Doctor with patient in wheelchairDirector: Heather B. Taylor, PhD

TIRR Memorial Hermann is a leader in spinal cord injury (SCI) research. The Spinal Cord Injury and Disability Research Center (SCIDR) is the home of the Texas Model Spinal Cord Injury System (TMSCIS), directed by Heather Taylor, PhD. TIRR Memorial Hermann was one of the first facilities in the United States to be awarded the highly competitive federal designation as a Regional Model Spinal Cord Injury System for exemplary patient management and research. SCIDR received federal and foundation funding to benefit individuals with SCI and other disabilities.

The mission of the SCIDR is to improve functional recovery, health and quality of life for individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI), and other physical disabilities. SCIDR had been conducting research on SCI long before 1972, when it became among the first inpatient rehabilitation programs to be designated as a Model System of Care by the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

SCIDR conducts investigator-initiated and industry-sponsored studies, including local studies, multicenter studies and clinical trials of individuals of all ages with SCI and physical disability. Research focuses on optimizing acute and chronic care for people with spinal cord injury, facilitating active community involvement and access to care, improving quality of life and reducing the risk of secondary complications and conditions such as depression and chronic pain. Investigators at SCIDR have extensive experience developing and testing interventions to improve functioning, psychosocial health and quality of life across the lifespan.

SCIDR Researchers

TIRR Memorial Hermann Affiliated Investigators

  • Matthew Davis, MD
  • William Donovan, MD, Senior Advisor
  • Susan Robinson-Whelen, PhD
  • Argyrios Stampas, MD
  • Heather B. Taylor, PhD, Director / Spinal Cord Injury and Disability Research, Director / Texas Model Spinal Cord Injury System
  • Lisa Wenzel, MD

Research Support

  • Kristine Lopez, PT - Research Physical Therapist
  • Rachel Markley, MPH - Senior Research Assistant
  • Araceli Rodriguez, BS - Research Assistant
  • Jalyce Taylor, BS - Research Assistant
  • Aime Urquieta, BS - Research Assistant
  • Jose “Joey” Vega, BS - Research Operations Coordinator

External Collaborating Investigators

  • Rosemary Hughes, PhD (Rural Institute, University of Montana)
  • Mary Jane Mulcahey, OT PhD (University of Jefferson)
  • Margaret Nosek, PhD (Center for Research on Women with Disabilities, Baylor College of Medicine)
  • Eva Widerstrom-Noga, PhD (Miami Paralysis Project)

Research Interests

1. Psychosocial Health

SCIDR researchers have a long history focusing on psychosocial health for people with physical disabilities, including SCI. Dr. Taylor’s NIDILRR funded projects have included evaluating the variability of pain, depression, and resilience among men and women with SCI as it relates to life satisfaction. Dr. Robinson-Whelen has collaborated and led multiple research projects including, obtaining site funding as part of the Texas Model Spinal Cord Injury System, to evaluate a psychosocial health intervention for women with SCI in the virtual world of Second Life.

Select Publications:

  1. Taylor, H., Robinson-Whelen, S., Hughes, R.B., Nosek, M. (2017). Advancing Health Promotion for People with Spinal Cord Injury. TIRR Memorial Hermann Journal.
  2. Robinson-Whelen, S., Taylor, HB, Feltz, M., Whelen, K. Loneliness among people with spinal cord injury: Exploring the psychometric properties of the 3-item Loneliness Scale. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2016 Oct; 97(10):1728-34. PMID: 27178096.
  3. Hartoonian N, Hoffman JM, Kalpakjian CZ, Taylor HB, Krause JK, Bombardier CH. Evaluating a spinal cord injury-specific model of depression and quality of life. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2014 Mar; 95(3):455-65. PubMed PMID: 24269994.
  4. Robinson-Whelen S, Taylor HB, Hughes RB, Wenzel L, Nosek MA. Depression and depression treatment in women with spinal cord injury. Top Spinal Cord Inj Rehabil. 2014 Winter;20(1):23-31. PubMed PMID: 24574819; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3919691.
  5. Robinson-Whelen S, Taylor HB, Hughes RB, Nosek MA. Depressive symptoms in women with physical disabilities: identifying correlates to inform practice. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2013 Dec; 94(12):2410-6. PubMed PMID: 23911557.

