Meet the Researcher

Dr. Sarah Donkers, University of Saskatchewan

Can you describe your area of research and how it is helping address a health-related issue in Saskatchewan?


I investigate rehabilitation interventions to promote neurorecovery and optimize function (particularly walking and balance) in individuals living with neurological disease or injury. In addition to studying innovative approaches and their mechanisms of effectiveness (i.e. looking at the ‘essential’ components and dosage influencing positive outcomes), I am very interesting in working with stakeholders to improve access to these interventions and overall evidence-based neurorehabilitation across Saskatchewan and Canada.


What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?


The continuous learning and building relationships with the neurorehab community across SK. I do primarily intervention research and I love being able to use my research to deliver a service that doesn’t currently exist, but then using what we learn through research to try and improve the services that do exist. I’m continuously learning from the individuals that volunteer to be a part of my research studies as they bring a wealth of knowledge from their lived-experience.


What is the most challenging aspect of your work?


(you mean besides covid… *eye roll), ah time… there is never enough time to run the studies I have the ideas and passion for.


It’s sometimes challenging to have to have a control group in intervention studies. It is also challenging to have to stop a research study because you have to take away the intervention, but that’s why we also partner with key stakeholders (e.g. health care providers, decision makers in the health authority, community-based organizations and people with lived-experience) to try and support the KT and uptake of evidence-based findings - with the ultimate goal of improving both quality of and access to neurorehab care across SK.


How did you first become interested in this area of research? What inspires you to do the work that you do?


I worked clinically specialized as a neuro-physiotherapist for 10 years before I went into research. I am naturally a curious person and I have the best job so that inspires me. The people I get to work with (research partners, research participants, students, healthcare providers etc.) are all passionate about the rewarding work we get to do.


Where is your research headed in the next five years?


Larger studies, national collaborations, different approaches to delivering the ‘essential’ components of interventions that promote neurorecovery.


Getting findings into continuing education and graduate entry training for health care providers.


Working with Ministry of Health and healthcare providers to try and support access to and to investigate alternative methods of delivery through the healthcare system to strive for equitable access to comprehensive neurorehabilitation promoting neurorecovery across SK.


Related Links and Recognitions:

Sarah recently won a SHRF Excellence award and also a Saskatchewan Physiotherapy Association Research merit award for her research and knowledge translation work in neurorehab.


USask researcher building new model for MS care


Neuromodulation paired with walking and balance training study


Usask College of Medicine Researchers Under the Scope podcast: Keeping brains active and connected, in a pandemic lockdown


NeuroSask


Ask the experts webinar – MS Society (video)


Individualised behaviour change strategies for physical activity in multiple sclerosis (IPAC-MS): protocol for a randomised controlled trial (open access publication)




Are you a SHRF-funded researcher who would like to submit a Meet the Researcher profile? Contact Nikki at ndesjardins@shrf.ca

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