Prestigious honour recognizes Dr. Geoff Fernie's contributions to making the world a better place for people living with disabilities.

Toronto (Oct. 19, 2008) - Dr. Geoff Fernie, vice president, research, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (Toronto Rehab) will join the ranks of celebrated Canadians as an inductee into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame on October 21, 2008.

This honour is being bestowed upon Dr. Fernie in recognition of the many contributions his research has made to improving the lives of people with disabilities in Canada and around the world. Armed with an engineering background and a passion to help people, he is the pioneer behind a wide range of assistive devices and technology for people living with disabilities. "People with disabilities face problems with common activities," says Dr. Fernie. "I look for unique and creative ways to help these people regain functionality, independence and greater quality of life."

Dr. Fernie's inventions include a powered wheelchair that can move in all directions, including sideways, making it easier for people who use wheelchairs to negotiate small spaces; a battery-powered lift that helps caregivers move patients without hurting themselves; and a simple device that increases the height of a toilet seat easily and discreetly, which makes an immense difference for people who have had joint replacements or injuries that make it difficult to sit on a toilet of traditional height.

Dr. Fernie's passion to help people living with disabilities started during his undergraduate years in Scotland when he worked at a combination school and hospital for children with disabilities. He witnessed the challenges many of the students faced in their daily lives and knew that there must be practical solutions that would help meet these challenges. Years later, as a research fellow in Canada, he founded the Orthotic/Prosthetic Technician Program at George Brown College, a program unique to Ontario that trains students how to develop and fit orthoses and prostheses for people with disabilities.

Constantly wanting to improve the lives of people with disabilities and encourage them to pursue greatness, Dr. Fernie created a scholarship to support graduate students with disabilities who are interested in careers in rehabilitation research. The scholarship provides the students with the opportunity to hone their research skills and train under outstanding scientists while benefiting from the mentoring and educational supports that they may need due to their disabilities.

"Dr. Fernie is not afraid to think big. His willingness to tackle even the most stubborn of challenges makes him a driving force in the field of rehabilitation science," says Dr. Catharine Whiteside, dean and professor, faculty of medicine and vice provost relations with Health Care Institutions, University of Toronto.

This ability to - think big -  Dr. Fernie to develop a new one-of-a-kind research facility, iDAPT (Intelligent Design for Adaptation, Participation and Technology) that is currently being constructed at Toronto Rehab's University Centre. The 60,000 square feet facility, which is set to be operational by 2011, will be one of the world's largest and most advanced rehabilitation research and development facilities. It will be the first facility to contain simulators that will allow researchers to study the challenges people with disabilities face in their daily lives. A better understanding of these challenges will help researchers develop advanced tools and devices to overcome them.

Mark Rochon, president and CEO, Toronto Rehab, says, "Dr. Fernie is a tireless champion of those whose lives are affected by congenital conditions, disabling injury and illness, and progressive degenerative disease. Everyone at Toronto Rehab is proud that his work is being recognized and celebrated by the Terry Fox Hall of Fame."

The Terry Fox Hall of Fame was created to recognize Canadians who have made extraordinary personal contributions to assist or enhance the lives of people with physical disabilities.

What: Terry Fox Hall of Fame induction ceremony
When: Tuesday, October 21, 2008, noon
Where: Fairmont Royal York Hotel
Who: Dr. Geoff Fernie, Toronto Rehab

About Toronto Rehab

Toronto Rehab celebrates its 10th Anniversary in 2008. Canada's largest teaching and research hospital specializing in adult rehabilitation, complex continuing care and long-term care, Toronto Rehab has a legacy of excellence that extends beyond a decade and is rooted in more than 350 years of collective service by its founding hospitals. Each year, Toronto Rehab's patient care, research and education programs make a difference in the lives of more than 15,000 people living with disabling injury, illness and conditions associated with aging.

Media Contact

Phone: 416 340 4636
Email: UHN.News@uhn.ca

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