Assistant Staff, Cleveland Clinic, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University, Department of Biomedical Engineering
My undergraduate degree was in Biomechanics and Sport Rehabilitation at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. After graduating and working several years in industry in Nova Scotia, I went back to school to complete my PhD in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Calgary with Drs. Cy Frank (MD) and Nigel Shrive (DEng). My thesis work investigated what happens to the knee joint biomechanically and biologically after either anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or meniscus injury in a large animal model. Afterwards, I stayed in Calgary to do a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Janet Ronsky (PhD) where I used biplane videoradiography to explore whether the mechanical mechanisms that were associated with cartilage damage in the animal model were conserved in the clinical condition (preliminary evidence suggested they were). After many years in Calgary, I then joined Dr. Braden Fleming’s (PhD) laboratory at Rhode Island Hospital/Brown University as a postdoctoral fellow. While there, I continued to expand my experience using biplane videoradiography techniques as well as quantitative MR imaging approaches for ligament.
Who has been (have been) your mentor(s)?
I’ve been so fortunate to have exceptional mentors throughout my training – too many to name here! – but the most influential have been Drs. Cy Frank, Nigel Shrive and Braden Fleming.
Specific Area of Interest
Joint biomechanics, soft tissue function and post-traumatic osteoarthritis
What are you currently working on?
We’re currently developing an in vivo animal model of the “ideal” ACL reconstruction to explore the extent that changes in biology in an initially stable joint may negatively impact ACL graft function, and thereby possibly promote abnormal joint motion and cartilage damage.
What has been the biggest challenge/issue for you lately in your research?
COVID-19 has provided a set of unique challenges for our nascent lab group that works closely together as a team. I think when you’re a small laboratory just starting out with only a few members, having a one or two people either needing to work from home or transition to different roles to accommodate varying levels of institutional restrictions or personal choices makes a huge impact in your ability to carry out the science, especially when it’s large animal work. We’re learning to be flexible and to think of alternative approaches while accepting that the milestones and timelines we laid out for the project will be moving targets. Supporting the physical health and mental wellbeing of my lab members comes first.
What project(s) are you looking forward to in the near future?
There’s a number of research projects related to MR imaging, basic science, and computation modeling that I’m keen to get started as a new faculty member, but I’m most excited about the clinical biplane videoradiography lab that we’re building at the Cleveland Clinic to complement the translational research arm we developed over the last few years. It’s been fun to design the new lab space from the ground up.
Who would you like to see interviewed in this column?
I would love to see Martha Murray interviewed. I have tremendous respect for her as a female a clinician-scientist, and now Orthopaedic Surgeon-in-Chief at Boston Children’s Hospital. I am inspired by her relentless determination to see her bridge enhanced ACL repair (BEAR) concept through from bench to bedside while at the same time being humble about what an accomplishment that is.
When not in the lab, what do you like to do for fun?
In the summer, I spend a lot of time on a bicycle… and throw some running and swimming into the mix for variety. In the winters, I’m a mountain enthusiast and love alpine skiing. I try to get back “home” to the Canadian Rockies at few times during the ski season.
What was the last book you read for fun? Would you recommend it?
“From the Ashes” by Jesse Thistle. I read it in about 3 or 4 sittings; I couldn’t put the book down.
What is the most unusual/unexpected item sitting on your desk right now?
A piggy bank. It was a gift when I finished with Dr. Fleming and is a bit of inside joke because when I was in his group, I worked with Yucatan minipigs; but I also joked about how good I was at spending his grant money. Now I have to spend my own money, and hence need to count my pennies!