When Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital conducts research, it’s not only for the future benefit of science and medicine. Our team is dedicated to generating evidence-based, innovative treatment and applying it as quickly as possible to help people recovering from serious injuries or illnesses.

The research efforts of our doctors, therapists, nurses and other professionals often lead to discoveries with a timely and positive impact for our patients. Research is done with the conviction it will help restore hope and freedom for children and adults with physical disabilities.

Mary Free Bed has created an infrastructure through the John F. Butzer Center for Research & Innovation to support our physicians and staff with research endeavors and to facilitate scholarly activity. Our efforts include original research, participation in multicenter studies and sponsored clinical trials.

Study inquires or requests
Call: 616.840.8985

Our Team

Craig Webb, PhD
Research Director

Craig Webb is a life science executive and entrepreneur who has broad academic and industry expertise in basic and translational sciences with an emphasis on genomic medicine and drug discovery. He was a founding scientist and independent investigator at Van Andel Research Institute, director of Translational Medicine at VARI and chief scientific officer of NuMedii.

He also consults for a variety of organizations and companies that encompass the various stakeholders of “precision medicine,” including biotech, payers, venture capitalists and health care providers. He joined Mary Free Bed in 2019.

Craig holds a doctorate in Cell Biology and Biochemistry from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, U.K.


John F. Butzer, MD
Director Emeritus

A fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, Dr. Butzer served as chief medical officer at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital for 29 years. During his tenure, he also directed the Muscular Dystrophy Clinic and the Motion Analysis Center. Dr. Butzer stepped down from his duties as CMO in 2014 to form the Center for Research and Innovation.

In 2014, the Division of Rehabilitation Medicine was initiated in Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine with Dr. Butzer as its director, a position he continues to hold. He also is a clinical professor of medicine there.

Dr. Butzer’s work involves measuring value in rehabilitation and establishing a learning health system. He earned his medical degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and completed his residency in neurology at the University of Iowa.


Allan J. Kozlowski, PhD
Director of Outcomes Research

Allan Kozlowski leads outcomes research in the Center for Research & Innovation. He also serves as an assistant professor in the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. He joined Mary Free Bed in 2016.

Allan earned a doctorate in Rehabilitation Sciences from the University of British Columbia, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Rehabilitation Outcomes Research at Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (now Shirley Ryan Ability Lab) and the Center for Healthcare Studies at Northwestern University. There, he constructed individual growth models for FIM Instrument scores for people with spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries.

Allan’s previous work includes expansion of a powered exoskeleton research program examining device usability for people with spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis. He’s leading an effort to model rehabilitation outcomes across post-acute care services for a variety of patient populations.


Kelsey Boersma, MPH
Clinical Research Coordinator

In addition to her work as a research coordinator, Kelsey is a faculty appointment at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine.

She holds a master’s degree in Public Health from Grand Valley State University, with an emphasis on Health Promotion and Education.




Laura Kelling
Research Recreational Therapist

Laura serves as the research recreational therapist for our exercise intervention study funded by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation. A Certified Inclusive Fitness Instructor (CIFT), Laura has more than 30 years of experience working with people with spinal cord injuries and in various management and program development roles.




Brian Bradley
Research Assistant

Brian sustained a spinal cord injury in 2006 when he dove into shallow water. He participated in the Spinal Cord Injury rehabilitation program at Mary Free Bed, and during his inpatient stay, Brian was inspired to further his education and become part of the Mary Free Bed team.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Northern Michigan University and a master’s degree in Human Behavior from National University. He’s a former member of the Board of Directors at Disability Network/Michigan, where he advocated for people with disabilities and community accessibility.


Ariel Lugo
Research Assistant

Ariel earned a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Trinity Christian College. He has a background in kinesiology, fitness and athletic training. His experience includes work as a personal trainer and patient care provider.




Naxal Shah
Research Assistant

Naxal is working toward a Master of Public Health degree with a focus on epidemiology at Grand Valley State University.

Before she joined Research & Innovation, Naxal completed a Health and Wellness internship at Mary Free Bed and worked as a Business Office coordinator with the hospital’s Sub-Acute Rehabilitation Program.



Matthew Chaffee
Research Peer Mentor

Matthew is a chemical engineer with experience in process safety management at industrial chemical plants. In 2014, he experienced a traumatic spinal cord injury in a motorcycle crash and came to Mary Free Bed for rehabilitation.

Matthew is a peer mentor for people participating in the Neilsen exercise intervention study. An avid handcyclist, he participates in races across the country, including the Amway River Bank Run as a member of the Mary Free Bed Handcycling Team. He recently participated in the Boston Marathon.

Current Studies

Active recruitment and opportunities

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital has been awarded a three-year, $400,000 grant from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation to measure how physical activity impacts the lives of people with spinal cord injury.

Researchers are focusing on whether a positive impact can be made on people’s participation in physical activity over a one-year period. Progress is measured by physical activity and quality of life surveys.

Researchers hope to recruit 80 people for the study. Participant requirements include:

  • Must be 18 years old or older
  • History of traumatic spinal cord injury sustained at least three months prior
  • Not currently participating in organized exercise programs or sports teams.

