From the day she started practising physical therapy, Dr. Sukhvinder Kalsi-Ryan never wanted to settle for what's second best for patients.
And she hasn't.
Early in her career, Dr. Kalsi-Ryan noticed gaps in rehabilitative care and innovation. Taking the suggestion of a colleague, she committed to filling these gaps by becoming the entrepreneur, clinician, researcher and teacher she is today.
"Early on in my career, I treated so many patients with tetraplegia and believed that there was more we could do to restore upper limb function" says Dr. Kalsi-Ryan. Tetraplegia is a condition in which patients have some degree of paralysis in all four limbs.
As the lead of the Rocket Family Upper Extremity Clinic at Toronto Rehab, Lyndhurst Centre, she helps stroke and spinal cord injury patients regain hand and arm function.
"Dr. Kalsi-Ryan truly cares about the well-being of each and every patient and has shown exemplary leadership in getting innovation to the clinic," says Dr. Milos R. Popovic, Director, The Kite Research Institute at Toronto Rehab.
Located at both Toronto Rehab's Lyndhurst and University Centre locations, the Rocket Clinic is a great place to change how and to whom care is delivered and provide patients with accessibility to innovation, Dr. Kalsi-Ryan says.
At the Rocket Clinic, anyone with deficits to upper extremity function as a result of stroke, spinal cord injury, traumatic or acquired brain injury can benefit from cutting edge rehabilitation therapy programs.
The clinic's Lyndhurst Centre location focuses on providing care to spinal cord injury patients, while its University Centre location treats patients affected by stroke.
Celebrating first anniversary of operation with open house tomorrow night
"One of the most meaningful things that you can give back to these patients is their hand function," says Dr. Kalsi-Ryan.
To help do this, with the help of an international team, she developed a clinical assessment tool called GRASSP (Graded Redefined Assessment of Sensation, Strength and Prehension) and founded her own company, Neural Outcomes Consulting Inc.
"At the Rocket Clinic, we get to be more creative, ingenious, try different things, and exploit discovery," says Dr. Kalsi-Ryan.
On Tuesday, the Rocket Clinic is celebrating its first year of operation by hosting an evening open house at Lyndhurst.
The open house program includes a tour of the clinical space, presentations from Dr. Kalsi-Ryan and Dr. Cesar Marquez-Chin, a scientist at The Kite Research Institute, and a story of the journey to recovery from a grateful patient of the Rocket Clinic.
Dr. Kalsi-Ryan says the next step is to build more awareness.
"It's important for people to know where they can go for upper extremity therapy," she says. "We offer innovative, non-conventional therapy that is really not accessible anywhere else.
"Over the next 10 years, if we can get scientific discovery translated to the clinic, patients with paralysis can become more independent.
"We've done it before. It is the most rewarding work."