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Researcher Profile: Dr. Angela Colantonio

About the researcher

Dr. Angela Colantonio is Director of the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute* and a Professor at University of Toronto’s Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy where she held a CIHR Research Chair in Gender Work and Health; She is also a Senior Scientist at University Health Network’s KITE-Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

Image of Dr. Angela Colantonio.

Dr. Colantonio leads the Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Research Lab, an internationally recognized research lab that performs population-based epidemiological, mixed method and qualitative research. The scope of the research lab includes:

  • injury prevention; innovative intervention studies
  • health service utilization and health service inequities among underserved populations;
  • work-related traumatic brain injury (TBI) and return to work;
  • girls and women with TBI;
  • and sex and gender considerations on outcomes of ABI for adults, youth and children.

As winner of this year’s William Fields Caveness Award from the Brain Injury Association of America, awarded during the Annual ACRM conference in October 2020, Dr. Colantonio has been committed to bettering the lives of people with brain injury through a targeted research lens. The subject of her studies has often been populations such as, injured workers, older adults, indigenous, homeless, justice involved, and persons injured by assault including in the intimate partner context. Her internationally recognized research has been presented to over 500 clinical and lay audiences and is reflected in over 270 publications. Dr. Colantonio has also been recipient of many prestigious researcher awards including, the Coulter Lecturer Award from the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine. Dedication and commitment have placed Dr. Colantonio on an international stage to address the complex social and physical challenges of populations that are typically overlooked in the TBI research space.

*On administrative leave till 9/2021.

Supporting Employment in Brain Injury Women Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence

A staggering 1 in 4 Canadian women will experience intimate partner violence (IPV) over their lifetime. With common injuries being battery to the head, face and neck, as many as 75% of women survivors are vulnerable to traumatic brain injury. In this ONF funded study, Dr. Colantonio and her team aim to present findings on the intersection between TBI and IPV and its implications for women’s mental health and employment, in order to develop and implement knowledge materials intended to support the target group.

This research goal will be achieved through the following key objectives:

  1. Explore specific employment and MHA related barriers and supports, service needs, and priorities for brain injured women survivors of IPV;
  2. Identify the needs, priorities, facilitators, and barriers to service delivery among front-line providers and employers regarding support of brain injured women survivors of IPV;
  3. Develop and implement stakeholder informed, innovative strategies and materials to address identified challenges and determine viability and effectiveness prior to scale up and widespread distribution.

The next phases of the project, which commenced in early 2020, will involve organizing and developing the knowledge transfer materials based on primary and secondary research conducted in earlier phases of the study. Halina Haag and Danielle Toccalino are trainees taking leadership roles on the project.
For updates and to learn more, visit the study profile page

Q & A with Dr. Colantonio

What drew you to sex-and-gender-based related TBI research?

Originally, we noted a very substantial gap in our understanding on how a brain injury affects a women’s body specifically. Literature on sex and gender differences relevant to brain injury was lacking. As an educator, I am also committed to knowledge transfer/training in this area, which addresses a major knowledge and practice gap.

What have been your most notable findings in SGBA+ related research?

Our lab produced the first comprehensive papers on reproductive health outcomes after TBI which included the menstrual cycle disruption, conception, pregnancy and post-partum outcomes. In our research we have documented significant gender differences in long-term outcomes. Recently in a sample of over 90,000 concussions diagnosed in Ontario emergency rooms, we noted that comorbid neck injuries were more common among females, but only during the reproductive years. We have also addressed inequities in care in the area of intimate partner violence and traumatic brain injury, which differentially affect women. Our lab is recognized for producing the first Canadian studies in this area; as well as a toolkit for frontline providers to address the major knowledge and practice gaps.

Learn more about the toolkit:

Who do you see as your audience for your research findings?

What is incredibly gratifying is the support from women with lived experience of brain injury who are demanding this information. Further, our work has led to insights about how men experience brain injury and how social norms relevant to masculinity may affect injury prevention. As such we believe persons affected by brain injury are major audiences for our research in addition to a broad range of stakeholders including clinicians. We also target researchers in our research.

Why is it important to integrate this lens into the work on TBI standards and guidelines for care?

Firstly, it is important to apply a sex and gender lens in order to produce good science and build the foundation to provide personalized healthcare. Our research shows that clinicians working in rehabilitation have limited knowledge of sex and gender considerations in the context of their care delivery.

We are currently conducting an intervention study examining the impact of sex and gender in TBI education, to determine whether education influences the knowledge and attitudes of clinicians, persons with brain injury and their caregivers.

Looking out to the next decade, what impact do you hope SGBA+ will have on the Ontario Health system?

It is very important to go beyond a one size fits all approach in terms of the way we provide care; as our research has shown that there are preferences for care identified by different genders as well as important biological and social considerations. When sex and gender differences exist, it is important to examine them in light of other intersecting vulnerabilities such as age, education, and race/ethnicity to meet the health and well-being needs of Ontarians.

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