Affiliation(s): Laval University
Dr. Blanchette is an associate professor at the Department of Rehabilitation, Universite Laval and a researcher at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation and Social Integration (CIRRIS). After completing physical therapy training, she obtained an MSc and a PhD degree (2012) in Experimental Medicine (Rehabilitation) from Universite Laval (Quebec City, Canada). Her thesis was about locomotor adaptation after a central nervous system lesion. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Sensorimotor Control and Rehabilitation Lab at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation of Greater Montreal (Montreal, Canada) on spasticity assessments. Her research focuses on the development of innovative approaches for the rehabilitation of individuals with physical limitations following a central nervous system lesion. She is interested in the use of different technologies, such as robotics, virtual reality, and functional electrical stimulation, for the assessment and treatment of sensorimotor disorders. Her research also aims at better understanding the mechanisms underlying sensorimotor function and recovery.
How did you become interested in MS research? What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field?
My interest in MS research emerged as a result of discussions with health professionals working with people who have multiple sclerosis. These clinicians identified significant gap in the scientific literature related to rehabilitation practices offered to people living with multiple sclerosis. They also perceived disparities between rehabilitation services provided to this population, compared with those provided to population with other neurological lesion. Considering my research interests, I felt immediately committed to contributing actively to the development and validation of activity-based rehabilitation approaches, accessible in clinical settings and in the community, in order to have a positive impact on the health and quality of life of persons with MS.
What do you enjoy most about doing research and what are some of the challenges you face?
My motivation in doing research is related to my interest in finding answers to challenging, unresolved questions. More specifically, it is very rewarding when these findings may improve directly the health and well-being of individuals. Moreover, being a scientist involves "wearing multiple hats" and I really appreciate this task diversity in my daily work. One of the biggest challenges I have to face as a researcher is related to sustaining funding to ensure the viability of my research lab. I need to invest substantial time in grant writing while I would prefer to focus my effort in more scientific work.
Describe the importance and level of collaboration in your research?
As a clinician-scientist, I have been involved actively in knowledge translation activities with health professionals since the beginning of my career. These enriching discussions with clinicians gave me a new perspective, a different way to look at the problem. I also believe that collaborations with patients, clinicians and decision-makers are essential to ensure that my clinical research questions fit with their needs and priorities.
How important is the support from the MS Society in enabling you to conduct research?
This support from MS Society enables the realization of my first project focusing on people living with MS. Hopefully, this support will be the first of many to come and will contribute to the establishment of my new research niche on sensorimotor rehabilitation of person with MS.
If you could ask one question to a person living with MS that would help you design your study, what would it be?
What are the main facilitators and obstacles to your participation in an activity-based rehabilitation intervention?