Last week, I featured a team led by Dr. Ann Yeh from SickKids Hospital who was awarded one of three Hermès Canada | MS Society Wellness Research Innovation Grants to develop a physical activity app for children and adolescents living with MS. In the last part of this series, we’ll set our sights back on Saskatchewan and focus on Dr. Katherine Knox, Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan, who is working collaboratively with community innovator Dalene Newton, Director of Brain Health, Rehabilitation, and Interprofessional Practice, at Saskatoon Health Region. Their project is titled “Web-based physiotherapy in moderate to severe MS”.
Meet the Researcher: Katherine Knox
How did you first become involved in the field of MS?
I volunteered at the MS Society when I was a medical student learning about a “Road to Wellness workshop” which was being offered at that time. I had many questions from this experience meeting people with MS. I eventually decided to pursue more training in Saskatoon, where there was opportunity to learn more about MS and work with those affected.
What do you enjoy most about working in the MS field? What are some challenges you have faced and how have those challenges shaped your research?
I enjoy working with people with MS because many are determined and creative.
One challenge is being able to reach people with mobility issues who live longer distances from centres with rehabilitation services.
Another challenge is helping people stay active with MS throughout the disease course. Physical activity options, which people may do in their own homes under the outreach guidance of an experienced physiotherapist, may help address both of these challenges.
What does wellness mean to you, and why is the study of wellness approaches and strategies an important priority in MS research?
To me, wellness means living life and enjoying it.
The study of wellness is a priority. We cannot always control disease but action towards improved wellness is still possible, even in the face of disease.
We need to understand how to tap into wellness individually for each person. This study explores an individualized approach to maintaining aspects of physical wellness.
Describe the importance of collaborating with a community innovator(s) or academic researcher(s). How will collaboration maximize the quality and impact of your study on wellness outcomes for people affected by MS?
Our community partner – Saskatoon Health Region – is crucial because if web-based-physiotherapy is liked and helpful to people with MS in SK or elsewhere, we will need the support of our health regions and physiotherapists to make it widely accessible.
Why is it important for people affected by MS to be meaningfully engaged throughout the research process? How does your study engage members of the MS community?
People affected by MS are the experts of the lived MS experience. This is why it is crucial that people with MS are engaged in defining the problems, testing possible solutions, and sharing what is learned.
People with MS in the UK have already worked with researchers to help design web-based guided physiotherapy. We are building on this work with the Lead UK researcher Lorna Paul and her team.
Now in Saskatchewan, people with MS will modify and participate in the program with the goal of making it even more suitable for people with mobility challenges.
Meet the Community Innovator: Dalene Newton
Describe why you became involved in this research study. What motivates you to learn more about wellness in people affected by MS?
My Director portfolio includes Rehabilitation Services and provides care and support to people with MS, therefore their wellness is important to understand. My clinical background includes a specific focus on neuro-rehabilitation; this patient population has always been a primary interest of mine.
Describe your role as a community innovator in this study. How will you work with your research partner to generate new knowledge and create wellness solutions for people affected by MS?
I will be interested to learn about the delivery of web-based physiotherapy, its benefits and limitations in relation to improving wellness for people affected by MS.
What does wellness mean to you? Why do you think it is important to study approaches to wellness that will improve the health and quality of life of people affected by MS?
Wellness, to me, implies a holistic approach to health and improved quality of life. I believe that it is important to learn how to support people to improve their quality of life related to their wellness.
What are you looking forward to most in carrying out this study? What challenges do you anticipate?
I look forward to learning about creative solutions for outreach Physiotherapy support for people affected by MS.