Miami Project Researcher Dr. Christine Thomas Passes Away

Christine Thomas, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery and The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, who researched neuromuscular weakness, fatigue, spasms and regeneration for more than 27 years, passed away in December after a long battle with cancer.

Thomas was recruited by the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in 1990 to conduct basic and clinical research targeting spinal cord injury (SCI), and to interface with a growing Miami Project research team. She was promoted to professor of neurological surgery in 2003. Over the years, she and her colleagues conducted pioneering work on post-spinal cord injury neuromuscular changes that led to the use of functional electrical stimulation protocols as a new and exciting rehabilitation tool.

“Dr. Thomas will be greatly missed, as she was a dedicated colleague, a mentor to many and an outstanding medical researcher,” said W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D., scientific director of The Miami Project. “I will always remember her sitting with SCI subjects, surrounded by electrophysiological equipment, as she accumulated data on signal motor unit recordings.”

In addition to her studies clarifying the mechanisms of muscle fatigue, Thomas also conducted preclinical studies to investigate mechanistic questions. All of these studies were supported by federal and other funding agencies indicating the very high quality of her work and acknowledgement from her peers.

“Dr. Thomas was a very serious investigator who carefully analyzed her data and published in the best neurophysiological and neuroscience journals,” said Dietrich. “Based on her research contributions, she received many awards and was invited in 2016 to give the commencement lecture at her alma mater, The University of Otago in New Zealand. At that time, she told graduates that ‘with new technology, we have lots of data and new ways to process it, but these are just tools, and tools do not solve the problem. The difficult task is to understand what you see and to turn that information to some use.’

“Dr. Thomas will be remembered for obtaining and critically reviewing enormous amounts of data during her clinical investigations and coming up with new hypotheses that challenged the field. She has left us all with valuable collection of data and instructive observations on which the SCI field can continue to grow.”

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