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SCIRB Advisory Board Bios

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Adam B. Stein, M.D
April B. Coughlin, Ph.D.
Jessica Daigle, MA, OTR/L
Bernice Grafstein, BA, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)
Keith Gurgui
Lorne Mendell, Ph.D.
Rachel Santiago, M.D.
Fraser J. Sim, Ph.D.
Lauren A. Varriale, M.S., O.T.R./L

Adam B. Stein, M.D., Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra Northwell, Chair of SCIRB

Adam B. Stein, M.D., is Chair and Professor, at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra Northwell.

Dr. Stein completed his medical degree in 1987 at New York University School of Medicine. His residency training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation took place at New York University School of Medicine-Rusk Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine, and was successfully completed in 1991. In his final year of residency, Dr. Stein was elected Chief Resident and ultimately honored with the Highest Overall Performance Award. Dr. Stein has been board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation since 1992. He is also board certified in Spinal Cord Injury Medicine since 2003.

After residency, Dr. Stein joined the faculty at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine; he remained at Mount Sinai until 2008. At Mount Sinai, Dr. Stein directed the Spinal Cord Injury Unit and developed the department’s program for ventilator dependent individuals. He served as the Residency Program Director for the Residency Training Programs in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Spinal Cord Injury Medicine, respectively. Dr. Stein coordinated all educational programs provided by the Department to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and was able to incorporate Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation into each of the four years of the medical school’s curriculum; a rarity in United States Medical Schools.

Dr. Stein began his chairmanship at Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra Northwell in July, 2008. In this capacity, he oversees the delivery of rehabilitation services for the health system for its many hospitals and outpatient therapy centers as well as helping to oversee the Residency Training Program in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Dr. Stein also facilitates the education of medical students. He directs the PM&R portion of Advanced Clinical Experience and has contributed as a content leader for “The Human Condition”, one of the core courses at the school. Further, he is a member of the Admissions Committee, a core faculty member of the Communication portion of the school’s first course, CPR: Challenges, Privileges and Responsibilities, and serves as a coach and assessor for the medical students during Reflection, Integration and Assessment periods.

Dr. Stein serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Association of Academic Physiatrists and is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Spinal Injury Association.


April B. Coughlin, Ph.D. of the State University of New York at New Paltz


Jessica Daigle, MA, OTR/L with Northwell Health Services

Jessica received her Master’s in Occupational Therapy from New York University in 2001. Jessica’s focus has been in the area of outpatient neurological rehabilitation. In addition, she established and implemented the STARS Wheelchair Clinic. Her areas of focus are spinal cord injury, stroke, brain injury and multiple sclerosis. Jessica’s diverse clinical experience is highlighted by 7 years at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Of those, she spent a year on the TBI/stroke/brain injury unit, 6 years on the acute spinal cord injury unit and her final year was spent in the outpatient spinal cord injury program, including the wheelchair clinic. Throughout her many years of experience, she developed her primary specialty, neurological rehabilitation with a focus in spinal cord injury.


Bernice Grafstein, BA, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon), Weill Medical College of Cornell University

Bernice Grafstein, BA, PhD, DSc (hon), is Professor of Physiology & Biophysics and the Vincent & Brooke Astor Distinguished Professor in Neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. She has had a notable career in neuroscience research, known for her work on the electrophysiology of the cerebral cortex and on axonal transport and nerve regeneration. She now plays an important role in teaching at the Medical College, serving as Co-Director of the Brain and Mind course for medical students and as Director of the Giving Good Science course for graduate students, as well as a lecturer in these and other courses. She has served on many Medical College committees, and is currently a member of the Basic Sciences Curriculum Committee, the Advanced Basic Sciences Committee and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. She has received numerous awards for both research and teaching. She was the first woman to be President of the Society for Neuroscience and is currently Vice-President and Life Trustee of the Grass Foundation, which supports training and research in neuroscience. 


Keith Gurgui, Resource Center for Accessible Living (RCAL)

Two weeks before he planned to start college, Keith Gurgui sustained a spinal cord injury while diving, leaving him permanently paralyzed below the neck. After leaving the hospital, he underwent six months of rigorous physical therapy to maintain muscular, orthopedic, respiratory and cardiovascular health as well as to learn how to use assistive technology and a wheelchair.

