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TUES 24 OCT // 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Primary Content Focus: Clinical Practice (assessment, diagnosis, treatment, knowledge translation/EBP, implementation science, program development)

Secondary Content Focus: Spinal Cord Injury

Tertiary Content Focus: Technology (e.g. robotics, assistive technology, mHealth)

SCI peer involvement is expanding in rehabilitation and community settings whereby trained mentors help peers actively engage in self-management and home/community reintegration. This workshop will describe an evaluation of peer mentor relationships using Self-Determination theory; discuss two randomized controlled trials of peer-led inpatient and community-based interventions showing significantly improved rehabilitation outcomes; demonstrate person-centered peer mentorship; and showcase an online self-management site after detailing the participatory design process. Course participants’ expressed goals shape course delivery throughout, as they learn hands-on person-centered skills – applicable to many rehabilitation areas – through a culminating role play practice session in their chosen service area.


  1. Understand the emerging evidence for the efficacy of person-centered peer support in SCI rehabilitation throughout the lifespan
  2. Discuss person-centered peer mentorship approaches, delivery and evaluation, as they apply to SCI and other rehabilitation populations
  3. Conceptualize local replication opportunities for person-centered peer support and service provision in community environments
  4. Practice effective tools for person-centered provision of peer support, which are also useful to all rehabilitation practitioners


Bethlyn Houlihan, MSW, MPH
Spaulding New England Regional SCI Center, Boston University School of Public Health

Shane Sweet, PhD
McGill University

Sonya Allin, PhD
University of Toronto, Department of Physical Therapy

Minna Hong
Peer Support Services, Shepherd Center

Julie Gassaway, MS, RN
Shepherd Center


Bethlyn Houlihan‘s areas of expertise include knowledge translation, consumer-based research methods, and applied socio-medical research for people with disabilities using the latest technology, particularly developing and testing interventions to improve access to care, self-management, and HRQoL for people living with SCI. Her work focuses on developing and testing sustainable interventions empowering consumers living with SCI to live healthier lives in ways meaningful to them across the lifespan. She acts as Project Director for My Care My Call, in which she and her team developed and conducted a pilot RCT of a peer-led, phone-based health empowerment intervention for people with chronic SCI to prevent secondary conditions, shown to be efficacious. Ms. Houlihan acts as Co-Investigator and Coach Content Developer/Project Manager for the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation funded project, Spinal Cord Injury Virtual Coach to Promote Self-Care in Pressure Ulcer Prevention. She acted as Research Director for Care Call, developing and conducting a pilot RCT of this automated phone intervention in telerehabilitation for individuals with SCI, also shown to be efficacious. Ms. Houlihan has published numerous articles in prominent peer-reviewed journals, and presents regularly at both national and international professional and lay conferences. She served as a Board Member for the Greater Boston Chapter of the United Spinal since 2004. She currently serves as Co-Chair for the MA Department of Public Health’s Health & Disability Partnership, which brings together state agencies and community non-profits to address the health care access needs of people with disabilities throughout MA. She is a member of the Research Advisory Team for a PCORI-funded project using consumer-based quality measures to evaluate the effectiveness of a dual-eligible demonstration project in MA for people with disabilities.

Shane Sweet is an assistant professor at McGill University. The overarching goal of his program of research is to enhance the lives of adults, whether healthy or living with chronic conditions/disease (e.g., adults spinal cord injury), by understanding and promoting physical activity and well-being and engaging community members. His ongoing research on spinal cord injuries (SCI) focuses on strategies to enhance participation among adults with SCI and on understanding SCI community-based peer mentorship.


Sonya Allin has a PhD in Human Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, where she was one of the first “Quality of Life” Engineering Research Consortium trainees. She is currently an Adjunct Research Scientist at the University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto, Ontario and a member of Susan Jaglal’s Health Systems Evaluation Team at the University of Toronto. While in Toronto, she has worked to design, develop and evaluate a range of health care technologies including low-cost, pervasive technologies for mobility evaluation (e.g. balance assessment), decision supports for clinicians (e.g. “smart” referral forms and structured reporting tools), and is currently focused on web-based supports for self-management.

Minna Hong oversees the peer support program, to hire and manage peer support staff and vet potential peer support mentors, and match patients and family members with community peer support volunteers. She Coordinates and executes volunteer selection and training. Ms. Hong collaborates with nurse educators, OTs and PTs to provide newly injured patients with personal care training, based on patient needs. She directs the implementation of four monthly support meetings. The Shepherd program is acknowledged in the business, education and healthcare communities as a leading expert in spinal cord injury rehabilitation. As such, she conducts presentations at local universities, businesses and professional conferences such as The South Carolina Spinal Cord Injury Conference and Through the Looking Glass. She also contributes stories and story ideas to Spinal Columns and New Mobility magazines, and serves as an advisory board member on disabilities for Delta Air Lines.

Julie Gassaway

Julie Gassaway is the Director of Health and Wellness Research and a senior clinical research scientist at the Virginia C. Crawford Research Institute at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA.  Julie has been involved in clinical outcomes research for over 25 years; the past 10 have focused on physical rehabilitation. Research interests revolve around improving the transition process from acute rehabilitation to home environments. Current efforts focus on patient centered care management and research for persons with disabilities. She serves as a co-investigator on a Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute grant in which she leads development and implementation efforts for the patient-owned engagement portal as well as randomized clinical trials that demonstrated the value of peer mentorship to decrease reliance on the healthcare system and increase persons’ sense of self efficacy. Julie presents research findings at many national rehabilitation conferences, has authored over 60 peer-reviewed publications and serves as a reviewer and occasional guest editor for several rehabilitation journals.


ACRM Annual ConferenceProgress in Rehabilitation Research (PIRR#2017)

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