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Keynote Speakers

Paolo Bonato, PhD

Paolo Bonato

Associate Professor
Dept of PM&R
Harvard Medical School
Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital

Paolo Bonato, Ph.D., serves as the Director of the Motion Analysis Laboratory at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Boston MA. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School, Boston MA, an Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston MA, an Associate Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, and an Adjunct Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Northeastern University. He has held Adjunct Faculty positions at MIT, the University of Ireland Galway, and the University of Melbourne. His research work is focused on the development of rehabilitation technologies with special emphasis on wearable technology and robotics.

Dr. Bonato served as the Founding Editor-in-Chief of Journal on NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation. He serves as a Member of the Advisory Board of the IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics and as Associate Editor of the IEEE Journal of Translational Engineering in Health and Medicine. Dr. Bonato served as an Elected Member of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) AdCom (2007-2010) and as IEEE EMBS Vice President for Publications (2013-2016). He also served as President of the International Society of Electrophysiology and Kinesiology (2008-2010). He received the M.S. degree in electrical engineering from Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy in 1989 and the Ph.D. degree in biomedical engineering from Universita` di Roma “La Sapienza” in 1995. Additional information about Dr. Bonato's work can be found at

B.J. Fregly, PhD

BJ Freely

Professor and CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research
Department of Mechanical Engineering
George R. Brown School of Engineering
Rice University, Houston, TX

B.J. Fregly received his Bachelor's degree from Princeton University (1986) and his Master's and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford University (1987 and 1993) in Mechanical Engineering. Following a year of post-doctoral research in France at the University of Lyon (1993-1994), Dr. Fregly worked as a software developer in Silicon Valley for Rasna/Parametric Technology Corporation (1995-1999). From 1999 to 2017, he served on the faculty of the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at the University of Florida, where he was a Knox T. Millsaps Professor, a University of Florida Research Foundation Professor, and the recipient of departmental and college Teacher of the Year awards. In August of 2017, Dr. Fregly joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Rice University as a Professor and CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research. His research focuses on modeling, simulation, and optimization of the human neuromusculoskeletal system to optimize the treatment of movement-related disorders. He has been the PI on over $11 million in research funding from NSF (including a CAREER Award), NIH, NASA, and most recently the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). His most recently funded projects include a NASA grant to design optimal exercise prescriptions that minimize astronaut muscle mass during the first manned mission to Mars, an NIH grant to design personalized functional electrical stimulation prescriptions that maximize recovery of walking ability in individuals post-stroke, and a CPRIT grant to design customized surgical plans and 3D printed pelvic implants that maximize post-surgery walking ability in individuals with a pelvic sarcoma.

Robert Riener, PhD

Rob Riener

Deputy head of the National Competence Center in Research (NCCR) in Robotics
Head of the Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich

Robert Riener is Full Professor for Sensory-Motor Systems at the Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich. He has been Assistant Professor for Rehabilitation Engineering at ETH Zurich since May 2003. In June 2006 he was promoted to the rank of an Associate Professor and in June 2010 to the rank of a Full Professor. As he holds a Double-Professorship with the University of Zurich, he is also active in the Spinal Cord Injury Center of the Balgrist University Hospital (Medical Faculty of the University of Zurich).

Dr. Vivek Pinto

Vivek Pinto

Dr. Vivek Pinto currently serves as the chief of the physical medicine and rehabilitation devices branch in the division of neurological and physical medicine devices in the office of device evaluation in the center for devices and radiological health at the FDA. Dr. Pinto has held this position since November 2015 and previously served a lead reviewer in this branch since 2012. He oversees the premarket investigations and applications of physical medical devices. In the past several years, his branch has granted and cleared several exoskeletons for medical uses for the spinal cord injury and stroke populations. Dr. Pinto has also given presentations to help researchers, manufacturers, and patients understand regulatory pathways and expectations to ensure stakeholders of physical medicine devices receive proper guidance in an effort to bring safe and effective products to the US market as quickly as possible. Dr. Pinto graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and worked for Mine Safety Appliances where he contributed to the design, research, and development of thermal imaging cameras for fire fighters. He then went on to obtain his masters and doctoral degrees from New York University in the fields of Ergonomics and Biomechanics while working as a biomechanical researcher at the Occupational and Industrial Orthopedic Center in the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases prior to joining FDA.

