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Neilsen Innovation Fund supports cutting-edge technology, programs

August 12, 2014

Craig Hospital has long been known for its innovative system of care that embraces new technologies and rehabilitation techniques. A $500,000 grant from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation will allow Craig to continue to stay on the cutting edge.

The Craig H. Neilsen Innovation Fund was established in July 2013 to support new technologies and programs that promote independence and quality of life for individuals living with spinal cord injury. Decisions about ideas to be supported by these funds are determined by the hospital’s Senior Leadership team.

Craig’s Adaptive Transportation Program was the first program to benefit from the Innovation Fund. This program educates patients about their independent driving options and helps graduates return to the road. With support from the fund, Craig purchased a new high-tech van that will be used for driving training.

Previously, the program utilized a 12-year old van. The technology available on the market has so advanced that the purchase of a new vehicle was necessary to better assist clients and expand Craig’s capacity to help more people.

The van is equipped with specialized high tech driving adaptive equipment to meet the needs of Craig patients with significant mobility limitations of their upper and lower extremities. In addition to the most up-to-date high tech systems, the new van is much more user-friendly for patients and therapists. A nine-inch lowered floor accommodates taller and bigger patients as well as large power wheelchairs.

An improved evaluator system gives the certified driving therapists improved functionality for controlling the vehicle while on the road with a patient.

“Our driving program is very excited for this new high tech van and for the impact it will have on our patient’s goals of driving independence,” says Sarah Davidson, MSOTR/CDRS, “We are so grateful for the generous donation from the Neilsen Foundation.”

Funds from the Neilsen Innovation Fund are also supporting a developing partnership between Craig and Century Link. A group of engineers from the company worked to develop a new software interface for iPads and tablets that aims to increase patients’ independence while at Craig and to help ease the transition back to their homes and communities.The project prototype is currently in the testing and refinement phase.

“The Neilsen Innovation Fund is extremely important to the future of Craig Hospital,” says Mike Fordyce, president and CEO. “We constantly see areas for innovation and refinement within the hospital, and this fund will give us the flexibility to respond immediately with needed resources.”

Established in 2002, the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation is the largest private foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life for those living with spinal cord injury by supporting innovative program services, specialty training and research on effective therapies and treatments leading to a cure. Neilsen, a successful business entrepreneur and philanthropist, lived with a high-level spinal cord injury for 21 years until his passing in November 2006. The Neilsen Foundation has supported a variety of projects at Craig Hospital since 2004.