April 9, 2024

Giving Day helps UCalgary student researchers get people moving

Community support propels mobility innovations in the past year
A man in a suit stands in front of a presentation board
Michael Poscente

Have you ever broken a bone or had surgery, only to find yourself relying on a cane, crutches or other mobility aid to get around? A group of University of Calgary student researchers supported by scholarships boosted by UCalgary’s annual Giving Day — are working to ensure mobility aids and prosthetic devices are used correctly to best support recovery.

Research over the past year by students Nadia Bibi, Dr. Michael Poscente, MD, and Mahrukh Tanweer and guided by physiatrist and clinical associate professor Dr. Ranita Manocha, MD — has been powered by generous giving to scholarships, including during Giving Day.

There’s an app for that 

A donor-funded scholarship, the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE) Award, allowed Nadia Bibi to conduct research for the past year at the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health. Bibi, a first-generation immigrant from a large family, is a fourth-year nursing student whose research combines her passion for patient care with the rigour of scientific research.

A woman in a hijab stands in front of a presentation board

Nadia Bibi

Last summer, she joined the team working on the ICanWALK project, an app developed by Manocha that teaches individuals how to safely use their walking aids. Her work at the McCaig Institute was supported by a summer studentship, a funding opportunity she believes is crucial for students. "The scholarship makes our learning and our contributions possible, which helps move research such as ICanWALK forward," she says. 

Giving Day takes place on April 18 this year. Bibi believes the initiative demonstrates the community's commitment to investing in future health-care providers and researchers like herself. 

"It allows those of us just getting our foot in the door to move our career forward," she says.

As she approaches graduation, Bibi hopes to continue her work on the ICanWALK app while beginning her career as a nurse.

Harnessing data to enhance the lives of patients with prosthetic limbs 

Poscente, a resident of the Cumming School of Medicine's Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Program, says the student funding he has received has been crucial for him, offering the opportunity to design a device to enhance the lives of individuals who rely on prosthetic limbs. He lauds the funding he has received, calling it a platform for the brightest minds to run with their ideas. 

“The financial support from initiatives like Giving Day is so meaningful because it can kick start careers and generate opportunity for innovation that could benefit society many decades into the future.”

Starting his academic journey in electrical engineering, Poscente later pursued a Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering. His interest in device development led him to the field of physiatry, the study of a wide variety of medical conditions affecting the bones, joints, brain, spinal cord, nerves and more.

This led Poscente to design a device that would track the walking patterns of individuals with prosthetic limbs. These patients have a high risk of falling due to altered biomechanics after an amputation. The device, which could be clipped onto a prosthetic leg, uses custom electromechanical sensors that measure speed and direction to record how someone walks. This data could be used to provide personalized prosthetic prescriptions and rehabilitation interventions to prevent falls. 

Poscente's vision was supported by the McCaig Institute and funded through a resident research grant. The funding enabled Poscente to extensively prototype and manufacture parts for the device. He plans to continue improving its functionality and increasing its accessibility by launching a startup after his residency to make his invention available to anyone living with an amputation. 

Empowering future health-care providers through education

Thanks to funding propelled by UCalgary Giving Day donations, Mahrukh Tanweer, a recipient of a Canadian Organization for Undergraduate Health Research (COUHR) summer studentship, discovered the breadth of opportunities available through research last summer. COUHR is an organization committed to providing research opportunities to underrepresented students. 

Tanweer, who was raised in Saudi Arabia, first learned about the McCaig COUHR summer student opportunity after Manocha delivered a guest lecture in her classroom. 

A woman stands in front of a presentation holding a tablet

Mahrukh Tanweer

Tanweer was inspired by Manocha and has had a lifelong passion for sport and healthy mobility herself. She began her research journey studying how the ICanWALK app is used by health-care trainees. “The key issue we see is that a lot of the medical education and nursing school curricula don't include walking education and so that can translate into a lack of patient knowledge about it as well,” says Tanweer.

She adds, “Over the summer, I worked to increase understanding and knowledge about walking aids among health-care trainees. I began by recruiting medical students, nursing students and medical residents. This project has expanded into an honours thesis, looking at whether knowledge and comfort with using walking aids changes in medical students after using the app.”

Tanweer says the COUHR funding was crucial to her research project: "The studentship not only alleviated some of my financial stress but also facilitated my growth as an undergraduate student and researcher. It exposed me to a new environment at the McCaig Institute and enabled me to participate in various events, journal clubs, Research Day and weekly seminar series." 

Triple your Giving Day impact

Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, gifts to the McCaig Institute's EDUCATE Program on Giving Day can have triple the impact. This support empowers students like Bibi, Tanweer and Poscente to continue their research, improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of bone and joint conditions for all. Eligible donations made April 4 to 18 will be matched, up to $2,500 per gift, while matching funds last.

Ranita Manocha is a physiatrist and a clinical associate professor in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Cumming School of Medicine and an adjunct associate professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology. She is a member of the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

UCalgary Giving Day is April 18. Whether you support research, student awards or any one of UCalgary’s innovative funds, your gift will help change lives and shape the future. Eligible gifts made from April 4-18 will be matched, up to $2,500 per gift, per fund — but only while matching funds last, so be sure to give early! Make your gift today at ucalgary.ca/givingday.

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