Friday, January 29, 2016

CALL FOR APPLICATIONS WSO Young Stroke Professionals Brief Clinical Exchange Scholarship Program

WSO Young Stroke Professionals Brief Clinical Exchange Scholarship Program
To support young stroke professionals from any discipline to spend a 1-2 week observership at an international center of excellence in order to foster best clinical practice benchmarking and collaborative research.
Nature of support:
Up to 5 scholarships will be awarded each year to cover travel and accommodation up to US$2000 per scholarship, to be reimbursed by WSO on presentation of receipts and short travel reports from both observer and host. The host institution is expected to waive any observership fees.
Application and selection process:
Applications are restricted to current WSO members. Applications will be judged by the WSO Young Stroke Professionals Committee based on merit with 2 of the 5 positions weighted towards young stroke professionals from low-middle income countries. The applicants should generally be below 40 years of age.
The application should include:
  • curriculum vitae 
  • provisional budget for travel and accommodation to the proposed institution 
  • written confirmation from the proposed institution agreeing to the visit 
  • a 500 word statement explaining how this visit will aid the young stroke professional’s career
Closing Date:
Applications for the 2016 round (for travel by end of 2016) must be lodged with the WSO via email ( by 5th February 2016
For further information contact Dr Bruce Campbell, WSO Young Stroke Professionals Committee (

Monday, January 25, 2016

Seven Minutes in Stroke - Liam Johnson

Seven minutes in stroke 

1. What inspired you towards neuroscience?

During my undergraduate studies in Exercise and Sports Science, I completed a motor control and development unit where I studied the link between movement and the central nervous system (CNS), and what happens when the CNS, and in particular the brain, is injured or diseased. This ignited a passion in me to try to understand as much as I could about this link between the brain and movement, and in particular, how exercise can be used to help people recover from, or deal with, neurological or neuromuscular conditions.

2. Why stroke? 

One in 6 Australians will experience a stroke in their lifetime, and many of them will be left with long-lasting disability and at an increased risk of suffering a recurrent stroke. So few patients get the rehabilitation they need, and what they do get does little to improve their fitness, muscle strength and endurance, or reduce vascular risk factors. There is an urgent need for evidence-based rehabilitation interventions that promote recovery and reduce the risk of recurrent stroke. Exercise and physical activity is recommended after stroke, but unfortunately, it remains unclear what should be prescribed and when. Given my expertise in exercise physiology, I have a significant opportunity to make important contributions to the knowledge about exercise prescription and establishing a pathway from acute care to long-term health and well-being after stroke. This is a critical need for stroke survivors and will potentially transform the current rehabilitation landscape.

3. What have been the highs so far?

Stroke survivors want answers to questions such as what exercise they should be doing, how much and how hard they should exercise, and when should they begin exercise training. The fact that I am leading research that will hopefully answer these questions gives me enormous satisfaction. I also very much enjoy engaging with the participants in my studies – their support of my research is very humbling.

I also feel incredibly privileged to be working in a Research Institute that is the foremost stroke research centre in Australia. I am surrounded by amazing researchers and scientists that are passionate about finding ways of helping people with neurological and mental health conditions – every day is inspiring.

4. What have been the lows?

Navigating the challenges of being in research is a persistent battle. It has never been tougher to win grants to support your research, particularly for early career researchers. Knowing that your livelihood is dependent on that next grant is something I find very stressful.

I also struggle to deal with rejections from scientific publishers and near-misses from grant funders. The feeling of failure and not being good enough is pervasive in this line of work and can at times be overwhelming.

5. How do you balance work life with the needs of home life?

With difficulty actually! Firstly, I should say that I have tremendous support from my wife to do what I do, but I think, like many, I find this to be one of the most challenging aspects of research. I think just being mindful of trying to maintain a balance is important – and then putting in place some strategies to keep work and home life separate works reasonably well for me. I try to maintain pretty rigid routines with what I dedicate my time to and when, and I exercise every day which I find is super important for my physical and mental health. Weekends are primarily time for me and my family, and I make sure I take at least one-week away from work a couple of times a year, not only for me to refresh and recharge, but also to dedicate time to my marriage and fur-babies.

