New FHS researchers: meet Dr. Afolasade Fakolade
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
That fluctuated from childhood to my teenage years, but I think the one that stayed most consistent was I wanted to be a structural engineer. I loved building things and so I thought that it would be an opportunity to explore my innovation and talents that way. As I grew older, I actually met a physical therapist who provided rehabilitation services for my dad after a major surgery, and that chance meeting altered the course of my career and has led me to do what I do.
What do you hope to learn from your research?
My professional mission is to use my research to transform health and wellness of people affected by neurological disability and their families. I hope to be able to understand the needs and concerns of these families, and to identify strategies to respond to these needs and create opportunities for full participation in those behaviors or in those activities that are important and meaningful to them. One area of interest has been in developing interventions that can be delivered remotely and using technology to improve participant’s engagement in these interventions. Over the last few years, the strong focus of my work has been in multiple sclerosis.
What problem do you want to solve?
I'm looking at how we can promote full participation in health-promoting behaviours, particularly physical activity. Multiple sclerosis often causes symptoms such as pain, fatigue and impairment of mobility which all act as barriers to physical activity. The disability that occurs due to multiple sclerosis can be worsened by a sedentary lifestyle and therefore it is important to help patients overcome these barriers and improve the quantity and quality of their involvement in such activities. I study physical activity and health behaviors at the dyadic level and I'm looking at how to benefit both the individual with the disease as well as their family care-partners.
Why is your research important to you?
I did my undergrad in physical therapy and I practiced as a clinician for a few years before I went back to school and pursued graduate degrees in neurorehabilitation and rehabilitation science. So as a clinician turned researcher, my ongoing research allows me to stay committed to asking questions on how best to support healthy behaviors and quality of life for people who have experienced neurological damage. Most importantly I am able to explore how my findings can be applied directly to benefit people affected by neurological disability in their daily lives. This is what makes my work very meaningful to me. My findings are relevant to the people who matter the most.
What kind of impact do you hope that your research will have?
At the heart of my research is the goal to improve health and wellbeing of people affected by neurological disability, and I hope to make a difference by doing participatory research that engages the disability community in identifying strategies to address their health-related needs. I hope that the findings that are generated will provide direction to inform health and social care programming for persons living with disability and their families.