June 14, 2017
Senior scientist Virginia Wright receives academic promotion
Congratulations to senior scientist Virginia Wright on her promotion to full professor (status) in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Toronto!
Q&A with Dr. Wright
Q: What got you interested in research?
Wright: When I was working as a clinical physiotherapist with children who had juvenile arthritis, I had many questions about "best practice". This was back thirty years ago when research in pediatric physiotherapy was in its infancy, and there were so few evidence-based answers. I had the privilege of working with several, outstanding pediatric rheumatologists at Holland Bloorview (known then as Hugh MacMillan Rehabilitation Centre) and one in particular - Dr. Abraham Shore - saw the research flame light in me and challenged me to address the many questions I had. It wasn't long till I was hooked on research. Not only did research fulfill the inquisitive, creative and evidence-seeking aspects of my being, but it also fit so well with my long-standing desire as a clinician to have a direct and highly meaningful impact on the care and outcomes for kids and families. It's the best of both worlds.
Q. What does full professor mean to you?
Wright: This tremendous honour, bestowed by the University of Toronto, has extra meaning for me as it occurs in the same university and department where I trained to be a physiotherapist. I hope that it gives encouragement to others to continue to believe in and strive for dreams, even at times when they seem beyond reach. This promotion reflects the unwavering support and opportunities I have received by the University of Toronto and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and its research institute. On a personal level, I think it also recognizes the best practice-changing influence of some of my pediatric rehabilitation outcomes and intervention research. I look forward to new opportunities as a full professor, and continued focus on my role as a mentor, teacher and researcher.
Q. How has the Bloorview Children's Hospital Foundation Chair in Pediatric Rehabilitation been transformational in your research program?
Wright: The last five years, since being awarded the Chair, have been ones of unparalleled research and trainee opportunities. The key part of the Chair was to build student capacity which became the catalyst and foundation in the creation of the SPARK Lab three years ago. These inspiring, talented and bright students supported the SPARK Lab's program of physical activity research for kids with disabilities as well as new avenues of exploration including neuroplasticity and motor learning. I am so grateful for the generous support of the Holland Bloorview Foundation in association with the University of Toronto for this Chair, which has been renewed for another five years to enable the next stage of research excellence and innovation.
Q. What would you say to students and trainees new to the field?
Wright: Find a great mentor. Someone who sees you, understands your passions, knows how to best guide you, challenges you to think and stands by you. Mentors come from all walks of life and different people are needed at different points of your research journey. Dream big dreams. Be bold. At times, be patient - great things can take time. Be open to new ideas. Embrace opportunities to make what you're doing even better. Incredible ideas come from the most unexpected places. Be prepared to work hard, make time just to "think" and make sure to give time and energy to the personal side of your life. Most of all, let others see the spirit of excitement within you. It is contagious (in a good way)!