies’ Tourism Policy and Planning program.

Jason’s research focused on improving accessibility in tourism for people with mobility impairments. His love for travel and the outdoors continued after a car crash left him with a spinal cord injury, requiring the use of a wheelchair.

Recognizing not only the importance of access to people with disabilities, but also the enormous potential economic impact on the tourism industry, he audited accessibility at five parks in southern Ontario, comparing site conditions with stated access.

With awards for Superior Achievement in Geography, Jason graduated Summa Cum Laude from Salem State University. As an undergraduate, he presented his findings of an ethnographic study of accessible tourism in the American southwest at the National Convention of the American Association of Geographers. Jason was awarded the University of Waterloo’s Environmental Studies Graduate Experience Award and an International Masters Student Award. In addition to the distinction of being on the Dean's List at Salem State University, he has received several other awards, including The James J. Centorino Memorial Award for Superior Achievement in Geography and The Dr. John George Memorial Award for Scholarship and Service in Geography.

Alexandra Arnold-Oatley

Growing up as a child with cerebral palsy gave Alexandra Arnold-Oatley a unique perspective on the impact that rehabilitation can have on people's lives. Alexandra has wanted to be a scientist and researcher since she was a teenager. She is now a Ph.D. student in York University's Clinical-Development Psychology Program.

With a strong record of academic and research achievements, Alexandra graduated with distinction from McMaster University's Psychology Specialist Program with an Honours Bachelor of Science. As a graduate student at York University, her Master of Arts thesis examined students with physical disabilities adaptation to university life.

Her Ph.D. research investigates facial emotion perception in people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) with a goal to develop a treatment to allow people to recognize facial emotions more accurately. Social isolation is often the biggest problem reported by people with TBI after their injury. Losing the ability to detect happiness, anger, sadness or boredom can lead to many serious misunderstandings.

Alexandra has trained at the Hospital for Sick Children and the Simcoe County District School Board. She developed her research skills while working in McMaster's Health Information Research Unit and the Adaptation to Chronic Illness Project at the Hospital for Sick Children.

In addition to receiving the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute Scholarship in Rehabilitation-related Research for Graduate Students with Disabilities, Alexandra was previously awarded a Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and three Ontario Graduate Scholarships.

Anita Kaiser

Anita Kaiser completed her Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Science through the University of Toronto with the support of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute Scholarship in Rehabilitation-related Research for Graduate Students with Disabilities. Her Master thesis titled “Use of Assistive Devices by Parents with a Spinal Cord Injury: A Preliminary Investigation from the User’s Perspective”, focused on understanding the experiences and challenges facing parents with spinal cord injury with a view to improving the care they receive from health care professionals and the assistive technologies and devices they use.

Anita always wanted to go into the field of rehabilitation. She was planning on becoming a physiotherapist or chiropractor after completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Chemistry and Biology at Ryerson University, but after a car crash in 1996 left her paralyzed from the chest down, she turned her focus to rehabilitation research.

Anita has served as a Research Assistant at Toronto Rehab’s Lyndhurst Centre, working on several different research projects, writing over 20 articles, and attending numerous conferences to present her team’s research. She has been the recipient of the Chemical Faculty Award, the Copnick/Hillard Scholarship Award, the Canadian Paraplegic Association Peer Support Volunteer Award, and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation Graduate Studentship.

Over the years, Anita has applied her considerable skills to community service volunteering with the Canadian Spinal Research Organization (CSRO), the Canadian Paraplegic Association (CPA), and SMARTRISK.

Gail Kunkel

Toronto Rehab’s scholarship program supported Gail Kunkel in her Ph.D. in Psychology at York University. Her thesis focused on gaining a better understanding of the factors that affect the reproductive health and psychological well being of all women during the course of their reproductive lives. Her primary focus was on pregnancy and the mental health issues that pregnant women with disabilities face. Gail was particularly interested in understanding the effects of early depression and trauma on subsequent developmental stages.

Gail has a spinal injury and progressive spinal degeneration. The experiences and lessons she gained in her real-life classroom ignited her passion to pursue advanced studies in the field of women's mental health and rehabilitation.

Gail is also interested in investigating developmental outcomes for persons with disabilities from a human rights perspective. She contributed to a project, entitled, "The Landscape of Literacy and Disability in Canada", which explores the possible links between disability and literacy.

Over the past thirty years, Gail has provided leadership, group facilitation, and volunteer hours to several projects and community-based organizations. She has been the recipient of several awards, including two Ontario Graduate Scholarships and the Soroptimist Foundation Grant.

Her research background is complemented by clinical experience and training gained at a variety of clinical settings, including Toronto Rehab, Surrey Place Centre, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and the Counseling and Learning Skills Services Centre at the University of Toronto.

Laura Moll

Laura Moll was an inaugural recipient of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute Scholarship in Rehabilitation-related Research for Graduate Students with Disabilities, having first received the award in 2006. She completed her Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science at the University of Toronto in 2011.

Laura’s aspirations were rooted in her successful recovery after sustaining a traumatic brain injury and permanent injuries to her left arm and leg in a car crash when she was six years old. Laura’s research interests have been influenced by her experience growing up with a disability. Her Ph.D. research focuses on the experience of individuals growing older with cerebral palsy.

