The SRI first became aware of Dr Sintip Pattanakuhar, a Rehabilitation Physician at the Faculty of Medicine at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, in 2019. He had just completed his PhD after having been a registered medical doctor with the Thai Medical Council since 2004. Dr Pattanakuhar responded when the SRI asked for nominees to participate in the pilot of its new Mentor Program. His aim was to transition from bench to clinical research. He presented four research project ideas and was invited to participate in the pilot.
Dr Pattanakuhar was matched with Dr Leslie Morse, Head of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School. This successful pairing in 2019 led to a number of positive outcomes in future years including presenting three posters and an oral presentation with his junior colleague, Dr Buddharaksa Rajchagool, at the 2020 ISCoS Scientific Meeting. The SRI supported Dr Pattanakuhar’s and Dr Rajchagool’s attendance at the conference through its SCI Research Collaboration Grants. This supportive grant also provided Dr Pattanakuhar with the opportunity to present his research and subsequently obtain the Early Career Scholar Award. Fast-forward to 2022 when Dr Pattanakuhar and his mentor, Dr Morse, co-authored an article published in the highly regarded Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine about spinal cord injury-related osteoporosis and fragility fractures in the Thai population with chronic spinal cord injury.
In 2021, Dr Pattanakuhar applied as an individual researcher for the SRI’s SCI Research Collaboration Grant. He was successful and presented two posters at the 2021 ISCoS Scientific Meeting. Dr Pattanakuhar reflects on his experience at the conference. “My goal, which is to obtain international research collaborations from the ISCoS 2021 virtual conference, has been accomplished with support from the SRI Collaboration Grant. In this conference, I was both a presenter and an audience member of many presentations. I had an opportunity to report results of my studies via poster and oral presentations, and I obtained the Early Career Scholar Award for the second time.”
After the successful pilot in 2019, the SRI rolled out the Mentor Program on a larger scale in 2021. Dr Pattanakuhar applied to participate and was paired with Professor Armin Gemperli of Swiss Paraplegic Research, and together they set to work on a new set of goals. One goal was for Dr Pattanakuhar to apply for a Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship, and in mid-2022 he received notice that he had been successful. In September 2022, Dr Pattanakuhar will commence a postdoctoral fellowship with Professor Gemperli and his research group in Switzerland exploring his research topic: “Gender equality in experiencing environmental barriers, utilizing health services and employment rate of people with spinal cord injury living in communities: a comparison between Switzerland and Thailand.”
A strategic and determined approach coupled with support from the SRI have enabled Dr Pattanakuhar to succeed in his transition to clinical research. His research in osteoporosis and fragility fractures, and the comparative research project he will be involved in while he is in Switzerland pertaining to gender equality and barriers experienced by people with spinal cord injury will make a difference for Thai people with spinal cord injury. The SRI is fortunate to be able to support early career researchers such as Dr Pattanakuhar through its Mentor Program, the SCI Research Collaboration Grants, and the Spinal Cord Research Hub.