2. Motor Learning, Neurorecovery and the Relation to Physical, Psychological and Cognitive Functioning

SCIDR research spans both adults and children with SCI and spinal disorders. Past projects have emphasized motor development, recovery, and motor learning, contributing to our understanding of motor learning in disability and its relation to physical, psychological and cognitive functioning. Dr. Taylor’s experience includes her previous role as site director and current affiliate for the NeuroRecovery Network focusing on activity based therapy in adults with SCI as well as her evaluation of motor learning and neurorecovery in children with spina bifida and cerebral palsy.

Select Publications:

  1. Heinemann, A.W., Jayaraman, A., Mummidisetty, C.K., Spaggins, J., Pinto, D., Charlifue, S., Tefertiller, C., Taylor, H.B., Chang, S., Stampas, A., Furbish, C.L., Fielf-Fote, E.C., Experience of Robotic Exoskeleton Use at Four Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems Centers. (October 2018) Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy, 42(4) 256-267.
  2. Theilen, C., Sadowsky, C., Vogel, LC., Taylor, H., Davidson, L, Bultman, J., Gaughan, J., Mulcahey, MJ. Evaluation of the walking index for spinal cord injury II (WISCI-II) in children with spinal cord injury (SCI). Spinal Cord. 2017 May:55(5): 478-482. doi: 10.1038/sc.2016.142. Epub 2016 Oct 18. PubMed PMID: 2775205
  3. Hartoonian N, Hoffman JM, Kalpakjian CZ, Taylor HB, Krause JK, Bombardier CH. Evaluating a spinal cord injury-specific model of depression and quality of life. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2014 Mar; 95(3):455-65. PubMed PMID: 24269994.
  4. Taylor HB, Barnes MA, Landry SH, Swank P, Fletcher JM, Huang F. Motor contingency learning and infants with Spina Bifida. J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2013 Feb;19(2):206-15. PubMed PMID: 23298791; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4067977.
  5. Taylor HB, Landry SH, Barnes M, Swank P, Cohen LB, Fletcher J. Early information processing among infants with and without spina bifida. Infant Behav Dev. 2010 Dec;33(4):365-72. PubMed PMID: 20488543; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2956001.

3. Intervention Practice

SCIDR researchers have collaborated on numerous projects developing and testing various interventions to improve motor functioning, health, psychological functioning, cognition, and quality of life. This work has included interventions on psychological health, stress, self-esteem enhancement, and depression. They have collaborated nationally with researchers including, Dr. Rosemary Hughes (The Rural Institute, University of Montana), and Margaret Nosek, (Center for Research on Women with Disabilities, Baylor College of Medicine). SCIDR researchers have collaborated and ledprojects investigating neurorecovery in locomotor training as well as Dr. Taylor’s collaborative research with McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) evaluating various interventions for children with disabilities, focusing on motor, attention and organization deficits.

Select Publications:

  1. Tamm L; Denton CA; Epstein JN; Schatschneider C; Taylor H; Arnold LE; Bukstein O; Anixt J; Koshy A; Newman NC; Maltinsky J; Brinson P; Loren REA; Prasad MR; Ewing-Cobbs L; Vaughn A. Comparing treatments for children with ADHD and word reading difficulties: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 2017; 85(5):434-446 (ISSN: 1939-2117).
  2. Taylor HB, Landry SH, English L, Barnes M. Principles and Practice of Lifespan Development Neuropsychology. Donders J, Hunt S, editors. New York: Cambridge University Press; 2010. Infants and children with spina bifida.
  3. Robinson-Whelen S, Hughes RB, Taylor HB, Hall JW, Rehm LP. Depression self-management program for rural women with physical disabilities. Rehabilitation psychology. 2007; 52(3):254-267.
  4. Hughes RB, Taylor HB, Robinson-Whelen SS, Nosek MA. Stress self-management: An intervention for women with disabilities. Women's health issues: official publication of the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health. 2006; 16:389-399.

