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CV: Dr. Robert Simpson

June 12, 2020

Bio basics: Dr. Robert Simpson is a physiatrist at Sunnybrook with a primary focus on trauma. He is also an associate scientist in the St. John’s Rehab Research Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI), and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto. We welcome Dr. Simpson from Glasgow, Scotland where he completed his specialist vocational training. Dr. Simpson has extensive clinical training not only in rehabilitation medicine, but also in emergency medicine, general practice and integrative medicine. He joined Sunnybrook in September 2019.

His research focus is on developing and evaluating complex interventions, including mindfulness and yoga.

What is your attraction to rehabilitation and trauma?

I became interested in rehabilitation as a medical student after learning about neuroplasticity, how the brain adapts (in the case of trauma, following injury).

How did you become interested in research?

I became interested in research after reading about the work of V.S. Ramachandran at the University of California, San Diego. Professor Ramachandran was researching the use of mirror boxes to treat phantom pain. What interested me about this work was how unconscious brain processes could be used therapeutically. This led me to look more closely at other therapies which seem to operate in a similar manner, such as hypnotherapy and then meditation.

What would you say are some of the biggest challenges in your field?

Following traumatic injury, the biggest issue patients face is adjustment to newfound impairments and disability. Often people are left with chronic painful conditions and cannot do the things they used to, or function in the roles they previously assumed in their family or in society. This can translate into considerable suffering, some of which is ‘treatable,’ some of which isn’t.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working on exploring how meditation affects brain function in acquired brain injury, how rehabilitation services are adapting to the current pandemic, and health-care practitioner wellbeing.

How do you unwind after a long week of work?

Time with family. I also practice yoga.

If you weren’t a scientist and physician, how would you fill your days?

I would be an environmental activist.