Adapting to disability, Warren wins Fox medal

Sep 18, 2003, vol. 28, no. 2
By Marianne Meadahl

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Jodie Warren's goals might have changed after she suffered a severe stroke at the age of 23. Instead, the road to completing her bachelor of science degree at SFU and hopes of future study took an abrupt turn. But Warren didn't stray from it.

“It meant taking things at a different pace,” says Warren, now 29 and a graduate student in the school of criminology. She is also the recipient of this year's Terry Fox gold medal. The award is given annually to someone who demonstrates personal qualities of courage in adversity and dedication to society, as exemplified by the late runner.

The stroke came unexpectedly during a Christmas break and left extensive damage, including paralysis in her right arm. A year later she required open-heart surgery as a preventative measure against future strokes, and faced the news that she would likely never regain the use of her arm.

Despite another long recovery period, Warren completed her bachelor's degree, majoring in biology, excelled in a forensic science certificate program at BCIT and become a volunteer in the forensic lab of Gail Anderson, who is now her thesis supervisor.

Warren hopes her research on how temperature change affects the development of insects found at homicide sites will help advance the understanding of their role in crime investigations, and help bring closure to families touched by crime.

“Despite the severity of her injuries and a continuing risk of further strokes, Jodie has fought her way back to an active life and impressive academic career,” says Anderson, noting Warren's tenacity despite continuing to live with painful muscle contractions.

Warren underwent months of physical rehabilitation and mental adjustment. She has had to slowly relearn and develop new ways to do the things people do every day.

“If she can't do something in a traditional manner she will find a different way to do it,” Anderson says. “She has been able to do all sorts of experiments in the lab by adapting the experiment, or equipment, to her abilities.”

Warren, a non-status Metis who is also active in the First Nations student association at SFU, says patience is the often biggest test. “You soon realize that once you can adapt to something, it becomes possible,” says Warren, who hopes to continue her research beyond her master's degree.

As a youth, Warren followed Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope and is touched by the award. “To be considered for an award named for one of my personal heroes is a true achievement,” she says. “It's always an honour to be recognized for your abilities, not your disability.”

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