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Mary Free Bed research team awarded $400,000 Neilsen Grant

Grand Rapids, Mich. – The John F. Butzer Center for Research & Innovation at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital has received a $400,000 grant from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation to compare the effectiveness of two exercise and social engagement programs intended to enhance quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries.

“This award marks a major milestone for our organization and is affirmation of the quality of research being conducted at Mary Free Bed in a department launched by the Mary Free Bed Guild just over two years ago,” said Kent Riddle, CEO.  “The goal of our research enterprise is to improve the lives of rehabilitation patients through applied research, an objective shared with the Neilsen Foundation.”

Dr. John Butzer is the principal investigator on the project and will lead the multi-institutional team of researchers.

“For people with spinal cord injury, increasing and sustaining physical activity are major challenges. Due to low physical activity participation rates, people with SCI are more likely to have cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis, and are less likely to participate in their community,” said Butzer, director of Mary Free Bed’s Center for Research & Innovation and chair of the Division of Rehabilitation Medicine at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

“Our research is intended to identify ways to remove known barriers to initiating physical activities, increase sustained participation and, therefore, improve health and quality of life,” he continued.

The project includes collaboration with the widely recognized Mary Free Bed Spinal Cord Injury team led by Dr. Sam Ho and is the first funded collaboration between Mary Free Bed and the University of Michigan.

Mary Free Bed researchers will be joined by co-investigators Dr. Michelle Meade, associate professor of PM&R and director of the University of Michigan’s Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center, and Dr. Mark Peterson, assistant professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at the University of Michigan.

“Mary Free Bed has long been known as a leader in rehabilitation medicine and is now being recognized for its commitment to research and innovation,” Meade said. “I’m excited to be part of the team and look forward to seeing the results of this important research endeavor.”

The research will be conducted at the new Mary Free Bed YMCA, a state-of-the-art, fully accessible facility located in suburban Grand Rapids.

“We are proud to partner with the researchers at Mary Free Bed to discover ways to better serve our members with disabilities,” said Scott Lewis, president and CEO of Greater Grand Rapids YMCA.

The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation was established in 2002 to award grants to a broad spectrum of charities, including those that benefit spinal cord injury efforts. Today, with assets of approximately $500 million, the Foundation is primarily dedicated to funding extensive research, education and quality of life programs for improving the lives of people affected by spinal cord injury.

Mary Free Bed is a not-for-profit, nationally accredited, rehabilitation hospital. For more than 125 years, Mary Free Bed has restored hope and freedom through rehabilitation for children and adults who have experienced brain injuries, strokes, spinal cord injuries, multiple traumas, amputations, cancer and other diagnoses. The combination of comprehensive services and an exclusive focus on rehabilitation enables specialty physicians and staff to help patients achieve outstanding clinical results. For additional information, visit maryfreebed.com.

About the Y:  The YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids is West Michigan’s leading nonprofit strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Through its various branches, including YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin, community outreach programs, as well as child care sites, the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids is committed to improving the health and well-being of children and families. Y programs and services impact the lives of individuals and families in our community each and every day. Visit grymca.org.

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