Ian Burkhart
SCI Ambassador
Individual with SCI
Fun Facts

Before Ian’s spinal cord injury, he played lacrosse as a teenager and drew inspiration from the sense of community and the leadership the sport inspired. Eager for a return to that community after his SCI, Ian began coaching high school lacrosse in 2011. He notes that while coaching from a wheelchair is different, he knows that he can still impart life lessons to his athletes. In addition, while travel is more complicated in a wheelchair, Ian has a passion for visiting new and exciting places. He has journeyed through the mountainous Jackson Hole, Wyoming and observed that while there were many places that wheelchairs could not access, but he did not let this dampen his experience.

Ian’s Journey With SCI

Right after Ian’s SCI, he realized that he had never met someone with an SCI before. To him, his injury had made him an anomaly, and he felt incredibly alone. During his recovery in the hospital, a nurse mentioned a previous patient who also had an SCI, and when they came to visit , she introduced them. Meeting someone who had an SCI and who was still living a productive life assured Ian that life was not over, it was simply different.

During his recovery, Ian was given a unique opportunity to take part in a study stimulating the use of the hands controlled with a Brain Computer Interface. Through the 7-year trial, Ian was able to receive additional occupational therapy and felt that his function was improving. As the trial made headlines, a beneficiary who wanted to help in the SCI community contacted Ian. As a result, Ian was able to form a nonprofit dedicated to helping purchase equipment, such as wheelchairs and other mobility devices, for people with SCI who wanted to be more independent. To help improve the lives of people with SCI, Ian serves in leadership positions for organizations like the North American Spinal Cord Injury Consortium and the BCI Pioneers Coalition.

Why Does Ian Want to Be an Ambassador?

Ian knows how overwhelming it can be to figure out how to live with an SCI. It can be hard to find resources that provide information that is based on research and lived experience and that is also easy to understand. When he discovered the factsheets available from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC), he was eager to get involved.

What Has Ian Done as an Ambassador?

Ian has shared the MSKTC resources through his leadership role in nonprofit organizations that support people with SCI. When questions or needs arise, Ian has found that the MSKTC factsheets are an easily digestible resource he can share. Ian understands what it is like to be your own advocate and has found that MSKTC resources help people find trustworthy information that is easy to digest. As an ambassador, Ian has reviewed the MSKTC resources and provided input for improvements.