Research at MODC

March of Dimes Canada Research: A Brief History

Through the first decades of the organization’s life, research was primarily biomedical in nature. In 1956, Ontario March of Dimes (OMOD) organized the first Medical Rehabilitation Symposium for medical and para-medical professionals. The symposiums would continue annually for 28 years. In 1961, OMOD provided funding to a pioneer biofeedback medical rehabilitation researcher, Dr. John Basmajian. Basmajian later published the ground-breaking book, “Biofeedback: Principles and Practices for Clinicians,” a bestseller of more than a million copies, that continued to be the definitive text on the subject for decades.

In 1974, the March of Dimes continued to fund biofeedback research conducted by Dr. Geoff Fernie and Dr. J.P. Kostiuk.

In the mid-1980s, granting policy was to provide seed (start-up) or bridging funds for programs which might subsequently be funded by other bodies. Preference was given to programs designed to alleviate or prevent physical problems of the disabled in the immediate or near future. This was deemed more relevant to the organization’s mission of looking for a practical outcome in treatment.

In 1984, the organization began funding a Research Grants program that was initially directed towards research into the effects and treatment of Post-Polio Syndrome. In 1986, the maximum grant amount was $10,000. Grants were set for periods of up to three years.

Grants were temporarily suspended in 1990 due to provincial constraints. However, there was a marked increase in program research, evaluative programs provided by OMOD in order to facilitate improvements. In 1983, OMOD hired its first internal research coordinator.

Since the late 80's, Program Research and Evaluation is a major element in the priority, planning and evaluation functions of MODC. The purpose is to provide reliable evaluative information regarding how well programs are meeting objectives. Evaluation includes the level of consumer satisfaction and each program’s strengths and weaknesses. As well, research methods evaluate new service models piloted by OMOD and to systematically gather data to document consumer needs, to rank their importance and/or to identify service requirements .

MODC reinstated funding of biomedical research when in 1994, The Rt. Hon. Paul Martin Biomedical and Rehabilitation Research Endowment Fund was established to support new or significant contributions to science or medicine in the alleviation or prevention of a disabling condition. At that time, research funding expanded to cover both rehabilitation-focused areas of research and biomedical research. 

That same year, OMOD created the Jonas Salk Award, a prize of $10,000 to be presented annually to a Canadian scientist, physician or researcher who had made a new and outstanding contribution in science or medicine to prevent, alleviate or eliminate a physical disability.

In 2002, OMOD deferred its own program and entered into an agreement with the Canadian Institute for Health Research (C.I.H.R.) to co-fund two Research Fellowships with an annual stipend level of $38,000 plus a $3,500 research allowance. The maximum period of support was three years. This shifted to one fellowship of $50,000 in 2008 with OMOD contributing 50%. The research generated through this included studies related to range of motion and the neurobiological basis for strengthening muscle groups in order to reduce disabilities due to stroke.

In 2008, OMOD gifted the Faculty of Health at York University with funds to establish the March of Dimes Canada Scholarship for graduate students conducting research in the area of stroke recovery. A $25,000 permanent endowment, leveraging OMOD’s contribution of $12,500 with matching funds from the Ontario Trust for Student Support, provides annual scholarships of $1,250.

As CIHR ended its funding partnership in 2011, MODC reviewed its options, including reinstating of its previous grants program.

While valuable research was funded in the areas of post-polio, brain injuries and rehabilitation, the research was not designed to address services available through MODC or which might have a transferable application for MODC.

A new model that considered research as a critical part of the organization that could enhance our services lead to the decision by MODC to endow a Rising Star Professorship in the Department of Occupational Sciences and Occupational Therapy at the University of Toronto. As OMOD transitioned in 2013 to a national entity, the funding lead to the establishment of the March of Dimes Canada Paul J.J. Martin Professorship. The Paul J.J. Martin name is associated with this for two reasons: The Late Hon. Paul J.J. Martin, as the Canadian Minister of National Health and Welfare in the 1950s, took the courageous step of delivering the country's universal vaccination program which eventually ended the threat of polio in Canada and the family of Mr. Martin contributed $100,000 towards this professorship. 

The partnership between March of Dimes Canada and the University of Toronto supports the production and translation of internationally relevant research that promotes the community re-integration of individuals with acquired brain injuries, and builds capacity for new generations of scientific evidence to increase the health, productivity and well-being of individuals in the community who have an acquired brain injury.

The partnership has generated additional research relationships at the University of Toronto as well as academics, researchers and students from other universities and research institutes, seeking to study either or both aspects of our service options and models or needs and issues affecting our constituent consumers.

