UO conference features top researchers in brain injury science

Brain scans

As in-person conferences were getting canceled in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, a team of UO researchers working to improve the lives of children and adults with brain injuries saw an emerging need they sought to fill.

The staff and faculty at the Center on Brain Injury Research and Training had put on small conferences before, but when they and many of the top names in their field found themselves with suddenly open schedules, they decided to expand on their previous events.

They reached out to their colleagues. The end result of those discussions is the upcoming “2020 Virtual Conference/Childhood Brain Injury: Moving Research into Practice,” which runs Nov. 13-14.

“The speakers cut across a number of important domains,” said Ann Glang, research professor and director of the center. “Topics cover current research on concussion management, working with families and supporting children with challenges with executive functioning. The featured speakers are the most prominent researchers in the world discussing these topics.”

In all, 22 speakers are part of the virtual event. Glang and her colleagues poured over the previous five years of peer-reviewed journal articles, looking for the most impactful work.

“There are a lot of people describing the problem,” Glang said. “The researchers who are speaking at the conference are the ones who are out doing the work to establish the evidence for interventions that help children.”

The first topic, “State of the Science in Concussion Management,” features Dr. John Leddy of the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; Dr. Brad Kurowski of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center; and Dr. Gerry Gioia of Children’s National Hospital.

“These speakers are doing cutting-edge research on promising physical rehabilitation techniques, and they will be talking about how to use these techniques in clinical settings,” Glang said. “We’re excited to be able to offer participants access to this type of translational research.”

Other speakers at the conference with Oregon connections are David Howell, who received his doctorate from the UO and is now the lead researcher at Children's Hospital Colorado Sports Medicine Center and assistant director of clinical research in the Department of Orthopedics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and Dr. Jim Chestnutt of Oregon Health & Science University, who is actively involved in concussion issues statewide.

As part of the effort in putting together the conference, researchers from OHSU and Oregon State University were on the event’s advisory board. Glang has worked with both institutions before, but she sees this conference as a way to strengthen the connections among all three universities and lay the groundwork for future collaborations.

Interest in the conference has already been brisk. To help, the conference organizers set a low registration fee for students, and already they’ve had registrations come in from throughout the country from school nurses, speech pathologists and psychologists, among others. The registration deadline is Nov. 11.

—By Jim Murez, University Communications