Symposium Co-Chairs

Gerard E. Francisco, MD

Francisco WeRob

TIRR Memorial Hermann
Chief Medical Officer and Director, NeuroRecovery Research Center
Chair and Professor of PM&R, UTHealth
Houston, Texas, USA

Dr. Francisco is one of the nation's leading physicians in the field of brain injury and stroke rehabilitation and spasticity management. A frequent lecturer nationally and internationally, he is currently conducting research on the use of botulinum toxin and intrathecal baclofen for the treatment of spasticity, along with the use of robots to facilitate recovery after a stroke or spinal cord injury. Dr. Francisco is a Principal investigator in an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Francisco is chairman and clinical professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston and adjunct professor at Baylor College of Medicine. He received his medical degree from the University of the Philippines and completed his internship at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. His residency in PM&R was at the University of Medicine and Dentistry-New Jersey Medical School, where he was chief resident. Dr. Francisco completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Brain Injury Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine.

Before joining the Brain Injury Program at TIRR Memorial Hermann in 1997, he served as director of the Brain Injury Program at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation and assistant professor in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at New Jersey Medical School.

Jose L. Contreras-Vidal, Ph.D., IEEE Senior Member

Jose Contreras Vidal

Director, Laboratory for Noninvasive Brain-Machine Interface Systems
Professor, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering University of Houston
Houston, Texas, USA

Dr. Contreras-Vidal directs the Laboratory for Noninvasive Brain-Machine Interface Systems at the University of Houston and the Human-Machine Systems Laboratory at TIRR Memorial Hermann. He received the Engineer’s degree from Tecnologico de Monterrey (Mexico, 1987), the M.S.E.E. from the University of Colorado (Boulder, 1990), and the Ph.D. degree from Boston University (Boston, 1994). He did postdoctoral work at Arizona State University and the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He was an Assistant and Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1999 and 2005, respectively. He is Cullen Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Houston, Houston, TX. Dr. Contreras-Vidal is Associate Editor for IEEE Human Machine Systems, Neural Networks, Frontiers in Neuroprosthetics, and the International Journal of Mobile Human Computer Interaction and a member of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society and Systems, Man and Cybernetics Society. His research focuses on the user-centered design of complex human-machine systems, wearable neuroprostheses and exoskeletons, computational motor neuroscience, neuroaesthetics, and regulatory science of clinical brain-machine interfaces. Dr. Contreras-Vidal’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, the National Institutes of Health, industry and foundations. His work has reached specialized audiences and the general public through news and views reports published and/or highlighted by The Economist, Science News, Der Spiegel, National Science Foundation, Wall Street Journal, the Society for Neuroscience, O&P, Science, Scientific American, NPR’s Science Friday, and Neurology Today among others. His career development in biomedical engineering has been highlighted in the magazine Science.

Marcie O'Malley, PhD

Marcie O'Malley

Rice University
Director, Mechatronics and Haptic Interfaces Lab Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Professor of Computer Science
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
TIRR-Memorial Hermann
Director of Rehabilitation Engineering
Houston, Texas, USA

Marcia O'Malley received the B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1996, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from Vanderbilt University in 1999 and 2001, respectively. She is currently Professor of Mechanical Engineering and of Computer Science at Rice University and directs the Mechatronics and Haptic Interfaces Lab. She is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at both Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. Additionally, she is the Director of Rehabilitation Engineering at TIRR-Memorial Hermann Hospital, and is a co-founder of Houston Medical Robotics, Inc. Her research addresses issues that arise when humans physically interact with robotic systems, with a focus on training and rehabilitation in virtual environments. In 2008, she received the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching at Rice University. O'Malley is a 2004 ONR Young Investigator and the recipient of the NSF CAREER Award in 2005. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

José Luis Pons Rovira, PhD

Jose Luis Pons

Director, Neural Rehabilitation Group
Cajal Institute
Professor, Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC)
Madrid, Spain


Robert Ambrose, PhD

Robert Ambrose

Division Chief of the Software
Robotics and Simulation Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center
Houston, Texas, USA