4. Outcome Measures

SCIDR has contributed to the assessment of patient-reported outcomes by playing a key role in the evaluation of outcome measures for adults and children with SCI. For example, Dr. Robinson-Whelen is interested in loneliness among people with SCI and has evaluated the psychometric properties of measures in this population. Dr. Taylor participated as a member of the NINDS Spinal Cord Common Data Element, Pediatric Work Group from 2014 – 2015 resulting in published work on recommendations for assessments working with children with SCI, and has collaborated with Dr. Mary Jane Mulcahey (Jefferson University) to evaluate the use of adult measures in SCI to determine their potential for use in pediatrics.

Select Publications:

  1. Kathryn Dent, K., Grampurohit, N., Calhoun Thielen, C. Sadowsky, C. Davidson, L., Taylor, HB, Bultman, J., Gaughan, J., Marino, R., Mulcahey, MJ. (2018) Evaluation of the Graded Redefined Assessment of Strength, Sensibility and Prehension (GRASSP) in Children with Tetraplegia. Spinal Cord, 56, 741-749.
  2. Calhoun Theilen, C., Sadowsky, C., Vogel, LC., Taylor, H., Davidson, L, Bultman, J., Gaughan, J., Mulcahey, MJ. Evaluation of the walking index for spinal cord injury II (WISCI-II) in children with spinal cord injury (SCI). Spinal Cord. 2017:55(5): 478-482.
  3. Robinson-Whelen, S., Taylor, HB, Feltz, M., Whelen, K. Loneliness among people with spinal cord injury: Exploring the psychometric properties of the 3-item Loneliness Scale. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2016 Oct; 97(10):1728-34. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2016.04.008
  4. Mulcahey, MJ, Vogel, LC, Sheikh, M., Arango-Lasprilla, J.C., Augutis, M., Garner, E., Hagen, E.M., Jakeman, L.B., Kelley, E., Martin, R., Odenkirchen, J., Scheel-Sailer, A., Schottler, J., Taylor, H., Thielen, C.C., Zebracki, K. Recommendations for the National Institute for Neurologic Disorders and Stroke spinal cord injury common data elements for children and youth with SCI. Spinal Cord, 2016, Nov 15. Doi: 10.1038/sc.2016.139.

5. Women’s Health After Spinal Cord Injury

Dr. Taylor (Chair), Robinson-Whelen, and Wenzel (members) are actively involved in the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine’s SCI Interdisciplinary Special Interest Group Women’s Health Task Force (ACRM SCI-ISIG WHTF) and for the Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems (SCIMS) Women’s Health Special Interest Group (WH-SIG), focusing on the unique concerns of women’s health after SCI. In collaboration with national experts, they work to bring awareness to the unique needs of women with SCI. SCIDR recently received funding to develop a web-page resource directory for women with SCI that will provide educational information as well as identify practitioners who provide accessible services for women.

Select Presentations and Publications:

  1. Robinson-Whelen, S., Hughes, R. B., Taylor, H. B., Markley, R., Vega, J., Webster, M., & Nosek, M. A. (2018, May). Zest: Promoting Psychological Health of Women with SCI in the Virtual World of Second Life. Abstract accepted for presentation at the American Spinal Injury Association Annual Scientific Conference, Rochester, MN.
  2. Robinson-Whelen, S., Taylor, H. B., Hughes, R. B., Wenzel, L., and Nosek, M. A. (2014). Depression and depression treatment in women with spinal cord injury. Topics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation, 20 (1), 23-31.
  3. Robinson-Whelen, S., Taylor, H. B., Hughes, R. B., & Nosek, M. A. (2013). Depressive Symptoms in Women with Physical Disabilities: Identifying Correlates to Inform Practice. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 94 (12), 2410-2416.
  4. Robinson-Whelen, S., Hughes, R. B., Taylor, H. B., Hall, J. W., & Rehm, L. P. (2007) Depression self-management program for rural women with physical disabilities. Rehabilitation Psychology, 52(3), 254-267.

