UTCSP Trainee Scholarship Recipients 2013-2014

Faraj W Abdallah is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesia, Faculty of Medicine, at the University of Toronto. He is a Clinician Investigator in the Keenan Research Centre of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, and a Staff Anesthesiologist at the St. Michael’s Hospital. He is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at the Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation, University of Toronto.  He received her Bachelor’s of Science in Biology, Doctor of Medicine, and Speciality in Anesthesiology degrees from the American University of Beirut. He completed fellowship training in Regional Anesthesia and Acute Pain Management at the Toronto Western Hospital and in Chronic Pain Management at the St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto.  His current clinical research interests are in the area of chronic pain management, the use of ultrasound-guided nerve blocks in the treatment of postsurgical pain, and the long term outcomes of perioperative pain management.

Marie-Andrée Coulombe completed a PhD studying the physiological causes underlying the higher prevalence of some chronic pain conditions in women compared to men using animal models and clinical research. Her postdoctoral training in the lab of Dr. Karen Davis will use brain imaging to examine pain variability. This work will provide insight into potential predisposition to develop chronic pain and a framework for therapeutic approaches for pain coping.


Ruma Goswami is a post-doctoral fellow working under the supervision of Dr. Karen Davis in the Division of Brain, Imaging and Behaviour — Systems Neuroscience. Peripheral nerve injuries (PNI) occur commonly in the workplace and are a major cause of disability. However, while some patients report sensorimotor problems/pain following surgery, others do not, leading to the hypothesis that the differences may reflect individual personality and neurophysiological factors. Thus, the aim of Ruma’s study is to determine whether pre-existing patient factors (i.e., catastrophizing, anxiety, structural brain abnormalities in gray and white matter) are associated with sensorimotor recovery and neuropathic pain following surgical repair. Longitudinal assessment of pre-existing personality traits and pre-surgical brain features may aid in understanding the development of chronic pain following surgery. It is Ruma’s hope that patients will benefit from tailored treatment options that may include psychological assessments and brain imaging to improve maladaptive brain plasticity and potentially prevent pain.

Erika Harding Erika Harding completed her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience and Chemistry at Dalhousie University. Erika is now a second year graduate student supervised by Dr. Michael Salter at the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto. Erika is researching the mechanisms underlying neuropathic pain, focusing on pain-relaying neurons in the spinal cord. Utilizing electrophysiological techniques and two-photon calcium imaging, she is investigating how neuronal communication and the signals sent between neurons changes after the induction of neuropathic pain. Her project focuses specifically on how calcium signalling in neurons is affected by neuropathic pain symptoms. Calcium acts as an important signalling ion in neurons, responsible for everything from neuronal memory to neuronal death. Erika hypothesizes that by understanding how calcium in pain-relaying neurons changes, we may be able to develop new drug targets for future therapies to treat neuropathic pain.