Robert Ambrose received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in Mechanical Engineering. He received his M.S. and B. S. degrees from Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Ambrose currently serves as the Division Chief of the Software, Robotics and Simulation Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas, USA. The SR&S Division is responsible for flight spacecraft software, space robotics and system simulations for human spaceflight missions. Within the Division are five Branches responsible for managing on-orbit robotic systems for the International Space Station, development of software for the Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle and future Human Spaceflight systems, simulations for engineering development and training, hardware and software GFE, hardware in the loop facilities for anomaly resolution and crew training, and the technology Branch for development of new robotic systems. Dr. Ambrose also serves as a Principal Investigator for NASA’s Office of Chief Technologist (OCT), overseeing research performed in the Human-Robotics Systems Project and other new starts. He co-chairs the OCT Robotics, Tele-Robotics and Autonomous Systems roadmap team for the agency’s technology program, and is the robotics domain lead for the agency’s human spaceflight architecture study teams. Working with the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Dr. Ambrose is the Technical Point of Contact for NASA’s collaboration in the National Robotics Initiative (NRI). He is married to Dr. Catherine G. Ambrose and lives in Houston Texas.

Brenna D. Argall, PhD

Brenna Argall

June and Donald Brewer Junior Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Northwestern University
Faculty Research Scientist, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

Brenna Argall is the June and Donald Brewer Junior Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at Northwestern University, and also an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. She also holds a Faculty Research Scientist position within the Sensory Motor Performance Program (SMPP) at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), where she directs a rehabilitation robotics laboratory. Prior to joining Northwestern and RIC, she was a postdoctoral fellow (2009-2011) in the Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory (LASA) at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, under the guidance of Prof. Aude Billard. In the spring of 2009 she completed a Ph.D. in Robotics, with co-advisors Prof. Manuela Veloso and Dr. Brett Browning, in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, where she was affiliated with the CORAL Research Group. She has lived in Doha, Qatar (Spring 2007), while assistant-teaching at Carnegie Mellon's Qatar Campus, and in Brisbane, Australia (Summer 2008), while a research intern within the Autonomous Systems Laboratory at CSIRO. Her M.S. in Robotics (2006), and B.S. in Mathematics (2002), along with minors in Music and Biology, both were granted by Carnegie Mellon. Prior to graduate school, she held a Computational Biology position in the Laboratory of Brain and Cognition, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Her research interests lie at the intersection of robotics, machine learning and rehabilitation; in particular, on adding partial automation and artificial intelligence to assistive machines that are modular, adaptable and teachable in how they share control with the human user.

Jose M. Azorin, PhD

Jose Azorin 3

Director of the Brain-Machine Interface Systems Lab, Miguel Hernandez University of Elche (Spain)
Distinguished Lecturer of the IEEE Systems Council

Jose M. Azorin is the Director of the Brain-Machine Interface Systems Lab and Associate Professor of the Systems Engineering and Automation Department at Miguel Hernández University of Elche (Spain). He holds a M.Sc in Computer Science from the University of Alicante (1997, Spain) and a Ph.D. in Robotics (Award for the Best Thesis of the Department) by the UMH (2003, Spain). He has been a visiting scholar at the University of Houston (USA), Imperial College London (United Kingdom) and INRIA (France). His current research interests are Brain-Machine Interfaces, Neuro-robotics and Rehabilitation Robotics. Over the last years, his research has been funded by prestigious grants from the European Union and other Spanish government agencies. He has been the PI of more than 10 research projects, and his research has resulted in more than 150 technical papers and 3 patents. Currently, he is a Distinguished Lecturer of the IEEE Systems Council.

Sunil K. Agrawal, Ph.D.

