MRRI Scientist in Residence Dr. Lyn Turkstra Visits the Institute

Scientific exchange and collaboration are often critical for developing and advancing world-class research programs. This was the motivation behind the development of MRRI’s Scientist in Residence program. Last month, MRRI was excited to welcome Lyn Turkstra, PhD, CCC-SLP, BC-NCD(A), for an in-person visit to the Institute. Dr. Turkstra is a Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University, and she has been a Scientist in Residence at MRRI since 2019. During her visit, Dr. Turkstra connected with MRRI researchers including MRRI Associate Director, Amanda Rabinowitz, PhD, to work on collaborative research projects focused on cognition and communication after brain injury.

Drs. Rabinowitz and Turkstra are working with colleagues in the Jefferson Moss-Magee Drucker Brain Injury Center (DBIC) in an effort to translate leading-edge research in brain injury rehabilitation to evidence-based clinical practice, as part of a Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems knowledge translation project. In the previous Model System cycle, they successfully developed and implemented the MossRehab PTA Protocol for identifying patients with amnesia after traumatic brain injury (post-traumatic amnesia; PTA), educating staff and families about the patient’s memory deficit, and training the most effective means of communicating with affected patients to maximize their engagement in rehabilitation and their emotional well-being.

Based on feedback from frontline clinicians, their present work will build on this success, and develop a program to systematically train staff how best to maximize learning and performance for patients with a full spectrum of memory abilities, across the diverse content areas involved in inpatient rehabilitation. This work will involve application of the Rehabilitation Treatment Specification System (RTSS), a framework for defining and categorizing rehabilitation treatments, that was developed under the leadership of MRRI scientists in collaboration with Dr. Turkstra and others. The new training program will identify what patients need to learn based on RTSS-defined domains of treatment targets (organ function, performance of skills and habits, and mental representations) as well as the key ingredients or clinical actions that should be included in treatment.


This month, they were able to present the conceptual framework for this project to the DBIC therapy team leaders and begin the collaborative process of developing an interdisciplinary inventory of learning needs for rehabilitation inpatients with moderate to severe TBI. The next steps for this work include mapping learning needs onto treatment targets and identifying evidence-based rehabilitation treatments to address these targets from Dr. Turkstra’s textbook, Transforming Cognitive Rehabilitation: Effective Instructional Methods. The ultimate goal of this work is to develop training materials to promote evidence-based treatment planning for inpatients with memory impairments after TBI, and to evaluate the impact of training on clinician behavior and patient outcomes.

“There are so many things that you just can’t accomplish as effectively in conference calls or Zoom meetings. These in-person visits with collaborators are tremendously valuable, and they are key for really moving projects forward,” remarked Dr. Rabinowitz. MRRI looks forward to continuing these productive collaborations with Dr. Turkstra and welcoming her back to the Institute again soon!

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