It’s expected that a major outcome will be knowledge translation enabling MODC and other delivery agencies to improve services. MODC is combining internal and external research to establish an evidence-based approach to service. The full integration of consumer feedback, staff expertise and external scientific evidence into program decisions will enhance the opportunity for optimal program outcomes and quality of life. 

Research Timeline

1951 Canadian Foundation for Poliomyelitis was established and granted use of the name “March of Dimes”.
1956 OMOD organized first medical rehabilitation symposium on rehabilitation in collaboration with Easter Seals Ontario, formerly the Crippled Children Society of Ontario. The relationship continued for 28 years.
1961 Dr John BasmajianOMOD provided first research grant to Dr. John Basmajian, a pioneer in the field of biofeedback who was later made an Officer of the Order of Canada for his work in electromyography, and development of biofeedback techniques.
1969 A three year study initiated at the Wellesley Hospital, Toronto, under Dr. Ian Macnab: “Microcirculation of Bone Tendons and Synovial Membrane.”

Grant awarded to Dr. Marvin Tile for his work on the measurement of electical conduction through nerve roots.

Grant awarded to Dr. Andrew Bruce to investigate the possibility to transplant a nerve into the de-enervated bladder of a paralyzed person.

Grand awarded to Dr. Charles M. Godfrey to investigate the efficiency of below-knee casts.

Grand awarded to Dr. WR Harris for his work to develop a kind of "bone glue".

The annual Symposium on Rehabilitation attracts more than 600 medical and para-medical attendees.
1971 Research grant given to help establish the Riverdale Stroke Recovery Unit in Toronto, the first of its kind in Canada. The aim to minimize the effects of disability caused by stroke.
1974 18th Annual Medical Symposium attracts the largest number of attendees to date, initiating the option to rotate the symposium to other Ontario cities.

Two grants were approved for Dr. James Dornan and Dr. J.P. Kostiuk and G.R. Fernie, PhD to develop better and more sophisticated training methods for adult amputees.
1975 Two grants awarded to Dr. J.P. Kostiuk and Dr. G.R. Fernie at Toronto Hospital Weston Amputee Centre for biofeedback training aids being developed and in use experimentally, step-and-error counter, devices to indicate correct stride, and alarm systems to help the amputee retain his balance.
1976 20th Annual Symposium on Rehabilitation attracts 169 MDs and 284 allied personnel.
1977 Dr. Hamilton Hall received a grant to assist in the establishment of his back education unit, to provide an effective technique to assist individuals suffering from chronic back problems.

Dr. Mickey Milner and Dr. SN Bannerjee received a grant for their “Multifactorial Assessment of lower limb amputee gait using computer generated displays” project.
1981 International Year of Disabled Persons
1982 Project Accessibility, Eastern Region Ontario March of Dimes - A study based on general public awareness to the physical barriers that exist in public facilities, schools in particular. Each school in the region was surveyed focusing on inquiry of independence in function and movement.
1983 OMOD provided seed funding for an adult seating clinic at Sunnybrook Hospital aimed at the prevention of further impairment in mobility impaired adults, the first program of its kind in Metro Toronto aimed specifically at the adult population.

Funding provided to Dr. Michel Rathbone for his study: “ Purification of a Neurotrophic Growth Factor from Brain Tissue”

Doug RankmoreOMOD hired first Research Coordinator, Doug Rankmore to conduct internal research and evaluation.

Program evaluation conducted for the Assistive Devices Program.

Vocational rehabilitation evaluation and management information system pilot initiated, designed to improve client tracking and program evaluation within OMOD.

OMOD research survey initiated the creation of Canada's first post-polio program. Growth of the program led to establishment of several Post Polio Syndrome clinics and a series of Canadian post-polio conferences.
1984 Grant to the Laurentian Rehabilitation Centre in Sudbury (Laurentian Hospital) to assist setting up an adult seating clinic.

Grant given to Dr. Michael Gross for his comparison study of Continuous Passive Motion and Physiotherapy in rehabilitation.

Grant given to Dr. C.H. Rorabeck for his study focused on identifying the likelihood of falls following hip and knee replacements.

Grant given to Dr. R. Butler and Dr. I.M. Payk for “Differential Staining of Different Types of Peripheral Nerve and Muscle Tissue”.

Ontario March of Dimes Late Effects of Poliomyelitis survey dealing with the new problems facing individuals with Post-polio Syndrome.
1985 West Park Healthcare CentreSurvey in conjunction with West Park Hospital on changes in health and service needs. 

Grant given to Dr. Michael Gross, Chedoke-McMaster for his study to compare Physiotherapy and Continuous Passive Motion.

