Canada 150 Alumni Award in Rehabilitation

Invest in Graduate Students for a Healthier Canada

Help train the rehabilitation researchers and clinicians our society needs.

Gabriela Constantinescu, '05 BSc, '08 MSc

Project Overview

The expertise, research and innovations generated by rehabilitation medicine graduate students support active, healthy lifestyles and foster independence for those living with disability, injury or disease. As Canada's population ages, there is a growing need for services such as speech therapy for stroke survivors, physical therapy for people experiencing chronic pain, and occupational therapy to support aging-in-place.

Donor-supported scholarships remove financial barriers, facilitating students' quests for knowledge to improve quality of life for Canada's aging population.

The Need for Innovative Solutions

For most head and neck cancer patients a steak dinner is out of the question. Weakened swallowing muscles turn the simple pleasure of eating into a stressful and potentially life-threatening experience. While swallowing exercises can help build strength, barriers to treatment can impede the road to recovery.

Speech-language pathologist Gabriela Constantinescu, '05 BSc, '08 MSc, experienced this first hand while working at the Institute for Reconstructive Sciences in Medicine. She saw patients face long waits to get in to see clinicians, and found the therapy to be time-consuming and inconvenient - often requiring multiple visits a week to the clinic.

Frustrated with the status quo, she returned to the University of Alberta, her alma mater, to pursue a PhD in rehabilitation science and help make a lasting difference in her field.

Thinking Outside of the Clinic

"The PhD program has helped me become a better critical thinker. It has made me feel more confident to advocate for our patients and fight for changes to how we provide care," Constantinescu says. Along with a team of researchers and engineers, she is now developing a smartphone app to improve the lives of head and neck cancer patients.

The app connects to a small device under the patient's chin, which tracks the activity of muscles during swallowing exercises and provides real-time feedback. "It's like a FitBit, but for your swallow," explains Constantinescu. This makes it easier for patients to practise the exercises at home, while at the same time enabling clinicians to track progress remotely.

With more than 70 per cent of head and neck cancer patients suffering from swallowing difficulties, Constantinescu's research has the potential to improve the quality of life for thousands of Canadians by making therapy more accessible and effective.

The Impact of Your Donation

The rehabilitation needs for survivors of diseases such as cancer increases as our population ages. Seniors currently comprise approximately 17 per cent of the Canadian population, and by 2031 almost one-in-four Canadians will be 65 or older. Rehabilitation clinicians and researchers are needed to support active, healthy lifestyles and foster independence throughout a person's lifespan. Your investment in graduate students will help meet the demands of Canada's changing demographic.

How to Help

Together, we can improve the lives of those living with disability, injury or illness. Gifts to the Canada 150 Alumni Award in Rehabilitation endowment will help remove financial barriers for UAlberta alumni in the following graduate programs:

  • MSc/PhD in Rehabilitation Science
  • MSc in Speech-Language Pathology
  • MSc in Occupational Therapy
  • MSc in Physical Therapy

As Canada turns 150 in 2017, help set the direction for rehabilitation medicine for the next 150 years and beyond.

Invest in a Healthier Canada

Help train the rehabilitation researchers and clinicians our society needs.

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