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Miami Project Scientist Receives Highest Rank Grant Award from the PVA


Rachel Cowan, Ph.D.February 2010 – Rachel Cowan, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Mark Nash at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, received the Fritz Krauth Memorial Fellowship for her new grant funded by the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Research Foundation 2010 grant cycle. Dr. Cowan’s grant is titled “Barriers & Participation after SCI: Relationship with Fitness & Mobility”. It is known that manual wheelchair users commonly report poor fitness and the physical environment as barriers to achieving their desired level of participation in the community.  Dr. Cowan hypothesizes that a person’s fitness and wheelchair self-propulsion ability are related to their participation, view of the environment as a barrier, and choices to avoid environmental barriers (such as curbs or ramps).  In addition to her scientific expertise, she has extensive personal knowledge about this topic because she has a spinal cord injury herself; she utilizes a manual wheelchair for mobility and balances participation and environmental barriers on a daily basis. Her long-term research goal is to facilitate participation by improving fitness and/or self-propulsion capacity, thereby enabling persons with SCI to independently navigate environmental features which were previously unconquerable.   


All men and women with SCI who self-propel a manual wheelchair could benefit from this project because, regardless of injury level, fitness and propulsion skill can be improved.  First, she will determine which fitness characteristic, endurance or power, best relates to participation, ability to self propel, perceived environmental barrier, and choices to avoid barriers.  Then she will determine the relationship between self-propulsion ability and participation, environmental barriers, and avoidance of environmental barriers. She will also test the quality of a new measure of self-propulsion.


The Fritz Krauth Memorial Fellowship is an endowed fellowship awarded to the highest scoring grant application during each granting cycle of the PVA Research Foundation.  Dr. Cowan’s grant was ranked highest out of all submitted fellowship grants.  She is being featured on this month’s edition of Paraplegia News and will travel to Orlando, FL on February 16, 2010 to receive a plaque in honor of her award at the PVA Research Foundation Board of Directors meeting.  She has also been invited to speak about her research findings in February at the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD) annual general meeting in Vancouver, Canada and in September at the Academy of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals (ASCIPRO) annual meeting in Las Vegas, NV.  Congratulations to Dr. Cowan for this excellent achievement!



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