Grant given to Dr. Perry S. Tepperman for his study to find the best way to restore knee function after surgery.
1986 Grant to West Park Hospital evaluated the first Post-Polio Clinic in Canada.   

OMOD Vocational Rehabilitation Research Study to assess OMOD's current range of services and future needs in Thunder Bay, conducted by Andersen Management Services Inc.

$15,000 grant to Dr. Michael P. Rathbone, McMaster University for research on Cell Growth Factor Receptors.
1987 Grant to Dr. Peter Cameron for his study which looked to explain fatigue in patients with post-polio syndrome.
1988 Grant to Dr. Karen Pape for her study on Therapeutic Electrical Stimulation (TES) on Post-Polio Sequelae treatment designed to reverse the weakness caused by post-polio syndrome. 

OMOD initiates Vocational Needs Survey in seven regions to form a basis for future service planning.

OMOD's Camp, Multiculturalism initiative, and Post Polio Conference evaluations analyzed.
1989 First National Conference on the Late Effects of Polio including one-day Medical Satellite Symposium.
1990 Endowment Fund for Research officially created by the Board of Directors of OMOD, later named the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin Sr. Biomedical and Rehabilitation Research Endowment Fund in 1994.
1991 OMOD co-sponsors the first Northern Conference on Disability by the First Nations of Canada.
1993 An Even Break coverOMOD research coordinator publishes “An Even Break: The Needs of Persons with Physical Disabilities in Ontario", a survey of 3,200 people with disabilities and 400 agencies in 16 regions. the focus was primarily in the areas of employment and education, but also looked at attendant care, housing and transportation. The findings confirmed the serious predicament facing persons with physical disabilities.

OMOD coordinates its first Canadian Conference on Conductive Education®.
1994 The Endowment Fund is named The Rt. Hon. Paul Martin Sr. Biomedical and Rehabilitation Research Endowment Fund. Its mandate is to support new or significant contributions to science or medicine in the alleviation or prevention of a disabling condition.

Jonas Salk Award is created. The award is a lifetime achievement award of $10,000 to be presented annually to a Canadian scientist, physician or researcher who has made a new and outstanding contribution in science or medicine to prevent, alleviate or eliminate a physical disability.

Dr. Ron WortonFirst Jonas Salk Award presented to Dr. Ron Worton CM. Worton and his team identified the dystrophin gene whose mutation is associated with Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies. Under his leadership, the genetics department at The Hospital for Sick Children also identified genes associated with cystic fibrosis, Fanconi anemia, Wilson's disease, Wilms' tumor and Tay-Sachs disease.
1995 Evaluation of a Short-Term Conductive Education Programme and Literacy Options program at OMOD.
1996 OMOD co-sponsors a two-year pilot Conductive Education project for children, with Bloorview MacMillan Rehabilitation Centre and Positive Action for Conductive Education (P.A.C.E.®).

Evaluation of OMOD's Attendant Services Program. zz
1997 Annual evaluation of OMOD’s Acquired Brain Injury Program, offered in York Region.
1998 The Rt. Hon. Paul Martin Sr. Biomedical and Rehabilitation Research Endowment Fund reaches its first million-dollar milestone. Future research grants will be funded with the interest, keeping the capital intact.

OMOD hosts Solutions for the Future: Post-polio Syndrome, providing up-to-the-minute information on pain management, medication and surgery issues, Post Polio Syndrome and arthritis, fibromyalgia and osteoporosis; respiratory and swallowing issues, presented by Canada’s most informed Post-Polio Specialists.

Staff survey conducted "An Analysis of the Results of the Quality of Working Life Study."
1999 Dr. Charles TatorThe first grant of $30,000 is given from​ the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin Sr. Biomedical and Rehabilitation Research Endowment Fund to Dr. Charles Tator for his research “Studies of Regeneration in the Injured Spinal Cord”.

Consumer Information Needs Survey conducted by John FitzGerald on gaining a competitive advantage through voice input computer technology.
2000 Research grants given to Dr. Heidi Sveistrup for “Effectiveness of Virtual Reality as Compared to Conventional Physiotherapy in Clients with Chronic Shoulder Range-of-Motion Limitations" and Dr. Kevin Shoemaker for “Reflex Cardiovascular Control Following Stroke in Humans”.

Program Research Evaluation: Aquired Brain Injury (ABI) program, Niagara Employment Program, Conductive Education program for adults with neurological impairments, customer satisfaction survey designed for northern medical clinics.

Expansion of customer surveys for consumers: ABI, Home and Vehicle Modification program, Northern Clinics, Recreation Out Trips, and WSIB Employment Services clients.