Sunil Agrawal

Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Department of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine
Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

Sunil K. Agrawal received a Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 1990. He is currently a Professor and Director of Robotics and Rehabilitation (ROAR) Laboratory at Columbia University, both in engineering and medical campuses of Columbia University. He has published close to 450 journal and conference papers. Dr. Agrawal is a Fellow of the ASME and AIMBE. His honors include a NSF Presidential Faculty Fellowship from the White House in 1994, a Bessel Prize from Germany in 2003, and a Humboldt US Senior Scientist Award in 2007. He is a recipient of 2016 Machine Design Award from ASME for “seminal contributions to design of robotic exoskeletons for gait training of stroke patients” and 2016 Mechanisms and Robotics Award from the ASME for “cumulative contributions and an international leading figure in mechanical design and robotics”. He is a recipient of several Best Paper awards in ASME and IEEE sponsored robotics conferences. He has held positions of a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Hanyang University in Korea, a Professor of Robotics at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, and a Visiting Professor at the Biorobotics Institute of SSSA in Pisa. He actively serves on editorial boards of conferences and journals published by the ASME, IEEE, and other professional societies.

Gene Alford, MD

Gene Alford

Houston, Texas, USA

Dr. Eugene "Gene" Alford is an award-winning, internationally recognized specialist in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. He is double board-certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology (ABOto) and the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ABFPRS), in addition to being a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS). With his undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University and medical degree from The University of Texas, Dr. Gene has had a well-rounded Texas education, which earned him his State of Texas Medical license in 1987. Dr. Gene has appeared as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Larry King Live as the leader of a facial reconstruction team for Carolyn Thomas "The Woman Without a Face." Dr. Gene is experienced in the latest technology and techniques for facial cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, which makes him an excellent surgeon, teacher, and mentor on the subject.

Shuo-Hsiu (James) Chang, PT, PhD

James Chang

Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Administrative Director in NeuroRecovery Research Center and Scientist at TIRR Memorial Hermann

Shuo-Hsiu (James) Chang, PT, PhD is Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. He is also the Administrative Director of NeuroRecovery Research Center and Scientist at TIRR Memorial Hermann. He graduated from the Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan where he received a BS degree in Physical Therapy. He received his MS in Human Movement Science and PhD degree in Curriculum in Human Movement Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a human movement specialist, his research focus centers in mechanism of motor recovery with emphasis on effects of neuromuscular modulation, and clinical application of rehabilitation robotic devices in gait rehabilitation, mobility and community integration.

Diane L. Damiano, PhD PT

Diane Damiano 2017

Senior Investigator in the Intramural Research Program at National Institutes of Health
Chief of Functional & Applied Biomechanics Section in the Rehabilitation Medicine Department
NIH Clinical Center
Maryland, USA

Diane L. Damiano, PT, PhD, FAPTA is a Senior Investigator in the Intramural Research Program at National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland and Chief of the Functional and Applied Biomechanics Section in the Rehabilitation Medicine Department. Her research focuses on the on the investigation of brain mechanisms underlying motor coordination in individuals with and without cerebral palsy and the design and investigation of activity-based rehabilitation programs and devices to promote optimal motor functioning and enhance muscle and neural plasticity in cerebral palsy. She has over 100 publications and has served as President of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine and the Gait and Clinical Movement Analysis Society.

Ashish Deshpande, PhD

Ashish Despande

Assistant Professor
Mechanical Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin

Ashish D. Deshpande is an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Texas since 2011. Dr. Deshpande received his Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 2007. He then completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Neurobotics Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Deshpande is a recipient of the NSF-CAREER award.

At The University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Deshpande directs the Rehabilitation and Neuromuscular (ReNeu) Robotics Lab. The Lab focuses on the development of robotic devices, based on biomechanical analyses, to assist in rehabilitation, to improve prostheses design, and to provide fitness opportunities for the severely disabled. The study of underlying mechanisms of human movement control through human subject experiments and mathematical modeling is another major research area in the ReNeu Robotic Lab.

The ReNeu Robotics Lab has a special interest in the study of hands, and is currently developing robotic hands for prosthetic and rehabilitation applications, and conducting human subject studies for an improved understanding of human hand biomechanics and control.

Alberto Esquenazi, MD

Alberto Esquenazi

Chairman, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation; John Otto Haas
Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation; Director, Sheerr Gait and Motion
Analysis Laboratory; Clinical Director, Regional Amputee Center
Chief, Prosthetic and Orthotic Clinic; Co-director, Neuro-orthopedic Program

Dr. Esquenazi is a member of American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, American Society of Biomechanics Gait and Clinical Movement Analysis Society and the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics. He is a professor of rehabilitation at Temple University School of Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University – Jefferson Medical College and Drexel University College of Medicine. He serves as director of the Annual Inter-City Gait and Orthotics course sponsored by the Temple/MossRehab physical medicine and rehabilitation residency training program. He was a member of the Task Force on Medical Rehabilitation Research for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine and AAPM & R

Dr. Esquenazi has been recognized several times by Philadelphia magazine as one of the region's "Top Docs" and received the Distinguished clinician award from AAM&R and Pennsylvania Association of Rehabilitation Facilities.