6. Who are your most important mentors and how did you find them?

I have been very fortunate to be mentored by a number of people, though mainly in informal arrangements, whereby I have come to them, as leaders in research I am interested in, for guidance. It is really only in hindsight that I consider people like Professors Frank Mastaglia, Gary Thickbroom and Dylan Edwards to have been fantastic mentors. Since moving to The Florey Institute, I have been incredibly fortunate to be supervised by Professor Julie Bernhardt, who I consider to be a mentor as much as my supervisor. Julie has been tremendously influential of me – her care, guidance and support drives me every single day to give the very best of myself to my work. Via the Florey Institute’s formal mentoring program, I have also been lucky to be mentored by Dr Lachlan Thompson more recently, which I am finding to be very helpful also.

7. What are your most important collaborations and how have you built them?

Building on the hard work and leadership of people like Professor Bernhardt, I have been privileged to access an extensive network of collaborators, in particular within the Centre of Research Excellence in Stroke Rehabilitation and Brain Recovery. I also collaborate with a number of other groups, including a group based in New York, USA, focussing on telemedicine and virtual rehabilitation, and a group researching exercise training for people with Parkinson’s disease at Deakin University. I believe that having a strong reputation for excellence and integrity in your research, being willing to work with others and open to opportunities, and being generous in the collaboration are some of the more important ingredients for initiating and establishing healthy collaborations.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Seven Minutes in Stroke: Valeria Caso

The International Journal of Stroke has incredible author and reviewer support from stroke experts around the world. Over the years I've interviewed, met with, emailed, conversed and conferenced with so many amazing people who's career path and study interest are so interesting these wonderful stories must be shared! So we have started a new blog series entitled Seven Minutes in Stroke'.

Our first 'Seven Minutes in Stroke' series kicks off with the inspiring Valeria Caso, President elect of the European Stroke Organisation.

Seven minutes in stroke

1. What inspired you towards neuroscience?
My interest for neuroscience was sparked by a conference on Childhood Neuropsychiatry that I attended during my last year of high school; listening to the speaker, showing the developmental phases of the brain and its pathologies, I knew that this was my calling.

2. Why stroke?
During my 2nd year of Neurological specialization my Director sent me to Germany,  my home country, to learn how to set up what would be the future Perugia Stroke Unit. During those 6 months, my passion for stroke care began.

3. What have been the highs so far?
Well, the Perugia Stroke Unit was established in 1998, so over the last 17 years the satisfying moments have been many. We adopted the stroke pathways that resulted in one of the lowest mortality rates in Italy. We have seen great advances in treatment which have saved, undoubtedly, hundreds of lives, as well as reducing significantly disability.

4. What have been the lows?
Still, people have not gotten the message that when they have symptoms of stroke they need to get to the hospital. In fact, because of this we see unnecessary victims of stroke.

5. How do you balance work life with the needs of home life?
I am very lucky because my family members are very supportive, especially my well-chosen husband.

6. Who are your most important mentors and how did you find them?
The first and most important is my friend and colleague Maurizio Paciaroni who was the first person I met at Clinica Neurologica. Over the last twenty years, we have been working side by side building up the Stroke Unit and carrying out research. Our dedication has produced many accomplishments in the field of stroke. The remaining three mentors have been Didier Leys, Werner Hacke and Michael Brainin who have provided me with professional opportunities that were important steps in my career. I am grateful for their genuine support and their trust.  

7. What are your most important collaborations and how have you built them?
Currently, my most important collaborations include those with healthcare professionals interested in nurturing the field of Women’s Medicine. This is because, we share the understanding  that there are inherent  differences between the sexes regarding responses to treatment, time of disease and outcome.  Building these collaborations has been possible through mutual integrity and passion for the patients. 

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