Assistant Professor Ghazala Saleem EdD, MS, OTR/L, joined the UB occupational therapy faculty in 2020. The overarching focus of her Brain Function and Recovery Lab is to identify and refine rapid and objective detection methods and reliable and cost-effective treatment in brain injury that can be used even by those communities that have limited awareness of and access to appropriate clinical care.
Three professional experiences that I had during my student years, as a licensed occupational therapist, and then as a research scientist trainee motivated me to get involved in the field of research and teaching. My first professional experience occurred when I was an undergraduate student and volunteering at a domestic violence center.
During my work at the center, I was stunned by the lack of awareness about as well as limited resources in the community to provide evidence-based care to survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV). I was moved by the severity of psychosocial and somatic symptoms that many of these survivors were experiencing, and I knew that I need to understand these symptoms to fully assist the survivors with their recovery.
Second, working as an occupational therapist with pediatric and adult patients with neurological disorders (e.g., stroke and traumatic brain injury), I realized that there is a scarcity of culturally sensitive and evidence-based treatment modalities in my profession. This absence of evidence is largely due to the limited number of occupational therapists who are trained as research scientists with expertise in clinical and translational research. I knew that by obtaining such training, I could positively impact my patients and help to advance the clinical rigor within my profession.
My third experience occurred during my postdoctoral years, I worked with special populations (medically/socially vulnerable populations) of acquired brain injury, leading me to realize that evidence-based rehabilitative therapies are particularly scarce for such underserved populations.
My research is focused on generating evidence to guide differential diagnosis, treatment, and recovery in special populations with injury to the central nervous system. By doing this research, I hope to improve health outcomes by identifying and refining detection methods and treatment. I want to eventually implement culturally sensitive therapies in naturalistic settings so that these therapies are accessible to even those groups who have limited resources.
I am really proud of my students and my research team. My students are actively involved in all phases of research with me including data collection and data analysis. They have also co-authored several publications. I am fortunate to have an interdisciplinary research team involving students from all academic backgrounds. I am also excited about the amazing resources at my lab that UB has provided me to conduct my research successfully.