He has published many original papers, book chapters and has presented nationally and internationally on amputation, rehabilitation, orthosis, gait analysis and spasticity management. He’s an active researcher in technology and rehabilitation.

Susan Fasoli, ScD OTR/L

Susan Fasoli

Associate Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
MGH Institute of Health Professions
Boston, MA

Dr. Fasoli has held a variety of clinical, academic, and research positions during her OT career, and has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and text book chapters on rehabilitation robotics & technology and occupational therapy for persons with physical disabilities. She first became involved with rehabilitation robotics during her post-doctoral fellowship in the Newman Laboratory for Biomechanics and Human Rehabilitation at MIT, and has worked closely with engineers and neuroscientists since that time on the design and implementation of robot-assisted therapy for adults and children with upper limb impairments due to stroke and cerebral palsy.

In collaboration with other researchers in the Center for Neurorestoration and Neurotechnology (CfNN) at the Providence VA Medical Center and Brown University, Dr. Fasoli has studied the use of rehabilitation technologies to evaluate and treat persons with stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. She is a member of the BrainGate2 team, providing an OT perspective to research that involves control of an assistive robot via brain computer interface. She has a strong interest in designing and testing research protocols that integrate rehabilitation technology with conventional OT practice, with the goal to optimize client outcomes and participation in valued activities and life roles through evidence-based practice.

Dr. Fasoli is an active member of the American Occupational Therapy Association, and has served on a number of committees for the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM). She serves on the editorial board of Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and is a peer reviewer for several professional journals. During the winter months she enjoys her role as a ski instructor for children with autism and developmental delay at a local ski area. Dr. Fasoli will be teaching a number of courses within the Occupational Therapy program, including Movement, Context & Occupational Performance; Research Process; Splinting, Orthotics & Prosthetics; and OT in Physical Dysfunction. She also will be leading clinical research projects in which students will gain first-hand experience in robot-assisted neurorehabilitation of upper limb motor impairments and functional recovery of persons with stroke and other neurological diagnoses.

Gail F Forrest, Ph.D.

Gail Forrest

Associate Director
Human Performance and Engineering Research (HPER) Kessler Foundation
West Orange, New Jersey, USA

Gail F Forrest, Ph.D., associate director of Human Performance and Movement Analysis Research at Kessler Foundation, is also Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Rutgers – New Jersey Medical School. As a postdoctoral fellow at Kessler Foundation Research Center in 2002, Dr Forrest was awarded grant funding by the New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Research to investigate locomotor training (LT) using body weight support with manual assistance for individuals after Incomplete SCI. Over the last 6 years Dr Forrest has continued to receive state and federal funded grants concentrating on the neuroplasticity, improvement in secondary consequences and restoration of function for individuals after SCI. She has presented and published extensively in the area of neuroplasticity and musculoskeletal changes for individuals after SCI. Dr Forrest has other key interests in the area of biomechanics as related to modeling algorithms for understanding control mechanisms in upper extremity (i.e. arm reaching after stroke), and postural control during locomotion. All her areas of research are ultimately focused towards the improvement of functional mobility.

Arun Jayaraman, PT, PhD

Arun Jayaraman

Director Max Näder Center/ Research Scientist
Associate Professor

Dr. Arun Jayaraman is an Associate Professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Physical Therapy & Human Movement Sciences, and Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern University's Medical School. His work primarily focuses on developing and executing both investigator-initiated and industry-sponsored research in prosthetics, orthotics, rehabilitation robotics, and other assistive and adaptive technologies to treat physical disability. He conducts all his outcomes research using advanced wearable patient monitoring wireless sensors and novel machine learning techniques, in addition to the traditional performance-based and patient-reported outcome measures. He collaborates both nationally and internationally with many academic and industrial organizations and is internationally recognized in the field of Rehabilitation Robotics.