Staff survey on quality of working life, with focus on improving procedures and training.
2002 CIHRAgreement signed with the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) to co-fund post-doctorate fellowships for recipients for up to three years using the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin Sr. Biomedical and Rehabilitation Research Endowment Fund.
2003 Evaluation of OMOD Conductive Education® Adult Program by Dr. Jill Worsley & John FitzGerald.
2004 First two fellowships funded through OMOD/CIHR Biomedical and Rehabilitation Research Award given to Dr. Nancy Salbach and Dr. Lora Marie Giangregorio.
2007 FICCDATOMOD operating as March of Dimes Canada, co-hosts the first Festival of International Conferences on Caregiving, Disability, Aging and Technology (FICCDAT) generating participation of over 1200 people from 36 countries.
2008 York UniversityOMOD partners with the Faculty of Health, York University to establish the March of Dimes Canada Scholarship for graduate students conducting research in the area of stroke recovery, creating a $25,000 permanent endowment to endow $1,250 scholarships.

MODC a member of stakeholder panel for National Population Health Study of Neurological Conditions.

A Pilot Study of the Evaluation of the Fa​mily Informal Caregiver Stroke Self Management (FICSS) Research Project (Co-Investigator: Rhonda M Whiteman, MN, Hamilton Health Sciences). 

Fellowship funded through OMOD/CIHR Biomedical and Rehabilitation Research Award given to Dr. Cyril Duclos for his research: Brain activity of force production in persons with neurological muscle weakness.
2009 Peers Fostering Hope sapling in handsThree pilot projects were introduced as part of Transition Improvement for Continuity of Care (T.I.C.C.) to help support transitions through the stroke patient's care journey. One of the projects included the Peers Fostering Hope program, linking stroke patients and their caregivers with volunteer peer supporters who have experienced a stroke.
2010 First York University scholarship given to PhD student Ying Chen for her study: Eye-Hand Coordination in Parietal Cortex.
2011 MODC embarks on a third avenue of research and the focus of research changes to evidence-based service. In order to establish the efficacy of new program initiatives, MODC begins partnering with external researchers to co-investigate program related topics. Evidence-Based Service includes external scientific evidence, staff expertise, funder priorities and consumer/caregiver perspectives.

Second FICCDAT conference takes place and is attended by 1110 people from 42 countries. Paper published by Vishaya Naidoo from conference: “Bridging the Gaps: Supporting People Aging into and with Disability”. 

Fellowship funded through OMOD/CIHR Biomedical and Rehabilitation Research Award given to Dr. Guillaume Desroches for Sitting Pivot Transfers in Individuals with a Spinal Cord Injury. 

York University scholarship given to PhD student Amanda Fuentes for Cognitive reserve in paediatric traumatic brain injury: relationship with neuropsychological outcome.
2012 The modification and evaluation of a learner-centred communication training program for couples with aphasia affiliated with a community-based program (Co-Investigator: Riva Sorin-Peters, PhD, Reg CASLPO, SLP(c), CCC(Sp). 
2014 University of TorontoMarch of Dimes Canada and the University of Toronto (U of T) sign a $1.5 million agreement to advance research in recovery from brain injuries and stroke, making the donation to the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy the largest made by the national charitable organization in its over 60 year history. The March of Dimes Canada Early Career Professorship will provide a faculty member in the early stages of her or his research career with a well-established framework for investigating interventions and pathways to increase the independence and social integration of brain injury survivors. This is also the first endowed professorship for U of T’s Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.

Long-term Outcomes of Home Modifications survey conducted to determine if homes whose modifications were subsized by the program were still occupied by the recipient of the subsidy, and to assess the consumer's opinions of the effectiveness of the modifications.
2015 Dr Emily NalderDr. Emily Nalder appointed as the first March of Dimes Paul J.J. Martin Early Career Professor. Dr. Nalder’s research program examines the complex factors related to people, environments, health services, and technology that influence the community integration of adults with acquired brain injury.
2016 AGEWELLMODC a partner in the project “Aging, Disability and Technology: A framework for research, implementation and policy”, part of AGEWELL initiative. The project is part of a new Canadian Networks Centres of Excellence - Aging Gracefully across Environments using technology to Ensure Well-being, Engagement and Long Life. MODC’s role is to support research activities and help to coordinate and carry out knowledge translation.

Bridging Aging and Disability International NetworkResearch support for the Bridging Aging and Disability International Network (BADIN), working in collaboration with the multi-disciplinary, multi-country Steering Committee of BADIN. BADIN arose out of two conferences on Growing Older with a Disability, part of the Festival of International Conferences on Caregiving, Disability, Aging and Technology.
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