With Mr. Gurgui's accident and rehabilitation came an understanding of disability and rehabilitation, and a personal desire to advocate for issues, knowledge, concerns, needs and rights of people with disabilities. As the System Advocate for the New York Statewide Systems Advocacy Network at the Resource Center for Accessible Living (RCAL) in Kingston, New York, he works with a network of community members who advocate for the needs of the disability community. He is also very interested in stem cell research and the field of regenerative medicine and attended the 2010 World Stem Cell Summit in Detroit, Michigan, hosted by the Genetics Policy Institute. Mr. Gurgui received his Associates in Individual Studies from Ulster County Community College in August of 2014.


Lorne Mendell, Ph.D., Stony Brook University

Dr. Mendell is a Distinguished Professor at Stony Brook University, and his laboratory focuses on the functional effects of neurotrophins in pain and segmental reflex pathways. Specifically, his research centers on the physiology of neurotrophins, and their action in modifying well-delineated circuits in the intact and injured spinal cord, including sensory input and motor output. His group is investigating the effects of neurotrophins on nociceptors and nociception in rats. In previous work, the team determined that administration of the neurotrophin nerve growth factor (NGF), known to be normally upregulated in skin during inflammation, produces hyperalgesia, and now is studying the basis for the peripheral component of this hyperalgesia. Another focus in his research is the action of neurotrophins such as NT-3 and BDNF on spinal reflexes and pathways in the neonatal rat. Dr. Mendell is the author of numerous journal articles and a past president of the Society of Neuroscience. Dr. Mendell has been a member of the SCIRB for several years and served as Chair from 2015-2022.


Rachel Santiago, M.D., Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital

Dr. Rachel M. Santiago obtained her medical degree from the Stony Brook School of Medicine in Stony Brook, NY. She completed an Internal Medicine internship at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, NY and her residency training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Her final year in residency she was awarded the Kristjan Ragnarsson Resident of the Year Award. She then went on to complete a Spinal Cord Injury Medicine fellowship at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City with a research interest in bone density in spinal cord injury and exoskeleton assisted walking devices. Since completing her training she has joined the team at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital in Schenectady, NY with a focus on spinal cord injury treatment and research.


Fraser J. Sim, Ph.D., SUNY University at Buffalo

Fraser Sim is an Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the State University of New York, University at Buffalo. His laboratory focuses on understanding glial development and dysfunction using a combination of human stem and progenitor cells with animal models of neurological disease. Dr. Sim earned his undergraduate and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Cambridge (UK) in Neuroscience. He received postdoctoral training at the University of Cambridge, Weill Cornell University Medical College, and University of Rochester Medical Center with Drs. Robin Franklin and Steven Goldman. In 2009, he joined the faculty of SUNY University at Buffalo. He has developed novel methods to identify and isolate defined progenitor cells from the human brain. By genomic analysis of these purified cell populations, he has identified novel pharmacological targets for treatment of myelin disease. 


Lauren A. Varriale, M.S., O.T.R./L, Northwell Health Rehabilitation Network

Lauren is a licensed occupational therapist, receiving her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy in 2007. She taught 4 years as an Adjunct Professor for the Assistive Technology and Home Modifications course at New York Institute of Technology’s Occupational Therapy Department. Prior to joining Northwell Health, she worked on the inpatient spinal cord injury unit at Mount Sinai Medical Center as an Advanced Clinician, where she participated in multiple research studies and assisted with the Outpatient Wheelchair & Assistive Technology Clinic. During her time at Mount Sinai, Lauren participated in the Model System research for SCIRehab, as well as the SCIM and cranial electrotherapy stimulation study for pain. She developed the mentor program for new therapists, as well as the discharge resource binder for “Life after Injury”. She coordinated the education lecture series for patients and caregivers. Lauren was Mount Sinai’s representative for the Model Systems meetings and worked closely with the nursing staff to develop the SCI bowel and bladder program and improve the skin rounds protocol hospital wide. Lauren has guest lectured at Mount Sinai to assist with the development in “Intimacy after Injury” conference, as well as the “Sexuality after SCI” website. Lauren was co-author to multiple articles in the Journal of Spinal Cord Injury Medicine, and Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA: Assistive Technology) and authored two articles in Spinal Connection magazine. She has presented nationwide at multiple conferences. Lauren’s clinical focus has been in the area of neurological rehabilitation, with a specialty in wheelchair seating and positioning. Since the start of her time at Northwell, Lauren has expanded the wheelchair clinic to serve the community with seating and mobility throughout multiple locations. She has been instrumental in the development of the Northwell Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Multidisciplinary Clinic and has assisted in the mentorship program between inpatient therapy and outpatient services including wheelchair and equipment procurement.