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Rallying together

Local law firms band together in the fight against concussion

by Kathryn Kinahan, BA’86, MLIS’93 | June 26, 2018

When explaining brain injuries to a jury, Nigel Gilby BA’77, LLB’78, often invokes his egg-carton example.

“Why do you open up the egg carton before you buy the eggs? Because even though there are no signs of damage to the carton, we all know that sometimes you’re going to find a cracked egg,” said Gilby, a partner at Lerners LLP in London. Same goes for individuals with an acquired brain injury, he stressed. They might not appear damaged, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a crack.

Having seen first-hand the damage these injuries can do to the lives of concussion sufferers and their families, Gilby rallied a group of London law firms with expertise in personal injury to join together and support concussion research at Western.

He arranged for representatives from the firms to sit down to a private dinner to hear Anatomy and Cell Biology professor and Robarts Scientist Dr. Arthur Brown discuss ongoing research initiatives. As part of Western’s Brain Injury Group, Brown and his collaborators are developing biomarkers to aid with diagnoses and therapeutic strategies to treat concussion. The work has the potential to change how concussion is treated and arrest its short and long-term devastating effects.

Gilby’s effort to unite local attorneys in support of local research worked.

After the dinner, Lerners agreed to donate $25,000 to the project. Many firms followed suit, including Siskinds, McKenzie Lake, and Harrison Pensa, all contributing $25,000. Legate & Associates, Wallace Smith, and Beckett Personal Injury Lawyers contributed $10,000 each.

Collectively, the group donated $130,000 to further advance this research.

“I’m a huge believer in giving back to the community that supports you,” Gilby said.

The Brain Injury Group was formed in 2011 when a group of scientists working across Western began a series of collaborations on concussion research. The breadth of expertise in this group ranges from basic molecular biology, cellular biology, biomechanics, immunology and exercise physiology to state-of-the-art imaging, public health and clinical sciences. More recently, the group has focused its efforts on seeking solutions to the problem of sports-related concussion.

No other institution in Canada or around the world has the broad array of clinical, neuropathological, neuroimaging, neurochemistry, neuropsychological, sports medicine and engineering expertise under a single roof that’s required to address the problem of sports-related concussion.

Donor support is an integral part of the group’s success, said Brown.

Arthur Brown cheque presentation
Nigel Gilby, third from left, rallied local law firms to raise funds for Dr. Arthur Brown, second from left, and his research associates’ work on concussion.

“Making a philanthropic gift like this is a special and selfless act,” he said. “These funds are used to advance our research and move it ahead at a far greater pace. It helps us build for the future and we are incredibly grateful for this type of support.”

Gilby has long been involved in the area of acquired brain injury. When he started practising law in 1980, he was a member of a group trying to set up a treatment facility for people with acquired brain injury. At that time, when you got discharged from the hospital, there were no services available to those with that specific type of injury. So, Gilby’s group started Dale Brain Injury Services, where Gilby still serves as Board president.

Hearing about ongoing work in concussion directly from the researcher made a tremendous impact on the dinner guests’ willingness to donate.

“I’ve been practising law for 37 years,” said David Williams, LLB’79, of Harrison Pensa, who spends a lot of time reading neurologists’ reports to best represent his clients. “I had not had concussion research explained to me in such detail before. That was the great part about the dinner, we had the rare opportunity to engage with the doctors.

“The research is fantastically exciting. To me, I was sort of spellbound just listening to their presentation.”

The research struck a chord with Williams, as he frequently deals with people who have sustained brain injuries.

“Working in personal injury, you get to know these people and their families pretty well. These are complex cases that can take a long time to resolve, years in fact. You’re dealing with the balance of someone’s life and if they’re 20 years old, well that’s a long time,” he said.

“Most interesting to me is the breadth and diversity of the research being done at Western. I don’t think it’s being duplicated anywhere in the world. I’m impressed with the fact this is happening locally. We have a group of approximately 10 lawyers who do personal injury work so we were happy to support it.”

Others felt it was important to support and champion the great work being done in our community.

“I was impressed with the innovative nature of the research being conducted at Western and its potential to impact how we assess and treat concussion in the future,” said Erin Rankin Nash, BSc’84, LLB’08, of McKenzie Lake. “It’s important to endorse the world-class work happening in our local community. We often tend to look for the next big breakthrough beyond our borders when, in fact, this game-changing work is happening in our own backyard.”

To support concussion research at Westsern, please contact Kristen Lesko, Senior Development Officer, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at 519.661.2111 ext. 84338 or kristen.lesko@schulich.uwo.ca

For more information on concussion research at Western, visit: extraordinary.westernu.ca/concussion/


This article appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Impact Western
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