research assistant at the unb's institute of biomedical engineering 

A big thank you to Ali Hussaini for answering our questions

1. What is your current job title? What is it exactly that you do? Research Assistant. I perform research related to the development and evaluation of a new outcome measure to gauge functional capacity for upper limb prosthesis users, which can be more readily utilized in a prosthetic clinic. I also regularly educate students, researchers, faculty and staff regarding the Prosthetics and Orthotics field through guest lectures, facility tours, conference presentations and interviews.

2. What attracted you the most to the field? A need to understand the difference between a glorified robot and a prosthetic device, and why simply having additional motors and gizmos doesn’t translate into a more functional prosthesis user.

3. How long was the program? What sort of knowledge did you gain from it? Officially, my master’s degree is in Electrical and Computer Engineering, though the focus is definitely biomedical engineering in nature. It was a standard two-year master’s program. I worked at the UNB in the summer prior to my second year at George Brown College, before returning to pursue graduate studies. The program afforded me an opportunity to learn about motion capture systems and use this knowledge to study the compensatory motions made by prosthesis users. This also provides a tool to explore whether or not a new prosthetic intervention actually offers an improvement to the user.

4. Did more opportunities become available to you since you’ve completed your Masters?  A graduate degree allows you access to interface with other healthcare professionals and can provide you a platform to speak and be heard, to provide your own unique perspective on matters related to P&O. Clinicians and technicians often have other healthcare professionals speaking on their behalf, and the degree of separation from the patient can at times result in important clinical details being undervalued and overlooked. After completing my degree, I did have the opportunity to plan and conduct my own research project. My research capacity coupled to my clinical knowledge of prosthetics allows me to structure a research study in a manner that will help promote and inform an evidence based practice for the field.

5. What sort of challenges do you face daily? I enjoy the challenge of educating those interested in the difference between science fiction and reality. Although these days it’s become more about highlighting the difference between a well-funded, highly advanced research project, and the current clinical state of a prosthesis that can be used on a daily basis.

6. Is there more area for growth within the field? If so, what is the next step? Although the provision of a prosthesis can dramatically improve a person’s life, the research to back this known clinical reality needs to be expanded. Prosthesis users represent a relatively small (albeit important) patient population. Research funding is therefore allocated to other areas of healthcare with larger cohorts. It is therefore necessary to seek out and establish partnerships with existing research groups or faculty that have an established history of P&O research. In addition, coordinated efforts within the clinical community to fund research to answer specific clinical questions would benefit the field.

7. What is the work-life balance like? How many hours a week do you work? I work a 40 hour week, and like most people often spend too much time off the clock thinking about work.

8. If someone else wanted to pursue a similar career path as you, how would they go about doing that? Involvement in research often necessitates a graduate degree. Applying to a university to pursue a graduate degree would be the first step

Ali Hussaini presenting at an ISPO conference in France. 

Ali Hussaini presenting at an ISPO conference in France.