In February 2019, Heather Dow, Rajiv Reebye and Paul Winston led the founding of a medical specialty association focused on spasticity, the Canadian Advances in Neuro-Orthopedics for Spasticity Consortium (CANOSC).  Although the pandemic changed the complexion of “in person” conferences, CANOSC had the foresight and creativity to rapidly organize virtual webinars – and data collected from assessment surveys reveal ~90% of participants improve competency, and >83% make positive changes in their practices as a result of this education. Membership in CANOSC is free as they routinely work with industry partners to secure grants and funding to mitigate costs as a barrier, and this has allowed CANOSC to reach professionals in 60 countries around the world.

In April 2019, CANOSC had our first in person meeting with visiting professors from all over the world. It was a well-attended event with high level education for all attendees. When the pandemic changed the direction of in person events, CANOSC had the foresight and creativity to, very rapidly, organize a series of virtual webinars. These were directly relevant to barriers that our members were facing during the pandemic (such as virtual care, virtual education, care of the patient with COVID-19 infection). Thanks to ongoing and engaging support with industry partners, membership to CANOSC is free. CANOSC webinars have grown in popularity and now have attendees from over 60 countries globally and often have 200-300 participants. Assessment data shows that 90% of participants improve their competency and over 83% are making positive changes in their practices. This is a global impact for positive patient outcomes!

In June 2021, Heather received an email from a young general practitioner from Cameroon, who had participated in a CANOSC webinar. He wrote “I had the honor to participate [in an] interesting CANOSC webinar . . .There are some questions that i could not [ask] .”  This short email quickly resulted in a Zoom meeting across 3 time zones, connecting this young practitioner and his colleague to CANOSC. These colleagues were encouraged to submit an essay and were the recipients of the inaugural CANOSC Mary Ann Keenan Award for their research on “Rehabilitation of chronic post-stroke spastic paresis: impact of guided self-rehabilitation contracts on gait at the Cardinal Paul Emile LEGER National Center for Rehabilitation”. Receiving this award propelled this young practitioner and his colleague in rehab medicine (receiving recognition from their government and subsequent funding to invest in their clinic). CANOSC plans to continue collaboration with Cameroon, bringing more educational virtual and in person opportunities.  Again, one small email, that had a huge impact in a developing country with a defined need for medical education.

CANOSC is committed to collaboration and education; working with the Academy of Academic Physiatrists, the World Federation for Neurorehabilitation and an organization dedicated to improving access to neurorehabilitation in Africa, the Ministry of Health & Wellness in Mauritius and ISPRM.  CANOSC also worked with the colleagues in Australia to co-develop webinar learning opportunities focused on COVID-19 impacts and directed the Stroke Virtual Short Course hosted by NEURAM, CANOSC, WFNR, University of Mauritius, Bournemouth University and the University of British Columbia.

CANOSC has been instrumental in using 21st century technologies such as webinars to provide ongoing medical education to historically under-serviced areas of the world.  CANOSC is committed to the improvement of lives for those living with impairments and disabilities.

CANOSC received the Haim Ring Memorial Award from the International Society of Rehabilitation Medicine. This award recognizes strong records hosting international visitors and exchanges and the previous awards winners have traditionally been universities and hospitals.  In less than four years, CANOSC’s record of collaboration, commitment to education and collegiality brought international recognition to Canadian societies devoted to rehabilitation medicine.

Heather’s commitment to virtual learning has allowed her to advocate to  the Medical Council of Mauritius in their merit – and physicians in Mauritius are now able to earn continuing medical credits through virtual attendance.  Consequently, more than 200 physicians and allied health professionals attended their first accredited webinar in November 2022.  CANOSC is now an accredited CME provider for physicians in Mauritius.  Since then, CANOSC has made accessible eight hours of CME, and amassed more than 600 needs assessments from physicians in that country.

CANOSC will host the ISPRM 2026 Conference in Vancouver.  Providing access to high level, high yield education has and will have positive outcomes for patients in an area where a defined need was evident.

CANOSC has demonstrated incredible leadership and vision in helping to promote the management and care of people with impairments and disabilities through various activities and collaborations with national and international organizations; Academy of Academic Physiatrists, the World Federation for Neurorehabilitation as well as improving access to neurorehabilitation in Africa though a commitment to NEURAM (NEURorehabilitation Action Mauritius).

Lastly, CANOSC is proudly supporting the World Rehabilitation Alliance (WRA) 2030 initiatives. Heather Dow, CEO, and Dr. Rajiv Reebye, Director are active members in both the Research and Workforce Workstream Committees and attended the World Rehabilitation Alliance (WRA) biennial in-person members meeting that took place on 11th-13th July 2023 at the World Health Organization (WHO) Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Under the theme of “Strengthening Health Systems through Multidisciplinary Rehabilitation Professionals,” the WRA Workforce Workstream aims to foster a dynamic and interconnected community of rehabilitation stakeholders capable of meeting diverse population needs effectively.

As a committed member of the Workforce Workstream Committee, Heather played a pivotal role in shaping the objectives, strategies, and advocacy efforts of the Workstream. Her expertise and dedication further reinforce CANOSC’s commitment to supporting the growth and advancement of the rehabilitation profession.

The Workstream’s objectives focus on:

  1. Communicating the multidisciplinary nature of the rehabilitation workforce and its vital contribution to optimal health outcomes.
  2. Driving investment in quality rehabilitation education and training to build a robust and competent workforce.
  3. Expanding the integration of the rehabilitation workforce into all levels of care and practice settings to ensure comprehensive care delivery.

 Active involvement in the Workforce Workstream highlights the CANOSC’s dedication to advocating for the professional development and recognition of multidisciplinary rehabilitation professionals. By investing in the education and training of rehabilitation professionals, the Workforce Workstream Committee strives to contribute to the overall well-being and health of populations worldwide.  Heather represented the organization well having presented the goals of the workforce committee to all workstream committee members.  In total, there were 193 representatives from 82 organizations globally.

Over the next two years, the Workforce Workstream committee’s objective is to drive investment in quality rehabilitation education and training. A key activity to achieve this goal is the development of a rehabilitation workforce education position statement. By engaging with high influence and interest stakeholders such as Ministries of Health and Wellness, the committee aims to advocate for increased investment in rehabilitation education across various professions.

We recognize the importance of measuring and evaluating the impact of these advocacy efforts. We aim to prioritize patient access measures and utilize financial and non-financial metrics to demonstrate the value and return on investment in rehabilitation services.

“As a dedicated advocate for multidisciplinary rehabilitation professionals, CANOSC is excited to collaborate with the WRA and other stakeholders in driving positive change and delivering high-quality rehabilitation services that meet the diverse needs of populations worldwide.” Heather Dow, CEO, CANOSC