Laura trained as a Rehabilitation Counsellor, and completed an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology and a Master of Social Work degree. With over 10 years experience as a social worker in the field of disability and aging, Laura has worked as a Counsellor for students with disabilities in the post-secondary sector and as a social worker in long-term care.

In addition to receiving Toronto Rehab’s scholarship, Laura has been the recipient of the Helen and George Coward Award in Gerontology, the North Water Award, The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute Scholarship Fund, and the Lexicon Award.

Over the past twenty-five years, Laura has also applied her considerable skills to community service, volunteering with Bloorview Kids Rehab, the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, and the Benard Betal Centre for Creative Living.

Nadine Richard

An exceptional graduate student, Nadine Richard is completing her Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Toronto.

Nadine’s research interest lies in how different brain areas talk to each other when processing new information and integrating it with memories, goals and other internal information before responding. She looks at a combination of a person’s behaviour and their brain activity to understand how the brain recovers or adapts over the course of rehabilitation.

Nadine works with people who have experienced an acquired brain injury (ABI) or neurodegenerative disorder. She is currently working with people who are having difficulty with attention and memory due to multiple sclerosis.

She has trained in clinical neuropsychology at the Toronto Western Hospital and the Neurodevelopmental Program at Bloorview MacMillian Kids Rehab Centre, and has worked with scientists at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute, York University, and the University of Toronto.

Her excellent academic performance has been continually recognized as she is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including two Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Postgraduate Scholarships, the I.W. Killam Predoctoral Scholarship, Toronto Rehab’s Research Training Award for Students with Disabilities, several fellowships from the University of Toronto, and the Canadian Psychological Association Certificate of Academic Excellence.

Diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, Nadine looks forward to a fulfilling future in the emerging field of cognitive neurorehabilitation, and the opportunity to help maximize the recovery and functioning of people with ABI and neurodegenerative disorders.

Training Award Recipients

Toronto Rehab’s Training Award for Students with Disabilities provides an award of $5,000 to students with a strong record of academic and research accomplishments and a commitment to pursuing a career in rehabilitation research. It is presented in recognition of the recipient’s expected contribution to the field. A special competition is not held for this award.

Toronto Rehab is grateful for the support of TD Grants in Medical Excellence which has made this special award possible.

Kaley Roosen - recipient 2013/14 and 2007/08

Given her exceptional abilities, Kaley Roosen has distinguished herself as a stellar graduate student. A Rhodes Scholar finalist, Kaley Roosen completed her Masters in Clinical Psychology at York University with support from Toronto Rehab and the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Master’s Scholarship provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Born with muscular dystrophy, Kaley’s experiences as a person with a disability motivated her to pursue a career in rehabilitation research to try to help others in similar situations. Her Master's research was focused on understanding pain and how the experience varies based on interpersonal and emotional factors.

Kaley is currently completing her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at York University. She received a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Canadian Institutes of National Health to support her Doctoral research, which focuses on Body Image and Eating Disorders in people with disabilities. She also works as a Research Assistant at Toronto Rehab, examining Pain and Fracture research for individuals with spinal cord injury.

Reza Javaheri - recipient 2008/09

With support from Toronto Rehab, Reza Javaheri completed his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at Ryerson University. Reza developed practical technological solutions to address issues of great importance to people with disabilities. His research was geared toward stimulating muscles affected by paralysis.

A native of Iran, Reza knows first-hand what it is like to live with a physical disability. He contracted polio when he was two and has since used crutches as mobility aids.

In addition to receiving Toronto Rehab’s Training Award for Students with Disabilities in 2008/09, Reza was awarded an Ontario Graduate Scholarship in Science and Technology in 2009/10 and is a two-time recipient of Ryerson’s Graduate Research Excellence Award.

David Fourney - recipient 2007/08

As a person who is hard of hearing, David Fourney is well aware that there is little current research into the needs and experiences of deaf and hard of hearing captioning consumers. David is a Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Ryerson University with a strong passion about captioning. Proposing to explore how to caption for viewing TV on a computer, he will use ethnographic analysis and eye tracking data to assess different methods of captioning.

Nadine Richard - recipient 2007/08

An exceptional graduate student, Nadine Richard is completing her Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Toronto. Her research interests lie in evaluating and rehabilitating executive attention deficits in people with acquired brain injury (ABI). She uses various neuroimaging techniques to understand how attention networks in the brain recover or adapt over the course of rehabilitation.

Diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, Nadine looks forward to a fulfilling future in the emerging field of cognitive neurorehabilitation, and the opportunity to assist in the recovery of people with ABI.

Isaac Stein - recipient 2007/08

Isaac Stein is completing his Ph.D. in Adult Education and Counselling Psychology at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on the emotional and psychological aspects of disability on children and adolescents. Isaac hopes to pursue a career in disability-related counselling and research, utilizing his research to help create better-informed counselling services for youth with disabilities. Isaac’s strong personal commitment is grounded in his experiences growing up with a right hemiplegia resulting from cerebral palsy. He believes that there is no greater obstacle to advocacy and social change than the sense of shame foisted upon stigmatized populations by dominant groups or cultures.

In addition to completing his graduate studies, Isaac is working as a Disability Counsellor at the University of Toronto’s Accessibility Services. Since receiving the Training Award, he was awarded a Doctoral Fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.