Research Highlights

Texas Model Spinal Cord Injury System (TMSCIS)

Principle Investigator: Heather B. Taylor, PhD
Co-Investigators:
Matthew Davis, MD, Argyrios Stampas, MD, Lisa Wenzel, MD, Susan Robinson-Whelen, PhD, Rosemary Hughes, PhD, and Margaret Nosek, PhD
Research Assistants:
Kristine, Lopez, PT, Rachel Markley, MPH, Araceli Rodriguez, BS, Aime Urquieta, BS, Jose “Joey” Vega, BS
Senior Advisor:
William H. Donovan, MD

Funded by the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), September 29, 2016 - 2021

The Texas Model Spinal Cord Injury System (TMSCIS) at TIRR Memorial Hermann is one of 14 centers enrolling newly injured individuals with SCI into the National Spinal Cord Injury Database. This longitudinal study follows individuals with throughout their lifetime. The TMSCIS local project (ZEST: PI Dr. Robinson-Whelen) is a psychsocial intervention for women with SCI conducted in the virtual world of Second Life (link). The TMSCIS also collaborates in 4 module projects with other centers focusing on pain, complementary integrated health, acute trauma services, and exoskeleton use in SCI.

Enhancing Healthcare for Women with Spinal Cord Injury through a Web-based Information Resource

Funded by The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation Creating Opportunity and Independence (CO&I) Sustainable Impact Project (SIP)

November 30, 2018 - 2021

The purpose of this program is to develop and evaluate a web-based national resource, in response to the needs of women with SCI that fills healthcare gaps including new health information, a listing of practitioners who serve women with SCI, and a comprehensive directory of existing health resources.

The Relations among Pain, Depression, and Resilience and their Prediction of Life Satisfaction in Men and Women with Spinal Cord Injury

Funded by the National Institutes of Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, 2016/09/30-2018/09/29, no cost extension through 2019/09/29

The goal of this study is to examine chronic pain, resilience, depression and satisfaction with life among approximately 100 men and 100 women with spinal cord injury in a longitudinal study over the course of one year.

Principle Investigator: Heather B. Taylor, PhD
Co-Investigators:
Susan Robinson-Whelen, PhD, Rosemary Hughes, PhD, Eva Widerstrom-Noga, PhD
Research Assistants:
Rachel Markley, MPH, Aime Urquieta, BS, Jose “Joey” Vega, BS

Occupational Performance Coaching in Pediatric Patients with Spinal Cord Injury.

Principle Investigator, Subcontract: Heather B. Taylor, PhD
Research Physical Therapist:
Kristine Lopez, PT

TIRR Memorial Hermann with Jefferson University

Mary Jane Mulcahey, PhD, Principal Investigator,

Funded by Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, 2018-2020.

The goal of the study is to evaluate the feasibility of conducting an occupational performance coaching program with parents of children with SCI and to evaluate outcomes.

Select Past Research Highlights

Development of an eHealth Group Weight Management Intervention for People with Spinal Cord Injury

Susan Robinson-Whelen, PhD, Principal Investigator, Rosemary Hughes, PhD, Margaret Nosek, PhD, Heather Taylor, PhD, Collaborators, Stephanie Silveria, PhD, Rachel Markley, MPH, & Araceli Urquieta, BS, Coordinators.

Funded by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, 2016-2018

Opioid Use in Acute Care for Traumatic SCI.