Participants will:

  • Take part in a two-month exercise program
  • Receive a free, two-month membership to the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids
  • Meet like-minded peers with spinal cord injury
  • Receive information about the Mary Free Bed Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports Program
  • Receive a $30 stipend for completing surveys and wearing a wrist-worn activity monitor.


Study topics

Researchers are interested in or pursuing study topics related to the following areas:

  • Exercise Intervention and Cancer Diagnosis
  • Pain and Insomnia
  • Pain and its Relationship on Behaviors
  • Pediatric Brain Outcomes and TBI
  • Prospective Stroke Outcomes
  • Retrospective Stroke Outcomes
  • Spinal Cord Injury and Fracture Incidence
  • Spinal Cord Injury and Functional Electrical Stimulation
  • Spinal Cord Injury Exercise Intervention
  • Stroke and Gait Training
  • Stroke Aphasia
  • Traumatic Brain Injury


Students & Researchers

Medical students

The John F. Butzer Center for Research & Innovation works collaboratively with medical students to teach, empower and facilitate growth. Our studies incorporate the skills of medical students to assist with study outcomes and objectives.

  • Michigan State University College of Human Medicine medical students interested in participating in research at Mary Free Bed should contact MSU-CHM student research director Mark Trottier, Ph.D., at or 616.234.2781.
  • Medical students who attend other schools and are interested in research opportunities at Mary Free Bed should email You also may contact our Education Department at or 616.840.8292.


Investigator Award

Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital strives to contribute to new knowledge in rehabilitation and neuroscience through collaborative research and to translate results into evidence-based guidelines for clinical practice. The Mary Free Bed Investigator Award provides funding up to $10,000. Funds are intended to provide protected release time for clinicians, finance participant stipends, cover travel and presentation costs.

Mary Free Bed Investigator Awards are granted following a merit-based, competitive process. Examples of projects that may qualify for the program include prospective research, archival/retrospective research, manuscript preparation from previously completed data collection, comprehensive review of the literature and systematic outcomes analyses for Mary Free Bed equipment or program(s).

Those interested in applying for an Investigator Award should review the policy on insidemfb.

Application deadlines:

* Announcement for submissions – October

* Application deadline – December

* Awardee announcement – January

* Grant start date – April

Please submit Investigator Award applications to


Other research

Mary Free Bed employees interested in conducting research are strongly encouraged to apply for the annual Investigator Award. Those who want to conduct research outside the scope of the Investigator Award, please consider the following:

* All Mary Free Bed employee-initiated research studies must receive approval by the director (or his/her delegate) of the John F. Butzer Center for Research & Innovation. No project will be allowed to proceed without explicit authorization by the director or the director’s delegate.

* All researchers interested in conducting research at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation must first consult with a delegate from the John F. Butzer Center for Research & Innovation.

* A John F. Butzer Center for Research & Innovation research coordinator will be assigned to each approved project. The coordinator will act as an advisor to the investigator and assist with navigating all applicable internal processes, including Institutional Review Board (IRB), regulatory, grant management, internal authorizations, etc.

The coordinator also will assist the investigator with identifying and securing technical support as needed.

To begin the research process, please email


External Researchers

The approval and subsequent collaborative process begins with a consultation with a delegate from the John F. Butzer Center for Research & Innovation. To schedule a consultation, email


Post-doctoral Opportunities

The John F. Butzer Center for Research & Innovation is pursuing funding opportunities to support post-doctoral candidates in the domains of Community Living and Participation and Employment. Please check back for updates.


Collaborating Partners

Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Faculty Appointments
Elizabeth Aguila, MD
Kelly Armstrong, MD
Richard Ball, MD, PhD
Kelsey Boersma, MPH
Benjamin Bruinsma, MD
John F. Butzer, MD
Jason Coombs, DO
Julia Craner, PhD
Kelsey Darlington, MD
Daniel Fechtner, MD
Teri Holwerda, PhD, NP
Thomas Hordt, MD
Lynda Hulst, MD
Kyle Josephson, MD
Allan Kozlowski, PhD
Brian McInerney, MD
Christopher Morelli, DO
Rebekah Rajlich, MD
Meagan Smith, DO
Elizabeth Spaulding, MD
Colleen Sullivan, MD
Anthony Truong, MD
Carolyn Vollmer, MD
Lisa Voss, DO
Stacey Watson, MD
Craig Webb, PhD
Michael Wheaton, MD
Stuart Yablon, MD

Community Partnerships and Shared Awards

Hope College
Indiana University
Mary Free Bed YMCA
Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine Specialists
Shirley Ryan Ability Lab
University of Michigan
Van Andel Research Institute



Mary Free Bed IRB Requirements for New Study

Before a study can commence at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, it must first receive approval from the John F. Butzer Center for Research & Innovation. To begin this process please email

Mary Free Bed IRB Requirements for Study Renewal

Internal and External Submission:

MFB IRB Requirements for Study Closure

Internal and External Submission:

The Mary Free Bed IRB requires the following Epigeum, Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI), MSU Saba, UM PEERRS or equivalent:

  • Responsible Conduct of Research
  • Human Subject Protections
  • Financial Conflict of Interest

To accommodate the increasing number of IRB submissions, Mary Free Bed is exploring ways to implement a streamlined electronic process. Until then, please email all submission forms and documentation to

To file a complaint regarding a current study, please email IRB chair Jacobus Donders at