Plenary Speakers

Michael G. Fehlings MD PhD FRCSC


Professor of Neurosurgery
Vice Chair Research, Department of Surgery
Gerry and Tootsie Halbert Chair in Neural Repair and Regeneration Co-Director, Spine Program
McLaughlin Scholar in Molecular Medicine
University of Toronto
Head, Spinal Program
Senior Scientist, Krembil Research Institute
Scientist, McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine
Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network

Dr. Fehlings is the Vice Chair Research for the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto and Head of the Spinal Program at Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network. Dr. Fehlings is a Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Toronto, holds the Gerry and Tootsie Halbert Chair in Neural Repair and Regeneration, is a Scientist at the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine and a McLaughlin Scholar in Molecular Medicine. In the fall of 2008, Dr. Fehlings was appointed the inaugural Director of the University of Toronto Neuroscience Program (which he held until June 2012) and is currently Co-Director of the University of Toronto Spine Program. Dr. Fehlings combines an active clinical practice in complex spinal surgery with a translationally oriented research program focused on discovering novel treatments to improve functional outcomes following spinal cord injury (SCI). He has published over 850 peer-reviewed articles (h-index 88) chiefly in the area of central nervous system injury and complex spinal surgery. His seminal 1991 paper, cited over 1400 times, outlined the severe and lasting consequences of SCI due to a cascade of secondary injury mechanisms following the initial trauma. His research on secondary injury mechanisms ultimately led to the commencement of the multicenter, international Surgical Timing in Acute Spinal Cord Injury Study (STASCIS), aimed at establishing the need for early surgical decompression to prevent the negative effects of the secondary injury cascade. The results from this study, led by Dr. Fehlings and published in 2012, demonstrated the critical importance of early surgical decompression (<24 hours) to improve functional and neurological outcomes, and reduce secondary complications in individuals with SCI. His work examining the use of regenerative approaches including neural stem cells to repair the injured nervous system has led to numerous international awards and has helped lead the field toward clinical translation in this area. In 2017, the initiative to create Clinical Practice Guidelines for the management of degenerative cervical myelopathy and acute traumatic SCI – a multi-disciplinary international effort led by Dr. Fehlings – was published in the Global Spine Journal. Most recently, Dr. Fehlings’ work demonstrating that midcervical excitatory interneurons are essential for the maintenance of breathing in non-traumatic cervical SCI and critical for promoting respiratory recovery after traumatic SCI was published in Nature.

Dr. Michael Fehlings has received numerous prestigious awards including the Gold Medal in Surgery from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (1996), nomination to the Who’s Who list of the 1000 most influential scientists of the 21st century (2001), the Lister Award in Surgical Research (2006), the Leon Wiltse Award from the North American Spine Society for excellence in leadership and/or clinical research in spine care (2009), the Olivecrona Award (2009) — the top award internationally for neurosurgeons and neuroscientists awarded by the Nobel Institute at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm for his important contributions in CNS injury repair and regeneration, the Reeve-Irvine Research Medal in Spinal Cord Injury (2012), the Golden Axon Leadership Award (2012), the Mac Keith Basic Science Lectureship Award for significant contributions to the basic science of cerebral palsy and childhood onset disabilities (2012), and was the Mayfield Lecturer (2012). In 2012, Dr. Fehlings served as the 40th President of the Cervical Spine Research Society (CSRS) — the only Canadian to do so — and was honoured with the CSRS Presidential Medallion for outstanding leadership and contributions to cervical spine research. In 2013, Dr. Fehlings was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal presented to him by the Honourable Stephen Harper, the H. Richard Winn Prize from the Society of Neurological Surgeons, the Jonas Salk Award for Scientific Achievements from the March of Dimes Canada and the Henry Farfan Award from the North American Spine Society. In 2014, Dr. Fehlings was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Canada and to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, and in 2016 won the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Mentor of the Year Award


Professor Jamie Cooper AO BMBS MD


Director of the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Research Centre (ANZIC-RC)  Head of the Critical Care Division in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, both at Monash University; and Senior Specialist in Intensive Care, Head of ICU Research and Deputy Director of the Department of Intensive Care at The Alfred Hospital, Melbourne.