Principal Investigator, Subcontract: Argyrios Stampas
Co-Investigator: Heather Taylor

UTHSC/TIRR MH/TAMU, Michelle Hook, PhD, Principal Investigator, funded by Mission Connect. 09/01/2016 ‐ 08/31/2017 (no cost extension)

Enhancing Early Learning for Infants with Disabilities: A Responsive Parenting Intervention

Principal Investigator: Heather Taylor (UTHealth and TIRR MH)
Co-Investigators (in alphabetical order): Marcia Barnes, PhD, Cathy Guttentag, PhD, Hsien-Yuan “Mark” Hsu, PhD, Susan Landry, PhD, Paul Swank, PhD, (UTHealth)
Coordinator: Jose “Joey” Vega

UTHSC and TIRR Memorial Hermann, funded by the Institute of Educational Sciences, September 2012 - August 2016,(September 2016 - January 2018 - no cost extension).

Pediatric Multi-Center Evaluation of Notable SCI Outcome Instruments

Principal Investigator, Subcontract: Heather Taylor, PhD
Research Physical Therapist: Kristine Lopez, PT

TIRR Memorial Hermann with Jefferson University, Mary Jane Mulcahey, PhD, Principal Investigator, funded by Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, 2014-2016.

Characterizing Arts in Medicine Performances and the Impact on Audience Engagement and Mood at a Children’s Cancer Center

Principal Investigator, Subcontract: Heather B. Taylor, PhD

TIRR Memorial Hermann with Texas Children’s Hospital, Ernest Fruge, PhD, Principal Investigator, funded by Young Audiences of Houston Donation, 2011 - 2014.

NeuroRecovery Network (NRN)

Principal Investigator and NRN Center Director: Heather B. Taylor, PhD
Co-Investigators:
Matthew Davis, MD, Lisa Wenzel, MD, and Argyrios Stampas, MD
Clinical Supervisor:
Marcie Kern, PT
Research Coordinator/Data Manager:
Michelle Feltz, BA

Funded by the Centers of Disease Control and the Christopher and Dana Reeves Foundation, April 2012 - 2016 (2016 -2017 no cost extension)

TIRR Memorial Hermann was one of seven NRN centers developing and providing therapies to promote functional recovery and improve the health and quality of life of people living with paralysis. TIRR Memorial Hermann’s NRN program was conducting Locomotor Training (LT) with individuals with SCI and collecting comprehensive medical information about the progress of each participant. This was a subcontract between the rehabilitation hospital and the University of Louisville (Susan Harkema, PhD, Principal Investigator), funded by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

More Information

For more information on the Spinal Cord Injury and Disability Research Center at TIRR Memorial Hermann or to contact the SCI research staff, please use the information below.

Phone: (713) 797-5972
Email: SCIDR@memorialhermann.org

Patient Stories

  • Myford Collins, and Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation patient, smiles for the camera.

    Myford's Story: Creating Success after Spinal Cord Injury

    September 9, 2021

    Myford Collins set numerous track and field records in junior high and high school and was a Texas All-Star, an All-American and an Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympics champion headed for the Olympics. Then, as an 18-year-old freshman in Irving, Texas, his life changed when a drunk driver ran ...

    Read More
  • Spinal Cord Injury patient Abbi Evans dons a prom dress following successful rehabilitation.

    Abbi's Story: Dancing After Spinal Cord Injury

    September 9, 2021

    When Abbi first arrived at TIRR Memorial Hermann, she had mild weakness in her legs, patchy sensation in her legs, painful numbness and tingling in her legs, and difficulty with maintaining her blood pressure when sitting and standing because of her spinal cord injury from her tumor.

    Read More
  • Anthony Antwine using a walker as he regains mobility

    Anthony: Taking a Victory Lap

    September 18, 2020

    A spinal cord injury that started as a tingling sensation in his fingers quickly developed into numbness and immobility in his legs. After diagnosis and rehabilitation with Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital - Katy, Anthony has returned home and is walking again.

    Read More
  • Tato Stanley on horse

    Tato Stanley Makes a Statistically Improbable Recovery

    August 22, 2016

    At the end of a family vacation in Snowmass, Colorado, 17-year-old Clay “Tato” Stanley was seriously injured in a snowboarding accident. “They were doing jumps, and Tato lost control on the landing and was immediately paralyzed,” Tato’s mother, Alice Stanley says. Ta...

