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Kosair Charities gives UofL $7.3 million to help children regain use of limbs

by Gary Mans, HSC communications and marketing last modified Nov 11, 2013 08:46 AM

Efforts by University of Louisville researchers to help children with spinal cord injuries received a significant boost today.

Kosair Charities gives UofL $7.3 million to help children regain use of limbs

Andrea Behrman with her patient Kyle Bartolini and his mother, Jamie.

UofL announced that Kosair Charities is providing $7.3 million in support of the work of Andrea Behrman, PhD, PT, in exploring how to help children regain the use of limbs paralyzed as the result of spinal cord injuries and other causes.

The university also announced it is providing $2.7 million from proceeds of a previous gift from the late Owsley Frazier, former UofL board chair, bringing the total to $10 million in support of this burgeoning area of research and care.

“Today is a good day for children in Kentucky and beyond,” said UofL President James Ramsey. “A little more than a year ago, Dr. Behrman and two of her colleagues moved from Florida to join our prominent program researching how to overcome paralysis associated with spinal cord injury. Andrea brought with her a focus on children, enabling our efforts to explore how to treat people of all ages. Today’s gift will help Andrea, her team and UofL move the research forward more quickly.”

Behrman, a professor of neurological surgery, is a pioneer in the use of locomotor training in children. She and UofL faculty member Susan J. Harkema, PhD, professor of neurological surgery and the Owsley B. Frazier Chair in Neurological Rehabilitation and director of rehabilitation research at the UofL Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, developed the intense physical therapy regime.

Locomotor training allows individuals with certain kinds of spinal cord injuries to repetitively practice standing and stepping using body weight support and a treadmill with manual facilitation from therapists and technicians. The ultimate goal is to re-train patients with spinal cord injuries to stand and walk again.

Behrman’s goal is to help children who not only have spinal cord injuries, but also conditions such as head trauma and tumors.

“Our mission at Kosair Charities is to protect the health and well-being of children in Kentucky and Southern Indiana by providing financial support for clinical services, research, pediatric health care education and child advocacy,” said Jerry Ward, chair of the Kosair board. “It is our honor and privilege to team with UofL, Dr. Behrman and all of her colleagues as she searches for ways to help children gain or regain the ability to walk.”

“One of the primary purposes for moving to Louisville is to lead and develop a unique and progressive, pediatric rehabilitation and research program aimed at maximizing recovery after neurologic injury using activity-based interventions,” Behrman said. “It has been a privilege to join the exceptional team that has been built at UofL.

“And the community support to help us accomplish our goals is outstanding. Our partnership with Kosair Charities is unmatched in terms of alignment of what we are trying to achieve and the people we are trying to help. The support Kosair Charities provides is critical to our advancing the science of rehabilitation in children.”

The funds from the gifts will help to create endowed chairs, one for Behrman and one to help recruit another leading scientist/clinician in the field. These resources also will help support the recruitment of pediatric rehabilitation personnel, purchase specialized pediatric rehabilitation equipment and help establish a truly cutting-edge research program in the field.

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