Dr. Audrey Zucker-Levin, University of Saskatchewan
Can you describe your area of research and how it is helping address a health-related issue in Saskatchewan?
Limb amputation imposes enormous burden and stress on persons, families, and the health care system. The leading cause is vascular disease, specifically in the presence of diabetes, followed by trauma, neoplasm, and congenital anomalies. The incidence of limb amputation in Saskatchewan is among the highest of all Canadian provinces and disproportionately impacts people of indigenous heritage. My research is largely patient oriented/driven and focuses on prevention of limb amputation by using walking aids to offload at risk limbs, identifying incidence and trends in limb amputation, and improving function in people with limb loss.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?
The patient-oriented nature of our research allows me to interact with people who have experienced limb loss, people at risk of limb loss, family members and health care providers. Exploring and ultimately addressing their needs to improve quality of life is very rewarding.
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely put a damper on patient interaction and data collection. Unfortunately, this is not unique to my work but has given me the opportunity to pause and evaluate the direction and resources available to continue the research and it has allowed me to connect and collaborate with researchers spanning Canada and the United States.
How did you first become interested in this area of research? What inspires you to do the work that you do?
My practice as a physical therapist for over 30 years has been working with people with limb loss. The technology in a prosthesis is fascinating but not easy to use and necessitates therapeutic intervention and training. Many people with limb loss are not able or willing to use a prosthesis and therefore require alternative interventions to maximize function. Identifying the appropriate prosthetic componentry to optimize function is both challenging and rewarding. Also, prevention of co-morbidity, including index and revision amputation, is key to quality of life.
Where is your research headed in the next five years?
When I arrived in Saskatchewan nearly 5 years ago, I began by connecting with clinicians, patients and researchers. I am very fortunate to have developed collaborations that have helped focus my research agenda. Additionally, we have received pan Canadian recognition with requests for collaborations and conference presentations. The next 5 years will bring together the ability to collect more data and ultimately make recommendations to the ministry of health to improve the health and well being of people facing limb loss.
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