A pat on the back (and spine) for Rehab Med PhD grad

Martha Funabashi's passion for spine research is here to stay in Edmonton.

Amanda McCarthy - 8 June 2016

Martha Funabashi had a plan five years ago. She was going to travel to Edmonton, Alberta to complete her PhD in Rehabilitation Science and then return to her native country of Brazil to completely revolutionize how she was conducting her research-or so she thought.

Fast forward five years and the University of Alberta grad's plan is not quite the same anymore. Though she will be convocating with a PhD in Rehabilitation Science from the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine on June 10, her journey is just beginning.

"After a few years of immersing myself in the Canadian way of living, I changed my mind [about going back to Brazil]," Funabashi explains. "I gained the courage to follow my career wherever it will take me."

Funabashi has accepted a post-doctorate position at the U of A's Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. Before her move in 2010, Funabashi completed her MSc in Neuroscience and spent time practicing in a rehabilitation clinic in Brazil. It was her pursuit of knowledge, mainly in the area of spine research that drew her to Canada and the PhD program in rehabilitation science.

"I wanted to come to Edmonton to learn more about spinal manipulation so I could apply it to my position in Brazil," she says. "I had a friend here completing her master's, so knowing I had someone to help guide me made the decision a little easier."

Adjusting to the major cultural change was a challenge, says Funabashi. For someone who is not well-versed with city transportation or road systems, getting to and from school can be a task. But with the help of a new-found community, she transitioned quite smoothly.

"My friend introduced me to some Brazilian people in the area and they kind of adopted me," she laughs. "I also made some Canadian and international friends who also eased the transition."

"They helped me understand the Canadian way of life, and I was able to get situated a lot quicker than if I had been trying to learn it all on my own."

But the Canadian and Edmonton cultures weren't the only new things Funabashi was experiencing-she also discovered a passion for basic biomechanics of spinal manipulative therapy.

Funabashi's interest in learning more about spinal manipulation was sparked while she was in her clinical practice back in Brazil. She saw people recovering from ankle problems after lumbar spine treatment, and couldn't help but become invested.

"My PhD research is based on manipulation of the spine, which is a topic I find extremely interesting," she gushes. "I have never experienced such excitement and curiosity when it comes to research."

"I'm learning a lot of new things and answering questions that can only be answered with the technology we have at the U of A."

Although leaving her home in search of new opportunities was tough, Funabashi feels as though her time in Edmonton has been worthwhile.

"Studying in Edmonton and at the U of A has definitely made me a better researcher," she says. "Not only because of the experience I've been able to gain, but also the development of my skills when it comes to thinking outside of the box."

With her current post as a post-doc fellow and with her motivation to make breakthroughs in the field of spinal manipulation, Funabashi has no plans of leaving anytime soon.

"I'd like to stay in Edmonton, since this is the city that has taught me so much about Canada, and life in general," she says. "This is where I discovered my passion, and I'm grateful for that."

"Plus, all of the great features Edmonton has to offer are hard to give up," she smiles. "I love the festivals, walking up and down Whyte Avenue and through the river valley. This is definitely a city I want to keep enjoying, and I plan to."


The Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine Spring Convocation Awards Ceremony and Reception
will take place on Friday, June 10 from 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
The Awards Ceremony will take place from 1:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. in room 2-39 CH
The Reception will take place from 1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. in room 2-44 CH

Join us after the University of Alberta Spring Convocation for our faculty awards ceremony and reception. We look forward to celebrating your accomplishments with your family and friends.