Carl Josehart

Carl Josehart 2017

Chief Executive Officer
TIRR Memorial Hermann/Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Network
System Executive for Rehabilitation Services
Memorial Hermann Hospital System

An experienced healthcare executive who began his career as a clinician in social work, Carl Josehart joined TIRR Memorial Hermann as chief executive officer in 2006. Since his arrival, he and his leadership team have advanced the hospital's U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals ranking from number 5 in the nation to number 2. Today, TIRR Memorial Hermann is a national leader in medical rehabilitation and research, and a model for interdisciplinary rehabilitation services, patient care, education and research.

In addition to leading the renovation of patient care areas that increased efficiency and patient satisfaction, Josehart, CNO/COO Mary Ann Euliarte, R.N., C.R.R.N., and chief medical officer Gerard Francisco, M.D., F.A.A.P.M.R., have spearheaded the acquisition of new technology, including the Lokomat®, the world's first driven-gait orthosis. Since his arrival at TIRR Memorial Hermann, the hospital was designated as a member of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network, and the Stroke Specialty Program became one of the first in the nation to achieve three-year CARF accreditation. Although patients at the hospital are much higher acuity than most rehabilitation facilities nationwide, TIRR Memorial Hermann consistently has significant, positive function independence measure (FIM) scores.

During Josehart's tenure, steady growth in the pediatric program at TIRR Memorial Hermann Adult and Pediatric Outpatient Rehabilitation has led to an expansion of services in a newly constructed space adjacent to the facility, including 2,900 square feet designed solely for the use of pediatric patients. Working with physician leadership, the hospital has established the TIRR Memorial Hermann Research Institute, assuming an even more prominent role in research to improve the delivery of rehabilitation care.

As system executive for rehabilitation services for the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, he has a lead role in setting standards for high-quality, evidence-based rehabilitation care across the System. Carl Josehart graduated from the American Leadership Forum’s Class XXXVI at the commencement ceremony held on May 26, 2016. The American Leadership Forum (ALF) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to join and strengthen diverse leaders to serve the common good.

Marcie Kern, PT, MS

Marcie Kern

Physical Therapist
NRN Clinical Supervisor
TIRR Memorial Hermann NeuroRecovery Research Center
Houston, TX, USA

Marcie Kern, PT, MS has worked at TIRR Memorial Hermann since 2004 as part of the inpatient spinal cord injury (SCI) physical therapy rehabilitation team. She served as the NRN Clinical Supervisor bridging the gap between clinical interventions and current research utilizing locomotor training to promote recovery after SCI. Her involvement with exoskelton technology for individual with SCI began in 2011. Since then she has partnered with the NeuroRecovery Research Center and works part time as a research PT and part time in the inpatient SCI unit. Her primary interest is implementation of exoskeleton technology to promote recovery across the continuum from acute injury to integration in the community.

Ann Spungen, EdD

Ann Spungen

US Department of Veteran Affairs
Associate Director, Center of Excellence
Rehabilitation Research & Development

Dr. Spungen is an applied physiologist who has been studying the medical consequences of spinal cord injury (SCI) for 27 years. She has 132 publications, in which she is first or senior author on 40. She is a national and internationally recognized investigator in the field of SCI medicine. Her accumulated body of literature has laid the foundation for much of the work that has followed evaluating the effects of a SCI on abnormalities of airway function, cardiovascular function, endocrine dysfunction, gastrointestinal dysfunction, exercise limitations, and alterations in body composition. Dr. Spungen is the Associate Director of the VA Rehabilitation Research & Development (RR&D) National Center for the Medical Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury, a position she has held since the initial VA funding of the center in 2001. She has been continually funded through the peer-review process since 1999. More recently, Dr. Spungen has devoted efforts to understanding how exoskeletal-assisted walking (EAW) influences the health and well-being of individuals with SCI. This program has grown to yield two clinical trials, one funded by the Department of Defense and the other by the VA Cooperative Studies Program, and five publications. Her work is the first to recognize the potential benefits of exoskeletal-assisted walking on bowel function, energy expenditure, body composition, and quality of life. In addition to her role at the VA, in March of 2017, Dr. Spungen became the Vice Chair of Research for the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY.