He has more than 300 publications including 18 in the New England Journal of MedicineLancet, and JAMA. He has been a Principal or Co-investigator on peer-reviewed research grants exceeding $64 million, including 29 NHMRC grants.

In 2017, Professor Cooper was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to intensive care medicine in the field of traumatic brain injury as a clinician, and to medical education as an academic, researcher and author.


Professor Jennie Ponsford, AO


Jennie Ponsford, AO, BA (Hons), MA (Clin Neuropsych), PhD, FCCN, MAPS, is Professor of Neuropsychology and Director of Clinical Programs in the School of Psychological Sciences at Monash University and Director of the Monash-Epworth Rehabilitation Research Centre at Epworth Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

She has spent 38 years engaged in clinical work and research with adults and children with brain injury. Her research has investigated outcomes following mild, moderate and severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) and factors predicting outcome. She has also evaluated the efficacy of numerous rehabilitative interventions to improve outcome. She has published over 320 journal articles and book chapters, and two books on rehabilitation following traumatic brain injury. Professor Ponsford is Past-President of the International Neuropsychological Society, Past-President of the International Association for the Study of Traumatic Brain Injury and the Australasian Society for the Study of Brain Impairment (ASSBI), and serves on the Executive of the International Brain Injury Association and ASSBI. In 2013 she was awarded the Robert L. Moody prize for Distinguished Initiatives in Brain Injury and Rehabilitation, in 2015 the INS Paul Satz Career Mentoring Award and in June 2017 she was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to medical research in the field of neuropsychology and through seminal advances in the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of patients with traumatic brain injuries.


Professor Vicki Anderson


Paediatric clinical neuropsychologist and child health researcher
Head of Psychology, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Director, Clinical Sciences Research, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, NHMRC Senior Practitioner Fellow and University of Melbourne Professorial Fellow (Psychology and Paediatrics).  

Her research and clinical interests are in disorders of childhood that impact on the brain, including both developmental and acquired disorders. Together with her research team, The Australian Centre for Child Neuropsychology Studies, she has published over 500 papers and 7 books. Her work has focussed on understanding the consequences of early brain insult and translating findings into clinical practice to optimise child outcomes from brain injury. Major recent work includes: i) publication of the second edition of the Test of Everyday Attention for Children ii) development of easily accessed, low burden, e-health approaches to parent-focused psychosocial treatments as a means of maximising child outcomes and improving family function; iii) development of PEERs, a novel, iPad delivered assessment tool for social competence; iv) digital health tools for monitoring child post concussion symptoms (endorsed by the Australian Football league).


Dr. Christopher Giza


Professor of Pediatric Neurology and Neurosurgery, Director, UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program, Director, Easton Clinic for Brain Health, Medical Director, Operation MEND-Wounded Warrior Project TBI Program, UCLA Brain Injury Research Center

Christopher Giza graduated from Dartmouth College, received his M.D. from West Virginia University and completed his training in Neurology at UCLA. He then worked on the Yosemite Search and Rescue team before joining the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center in 1998. He served on the California State Athletic Commission from 2005-2015, being vice-chair from 2010-2014. Dr. Giza traveled to Afghanistan in 2011 as a civilian advisor to the U.S. Department of Defense. He founded and directs the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT program, and serves as Medical Director for the Operation MEND-Wounded Warrior Project mild TBI program and the Easton Clinic for Brain Health.  Dr. Giza co-authored concussion / mild TBI guidelines for the American Academy of Neurology, Centers for Disease Control and the Concussion in Sport Group (Berlin guidelines), and has been a clinical consultant for the NFL, NHLPA, MLB, NBA and Major League Soccer. He co-founded and served as co-director of the American Academy of Neurology Sports Concussion Conference from 2014-2017. Dr. Giza serves as the site PI at UCLA for the NCAA-Department of Defense Concussion Assessment Research and Education (CARE) Consortium and the Approaches and Decisions in Acute Pediatric TBI (ADAPT) study.  He is a Professor of Pediatric Neurology and Neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine and UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital.  His research focuses on translational aspects of concussion and pediatric TBI, including anxiety, cognition, migraine, post-traumatic epilepsy, with emphasis on the effects of physical activity and environment.