    Read More
  • Jason Roy

    Jason Roy: From Zero to a Hundred

    August 31, 2015

    As a child, Jason Roy wanted to be a baseball player or a police officer. He initially gravitated towards sports, but then shifted gears and joined the Houston Police Department as an officer. Roy, by then a five-year veteran of the department, flipped his squad car several times during a high-sp...

    Read More
  • Daquan Minor

    Daquan Minor: The Determination to Win

    August 31, 2015

    Eighteen-year-old Daquan Minor, who suffered a fractured skull and a T-6 incomplete spinal cord injury in an auto accident in February 2013. Two years later, he was a key contributor to the 2015 TIRR Memorial Hermann junior Hotwheels win of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s Nationa...

    Read More
  • Braxton Taylor

    Braxton Taylor: From Total Assist to Independence

    October 24, 2014

    When 20-year-old Braxton Taylor arrived at TIRR Memorial Hermann in August 2013, he was unable to walk, transfer, eat or manage other activities of daily living without total assistance. When he was discharged on Halloween, he could walk with assistance and was independent in most aspects of dail...

    Read More
  • Wes Brown

    Wes Brown: Back on the Road Again

    October 22, 2014

    Wes Brown was hauling a load of saltwater from an oilfield in East Texas to a nearby disposal site when the tires on the rear axle of his 18-wheeler hit a pothole and bounced onto the shoulder of the road. As he tried to center his trailer, the steer tire on the passenger side hit another pothole...

    Read More
  • Meena Outlaw

    Meena Outlaw: Spinal Cord Injury and Pregnancy

    June 12, 2014

    Meena Dhanjal Outlaw was injured on January 23, 2000, after she stepped onto the balcony of her newly built home and was locked out of her house. Concerned about the safety of her 3-week-old son, Miles, and 3-year-old daughter, Jasmine, she attempted to climb down from the balcony. She ended up f...

    Read More
  • Saleh in wheelchair

    Saleh Alzahrani: Rehabilitation After Cancer

    June 11, 2014

    Saleh Alzahrani was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 12. He underwent a successful surgery to remove a brain stem tumor and then went back to his daily life. At the age of 25, Alzahrani learned that his cancer had returned and another operation was required to remove a tumor, which was located...

    Read More
  • Rodney Janczak

    Rodney Janczak: 25 Years Later

    April 12, 2013

    Rodney Janczak took his first helicopter ride on July 3, 1987, when he was nine years old. Following an automobile accident in a suburban area of northwest Houston, he was flown by Memorial Hermann Life Flight to the Red Duke Trauma Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, formerly kno...

    Read More
  • Dan Hammers

    Dan Hammers: Infertility in SCI

    March 25, 2013

    In June 2012, Dan Hammers marked the 20th anniversary of an accident that changed his life. At the age of 19, he dove off a 10-foot building into a pool containing 4 feet of water. Hammers, who is a C4 quadriplegic, considers himself better off for the experience. In 2009, after seven years of ma...

    Read More
  • Kevin Everett

    After Being Paralyzed During an NFL Game, Kevin Everett is Standing Tall

    December 23, 2012

    When Buffalo Bills’ football player Kevin Everett arrived at TIRR Memorial Hermann in September 2007 after suffering spinal cord injury on the field, he was paralyzed from the neck down. After months of aggressive therapy led by a group of physicians, physical therapists and occupational th...

    Read More
  • Read about Lexie Pediatric Spinal Cord Injury

    Lexie's Story: Pediatric Spinal Cord Injury

    December 23, 2012

    Eleven-year-old Lexie Bolds was having fun visiting a friend in Jasper, Texas, when she was involved in an accident that left her with a broken neck and arm. She injured vertebrae C2-C4 and injured her spinal cord at C4. Rushed to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center by Life Flight® helicopt...

    Read More
TIRR Memorial Hermann Research & Clinical Trials