Anjali J. Forber-Pratt, Ph.D. is a disability activist, a two-time Paralympian, Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Forber-Pratt was appointed by President Biden as the Director of the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) within the Administration for Community Living in the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Forber-Pratt also serves as the Chair of the Interagency Committee on Disability Research which exists to promote coordination and collaboration among federal departments and agencies conducting disability, independent living, and rehabilitation research programs. As a principal investigator, her expertise relates to disability identity development and has authored more than 40 peer-reviewed journal articles and numerous chapters. As a wheelchair-user for over 35 years, and Paralympic medalist, Dr. Forber-Pratt is nationally and internationally recognized as a disability leader and mentor. She was a White House Champion of Change in 2013 and the American Psychological Association awarded her the 2020 Citizen Psychologist Award for Advancing Disability as a Human Rights and Social Justice Issue Award. Dr. Forber-Pratt is also a Fellow of the American Psychological Association.
Additionally, Dr. Forber-Pratt was also a member of Team USA at the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games. As a Paralympic medalist in the sport of wheelchair racing, she has dedicated her life to helping others recognize their potential. Globally, she is involved with disability advocacy efforts related to access to employment, education and sport through public speaking and media appearances. She has been actively involved to help create inclusive sport opportunities for individuals with disabilities in Bermuda, India, Zambia and Ghana.
Ines Bersch, PT, PhD is a graduated Physiotherapist since 1989. In 1991 she went to the Swiss Paraplegic Centre, Nottwil and became two years later the substitute chief of physiotherapy. In 1992 she started to work with functional electrical stimulation and its implementation in spinal cord injury rehabilitation. At the same time, she started to teach as an instructor at the Universities of Applied Science at Bern, Zürich (1998-2005) and Basel (2007) covering spinal cord injury rehabilitation, treatment of peripheral nerve lesions and functional electrical stimulation. In 2008 she received the Bachelor of Education Science, in 2012 the Master of Science in Neurorehabilitation Research at the Danube University of Krems (Austria) and in 2019 her PhD at the University of Gothenburg, Sahlgrenska Akademin, Sweden. Her PhD project investigated the “Upper and Lower Motoneuron Lesions in Tetraplegia - Diagnostic and Therapeutic Implications of Electrical Stimulation”.
From 2014 –2017 she worked as a therapy instructor for physio- and occupational therapists in a team of 120 therapists and was responsible for the advancement of functional electrical stimulation, robotics, and the evidence of therapeutical treatments. In January 2018, the Swiss Paraplegic Centre established the International FES Centre® for Treatment and Education.
Meanwhile, the annual number of outpatient treatments exceeds 2200 and the number of initial consultations is approximately 130. In the area of education, the International FES Centre® initiates an annual 2-day course on different applications with FES, NMES and direct muscle stimulation. As a member of the extended board of IFESS, Ines Bersch provides webinars to share clinical practice and scientific evidence with clinicians, therapists, engineers, scientists, and end-users.
As the leader of this department, she focuses her work on the combination of patients’ treatment and research in this field to transfer the results from clinical trials and technical research as wells as new technologies into daily rehabilitation. She is focusing in her research on the three health priorities in rehabilitation of spinal cord injuries: improvement of hand function, improvement of bowel management and secure skin integrity to prevent pressure injuries.
Dr Pentti Tienari is a professor in neuroimmunology at the University of Helsinki since 2013, and chief neurologist at Helsinki University Hospital since 2012. Professor Tienari has clinical experience especially in neuroimmunological and neurodegenerative diseases. His internationally renown research group has two focus areas, neuroimmunological disorders (especially multiple sclerosis) and neurodegenerative disorders. These two areas are more and more converging since there is increasing evidence for a major role of immune mechanisms in neurodegenerative disorders. He has published more than 200 original articles, which have been cited >17,000 times (h-index >50).
Most of the literature on spinal cord injuries is focused on the rehabilitation of traumatic patients, despite the relevant incidence of non-traumatic, especially inflammatory lesions. Non-traumatic causes are considered to account between 30-80% of total spinal cord injuries. The neuroimunology background of professor Pentti Tienari makes him a highly relevant professional to cover a spectrum of diseases affecting the spinal cord. As a neurologist, he encounters non-traumatic spinal cord injury patients regularly in his clinical work, and he is also regularly consulted on especially severe and complicated non-traumatic spinal cord disease cases. Multiple sclerosis, where he has special interest, often affects the spinal cord as well. Professor Tienari also teaches spinal cord diseases to medical students.