Professor Steve Lacroix


Department of Molecular Medicine at Université Laval
Director of the Neurosciences Axis at the CHU de Québec Research Center

Steve Lacroix is Professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at Université Laval and Director of the Neurosciences Axis at the CHU de Québec Research Center (Canada). He received his Ph.D. from Université Laval in 1998. He was trained as a postdoc at the University of California, San Diego, in the field of spinal cord regeneration (1998-2001). From 2001 to 2003, he completed a second postdoc in neuroimmunology at McGill University, Montréal. Dr. Lacroix teaches and conducts research in the fields of neuroimmunology and regenerative medicine. His recent research has focused on the identification of the endogenous signals initiating neuroinflammation and the role of immune cells in neural damage and repair in the context of spinal cord and peripheral nerve injury and multiple sclerosis. With over 20 years of research in neuroimmune diseases, he has published more than 50 papers with over 5000 citations, many of which are published in the leading journals of neurosciences and immunology.

Dr Claudia Angeli


Director of the Epidural Stimulation Program 
Assistant Professor, Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Centre 

Dr. Claudia Angeli is the Director of the Epidural Stimulation Program and Assistant Professor at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, University of Louisville and senior researcher at Frazier Rehab Institute in Louisville. Her research background and interests are focused in understanding mechanisms of control of human locomotion following neurologic injury. She has over ten years of experience utilizing a combination of epidural stimulation and activity based training for the restoration of function following motor complete spinal cord injury. Her publications have generated a pivotal paradigm shift providing evidence for the potential for functional recovery following motor complete spinal cord injuries.


Dr. Andrew Gardner


NHMRC Early Career Fellow with the School of Medicine & Public Health at the University of Newcastle

Dr Gardner is an NHMRC Early Career Fellow and a clinical neuropsychologist with the School of Medicine & Public Health at The University of Newcastle. He is an honorary clinical research fellow with the Hunter New England Local Health District. He is also a Co-Director of the Hunter New England Local Health District (HNE LHD)’s Sport Concussion Clinic, an Executive Committee Member of the Priority Research Centre for Stroke and Brain Injury, and serves the concussion consultant to Rugby Australia. Dr Gardner is continuing to develop his research program by focusing on the investigation of concussion across the full spectrum, from the acute, sub-acute stages through to the potential chronic problems associated with sports concussion in active and retired athletes of all levels of competition.


Professor Alan Faden


Professor Alan Faden, Director, Center for Shock, Trauma and Anesthesiology Research (STAR); Scientific Co-Director, Center for Sports Medicine, Health & Human Performance, University of Maryland (Baltimore and College Park)

Alan Faden received his medical degree from the University of Chicago and neurology training at the University of California at San Francisco. He is the David S. Brown Professor in Trauma and University of Maryland Professor.  He serves as Director of the Shock, Trauma and Anesthesiology Research Center; Scientific Co-Director for the Center for Sports Medicine Health & Human Performance (bi-campus); and Associate Dean for Trans-Campus Research Advancement. Dr. Faden has published 390 refereed research papers, 50 book chapters and proceedings, and 9 books.  His present work examines the pathobiology and treatment of traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, mechanisms of cell death, neuroinflammation and central pain. Dr. Faden was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Neurotherapeutics. He was President of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, first President of the National Neurotrauma Society and President of the San Francisco Neurological Society.


Professor James Andrew Bourne


Group Leader, Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute

Professor James Bourne is recognised internationally as a world leader in nonhuman primate neurobiology.  His aim since joining the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute in 2009 has been to develop a multidisciplinary team to address the most important outstanding questions in neural repair through a cell-to-system approach.  As a result, his group have been the first to develop specific capacity in the marmoset monkey. He is in a unique position internationally to combine molecular analyses with a full-system assessment of function, through live animal imaging and behavioural experiments in the nonhuman primate. He has published a career total of over 75 papers, with 75% of these being first/ senior author; and in top multidisciplinary journals, including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USANature Protocols; and, Current Biology.

Presentation title: Unravelling the identity and reactivity of astrocytes in the nonhuman primate after injury