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  • Canadian researchers awarded prestigious Gove...
  • December 12, 2017

    Canadian researchers awarded prestigious Governor General Meritorious Service Decorations

    TORONTO, ON (December 12, 2017) – An interprofessional team of Toronto-based scientists, including a biomedical engineer and music therapist, has been recognized with one of Canada’s highest honours – the Meritorious Service Cross (Civil Division), presented by the Governor General of Canada. The decoration recognizes Canadians for exceptional deeds that bring honour to the country.

    The team, from Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital (Holland Bloorview), developed the Virtual Music Instrument (VMI) in 2003 to help individuals with complex disabilities express themselves and experience the benefits of music therapy – including an increased self-esteem and sense of personal accomplishment. To date, the VMI has impacted the lives of kids and families in over seven countries worldwide.

    “We are deeply honoured by this recognition, and humbled that our work has impacted the lives of people with disabilities across the world,” says Dr. Tom Chau, Holland Bloorview’s vice president of research. “Our work in driving research discoveries into action means that technologies such as the VMI are accessible to the very people who would benefit most from them.”

    Dr. Chau, alongside Andrea Lamont, music therapist and educator; Pierre Duez, software engineer; and Eric Wan, engineer; began developing the VMI to create the opportunity for kids with disabilities to play music – without having to hold or manipulate an instrument.

    "What began as an exploration of the potential of technology in music therapy has become an instrument that has allowed kids with disabilities to engage more fully with music, even to the point of performing in concerts,” says Duez.

    One of the VMI’s most unique features is that in contrast to current technologies and apps, it adapts to a child’s abilities and physical commands by acting as an extension of their body. For children and their families this is often a life-changing experience.

    (From L to R) Dr. Tom Chau; Pierre Duez; Andrea Lamont; Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada; and Eric Wan. Photo credit of MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall © OSGG, 2017.

    “Whether it’s making music through dance, finger movements, or even an eye blink, the VMI gives a meaningful musical experience for children in recreation, education, and therapy settings,” says Lamont.

    The Meritorious Service Decorations (Civil Division) are an important part of the Canadian Honours System. They recognize individuals who have performed an exceptional and often innovative deed or activity that sets an example for others to follow, or improves the quality of life in a community at a local, provincial, national, or international level.

    “It is incredibly rewarding to see this innovative technology have a positive impact on the lives of kids with disabilities and enable them to do what they haven’t previously been able to. It makes kids feel special and challenges the perceptions of what a person with a disability can and cannot do. The Governor General’s recognition of our work is a triumph for Holland Bloorview and kids with communication and mobility challenges across the world,” says Wan.

    Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, will present the decoration to the team during a ceremony on December 12, 2017, at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

    Click here to learn more about the Virtual Music Instrument.

    For more information please contact: Sasha Babakhanova, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, at ababakhanova@hollandbloorview.ca or (416) 425-6220 ext. 6263.

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    About Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital

    Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital creates a world of possibility by supporting children and youth living with disability, medical complexity, illness and injury. Holland Bloorview is a top 40 Canadian research hospital fully affiliated with the University of Toronto and serves 7,500 families annually. Holland Bloorview is renowned for its expertise in partnering with clients and families to provide exceptional care. For more information, please visit hollandbloorview.ca.