Joel Stein, MD

Joel Stein

Simon Baruch Professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Professor of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College
Chair and Physiatrist-in-Chief, Department of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine

Dr. Stein obtained his undergraduate degree from Columbia University, and his MD from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, followed by a residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Stein was a member of the medical staff at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston for 16 years, where he served as Chief Medical Officer from 2000 onward, and was the medical director of the stroke rehabilitation program. He also served as a member of the faculty at Harvard Medical School.

In September 2008, Dr. Stein was appointed Physiatrist-in-Chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, as well as Professor and Chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Dr. Stein’s clinical and research interests are in the area of stroke rehabilitation. He has had a particular focus on the use of exercise as a treatment, and on the use of robotic and other technologies to facilitate recovery of motor function after stroke. He has authored or coauthored two books on stroke recovery and rehabilitation for stroke survivors and their families, and edited a multi-authored medical textbook on this subject entitled “Stroke Recovery and Rehabilitation.”

James Sulzer, PhD

James Sulzer

The University of Texas at Austin
Mechanical School of Engineering
Cockrell School of Engineering

Prof. Sulzer's main research interests include development of technology for understanding and addressing significant issues in physical rehabilitation following neurological injury such as stroke. He has been involved in this field, called rehabilitation engineering, rehabilitation robotics or neurobotics, since 2003 as he entered Northwestern University and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago as a graduate student. Under the tutelage of Prof. Jim Patton and Prof. Michael Peshkin, James conducted his masters and PhD in ME researching a novel mechanical actuator using cable moment arm manipulation and the causes of Stiff Knee gait in stroke patients using exoskeletal perturbations, respectively. After his PhD, he wanted to learn more about the neuroscientific aspects of rehabilitation, and studied the application of functional magnetic resonance imaging to biofeedback, a method known as real-time fMRI neurofeedback, at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. Under the guidance of Prof. Roger Gassert, Dr. Sulzer was able to show that people can voluntarily control the activity of a region of their brain that produces dopamine, a key neurotransmitter in learning and possibly rehabilitation. Prof. Sulzer uses his experience in robotics, biomechanics and neuroscience to attack problems in rehabilitation from both the level of the limbs as well as the brain.

As a graduate student at Northwestern, Prof. Sulzer led a nascent entrepreneurial interest group, InNUvation, overseeing the creation of the first university-wide business plan competition, research fair, and a multidisciplinary course known as NUvention (Medical), based on the Stanford BioDesign program. As a postdoc, James founded the first international conference on real-time fMRI, and co-organized the second version, in addition to overseeing the rtfMRI mailing list.

Conor Walsh, PhD

Conor Walsh

Harvard Biodesign Lab

Conor Walsh is the founder of the Harvard Biodesign Lab, which brings together researchers from the engineering, industrial design, apparel, clinical and business communities to develop new disruptive robotic technologies for augmenting and restoring human performance. This research includes new approaches to the design, manufacture and control of wearable robotic devices and characterizing their performance through biomechanical and physiological studies so as to further the scientific understanding of how humans interact with such machines. Example application areas include enhancing the mobility of healthy individuals, restoring the mobility of patients with gait deficits and assisting those with upper extremity weakness to perform activities of daily living. His research group actively engages with industry and multiple technologies have been licensed, and his group has active collaborations with multiple companies including ReWalk Robotics and New Balance.

He is passionate about educating future innovators and he has established the Harvard Medical Device Innovation Initiative that provides students with the opportunity to collaborate with clinicians. In addition, his research group is also dedicated to STEM education and have launched the Soft Robotics Toolkit, an open source resource to promote and disseminate materials for soft robotics. He is the winner of multiple awards including the MIT Technology Review Innovator Under 35 Award, Best Paper Award at the 2015 International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics, National Science Foundation Career Award, the Robotics Business Review Next generation Game Changer Award and the MIT 100K Entrepreneurship Competition Grand Prize. Conor received his B.A.I and B.A. degrees in Mechanical and Manufacturing engineering from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, in 2003, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2006 and 2010.