Neuroscientist Ryan D'Arcy is on a mission to change brains, as well as minds
The “Kickass Canadian” is one of many courageous leaders in neuroscience who are making a name for SFU as Canada’s leading engaged university. Not only is he challenging conventional beliefs about the limits of brain recovery, but he is also forming “dream teams” of like-minded people and organizations to accelerate innovation and improve healthcare in British Columbia.
He’s definitely a person who gets things done. D’Arcy develops non-invasive diagnostic and monitoring tools to help the treatment of brain injury and disease, translating university capabilities into innovations that improve everyday health care. He previously led the establishment of a world-class neuroimaging innovation cluster in Halifax, while developing a brain surgery simulator and a mobile brain scanner for rapidly assessing brain function where ever and when ever brain injury or disease is a concern. In 2012, he returned to his native B.C. to drive the development of Metro Vancouver into a world leading health technology hub.
At SFU’s Faculty of Applied Sciences, D’Arcy wasted no time in building a leading-edge health technology program as the Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation BC Leadership Chair in Multimodal Technology for Healthcare Innovation. Through his partnership-building efforts with other universities, industries and governments, he is creating leading-edge medical imaging that will take brain imaging in Western Canada to the next level.
Through investments from Western Economic Diversification Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the BC Knowledge Development Fund, D’Arcy has lead the development of SFU-embedded labs in the vibrant clinical setting of Surrey Memorial Hospital, part of the rapidly growing Innovation Boulevard. Officially launched in 2013, Innovation Boulevard is BC’s largest healthcare partnership founded by SFU, the City, and Fraser Health. The partnership has brought together many other post-secondary institutions, government, and business sectors to transform BC into a nationally and internationally recognized cluster of health technology innovation, with a special focus on medical devices, independent living and digital health.
On September 17th, D’Arcy made history with Captain Trevor Greene, a former Canadian soldier who survived a devastating brain injury after being attacked with an axe to his head. Captain Greene has since stunned the world with his remarkable comeback story. D’Arcy has worked with Captain Greene for six years using advanced medical imaging to help rewire brain regions to walk again. Now, with the extra help of a robotic exoskeleton made by Israel-based ReWalk and a team of engineering experts at SFU led by Dr. Carolyn Sparrey, Greene took his first public steps since 2006.
Project Iron Soldier, as it came to be called, showcased this amazing moment to bring major change for veterans, brain injury survivors and our communities— leading to the launch of an ambitious new Veterans Village development plan.
Greene and D’Arcy continue to push the limits, currently planning and training for a mission to Everest base-camp. By changing brains, they are changing minds about what is possible in health care.
Dr. Ryan D’Arcy serves as Professor and BC Leadership Chair in Medical Technologies for SFU and Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation and is Head of Health Sciences and Innovation at Fraser Health’s Surrey Memorial Hospital. Dr. D’Arcy has joined forces with the City of Surrey to drive the rapid development of Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard, which will focus BC’s technology sector into a global leader of health care innovation.
Q & A with Dr. Ryan D'Arcy
If you could sum up the value of university research in a word, what would it be?
SFU bills itself as “Canada’s most engaged research university.” How does your own work exemplify this spirit of engagement?
My work is all about engagement so there is no other option. I believe it’s critically important for us to take what we do and translate it to make impact. And to find ways to show how—for ourselves, for our programs and for our stakeholders—this is is making a difference. In having that vision, SFU has landed ahead of the curve of many universities and that’s our real value add to society.
What do you see as a noteworthy, emerging trend shaping the future of university research?
Society is going to look more and more to the university to find solutions to the biggest problems we face, be it in the health care sector or in environment, and universities are quickly understanding this responsibility and their service-oriented role. When you look at it, the world needs answers to some pretty scary and serious challenges, and it’s got to be universities that play a large role in coming up with solutions.
Also, I think universities will understand more fully the value of partnership—partnering with other universities, or in my case with hospitals, and most importantly with industry. I think that’s increasingly going to be the way of the future.