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MetroHealth doctor awarded $1M for her research on spinal cord injuries

2021 Neilsen Visionary Prize celebrates 'influential voices'
kim anderson-erisman, phd
Posted at 3:15 PM, Oct 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-27 15:15:59-04

CLEVELAND — A doctor and professor at MetroHealth was awarded a $1,000,000 prize for her work on spinal cord injuries (SCI). Dr. Kim Anderson-Erisman was one of three recipients of the 2021 Neilsen Visionary Prize awarded by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation.

According to MetroHealth, the prize “celebrates influential voices who show great potential to expand or advocate new ideas for those living with a disability.” For Anderson-Erisman, that has meant getting people living with SCI involved in her work.

“I have been finding out from that large community living with spinal cord injury, what are their real priorities and needs, and then using that to better direct the research field to do research that’s relevant to people living with spinal cord injury,” she told News 5. In some cases, she learned researchers may need to change their definition of success.

“If you have paralysis in your hands as well as your legs, people are very happy to have an improvement in their hand function, but not their leg function. And there’s other things that happen as a result of spinal cord injury with bladder and bowel control that are way more important than being able to walk,” she said.

All of this research is very personal for Anderson-Erisman, who suffered a spinal cord injury herself at 17 years old.

“It’s actually the reason why I went into this field of research,” she said. “I was observing all of the research that was going on back in 2000 and nobody was talking about hand function, and nobody was talking about bladder and bowel function. And I knew from firsthand experience with myself that these were major issues.”

The prize money is unrestricted, meaning Anderson-Erisman can use it however she wants to advance the field. She told News 5 it was an honor to be selected, adding, this prize is “all about hard work and determination and passion.”

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