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Rick Hansen continues Middle Eastern tour, visits Israeli Terry Fox Memorial, signs spinal cord injury registry agreement

Published: December 02 2010

Jerusalem, Israel – Twenty-five years after his first visit to the region during his Man In Motion World Tour, Rick Hansen returned to Israel as part of the international leg of the 25th Anniversary. Hansen entered into Israel from Jordan by wheeling across the Allenby Bridge – a site which he crossed 25 years ago. This stretch is incredibly rare to cross without a controlled shuttle, and required collaboration from the Canadian, Jordanian and Israeli governments and border control – this entry into Israel symbolized the dream of worldwide collaboration to make a difference.

Bringing international collaboration in spinal cord injury research one step closer, the Memorandum of Understanding between the Institute of Medical Research Israel Canada (IMRIC) and the Rick Hansen Spinal Cord Injury Registry (RHSCIR) was made official today, signed by Hansen, Bill Barrable, CEO of the Rick Hansen Institute, and Dr. David Lichtstein, Chairman IMRIC. The Registry will be operated out of the Sheba Medical Centre in Tel Aviv.

The RHSCIR, led by the Rick Hansen Institute, is Canada’s living database of information that is an invaluable resource for researchers, clinicians and health care administrators seeking to improve the effectiveness of specific spinal cord injury (SCI) treatments, practices and programs. Participants in the registry will benefit from access to larger volumes of standardized data and data sets; increased participation in international research projects and clinical trials; and sharing best practices that will improve SCI care and treatment outcomes. Already present in more than 30 major hospitals and research institutions, the program is now going global, with the goal of bridging the international and health region borders.

“With the nature of spinal cord injury, and its inherent complexities, the Registry is a necessary tool that facilitates and standardizes the collection and analysis of data, which will stimulate the collaboration that will inevitably lead to a cure,” said Dr. Marcel Dvorak, Scientific Director, RHSCIR and the Combined Neurosurgical and Orthopaedic Spine Program at Vancouver General Hospital. “With the work being done in Israel in the fields of SCI research, we are very excited to begin sharing and learning innovative treatment techniques and best practices with our international colleagues. This collaboration is critical in the creation of a worldwide registry, with the goal of closing the gap on finding a cure for spinal cord injury."

"The agreement that we have signed between the Rick Hansen Institute and the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada marks a significant milestone in the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University's strategy of collaboration," said Rami Kleinmann, Executive Director of the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University. "This collaboration will not only enable major advancements in medical research but will also lead to a significant impact on the lives of many people worldwide. We are very excited about the future possibilities that the relationship with the Rick Hansen Foundation can create in the future."

Following the Registry signing, Rick was able to re-visit an important – and quite personal – landmark to him and to Canadians abroad – the Terry Fox Memorial located in the centre of Jerusalem at Liberty Bell Park. Nearly 25 years to the date of his original visit to the memorial of his long-time friend and fellow Canadian icon, the stop captured the trip's goal to reflect on the past and look to the future.

“We have had a very busy week in Jordan and Israel, and I am incredibly grateful to all of our hosts for their support today and 25 years ago,” Hansen said at the memorial. “It is moments like this that remind me of the importance of dreaming big and inspiring others. Not only was Terry a close friend and personal inspiration ever since we played on the same wheelchair basketball team, but he was a great inspiration to millions around the world. He is the perfect example of what it means to be a difference maker."

Concluding a busy day, Rick attended a reception at Hebrew University where he presented two Difference Maker awards – a Rick Hansen Foundation program designed to recognize individuals who have made a contribution towards a more accessible and inclusive world. Recipients included Professor Aharon Lev-Tov and Lieutenant-Colonel Yuval Wagner. Lev-Tov, Professor and Chairperson of the Neurobiology department at Hebrew University Medical School in Jerusalem, led the development of an innovative software program – “Spinalcore” – which analyzes and diagnoses spinal cord and brain injuries then directs rehabilitative therapy at a later stage.

Wagner, who was injured in a helicopter crash in 1987 leaving him a quadriplegic, established Access Israel, an organization that works to increase awareness, ensure accessibility and provide life-altering information to people with disabilities and their families. Despite their limited resources, they have become the leading accessibility consulting provider in the country.

Rick and members of his Foundation and Institute will remain in Israel until early next week, visiting other medical centres and hospitals, and meeting with top researchers and health care professionals. The trip concludes on Tuesday, December 7 where Rick will have a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres to discuss accessibility issues. Media information for this meeting will be available shortly.

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