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2024 San Diego
SCI Symposium


A big thank you to all who joined us at the

2024 San Diego SCI Symposium, both in-person and remotely! We appreciate your participation!

Please take a second to provide feedback about your experience using the QR code below. 

We are already looking forward to the

2025 Symposium and details will be added to the website soon! 

Thank you and see you next year!





Sponsored by Paralyzed Veterans of America, Cal-Diego Chapter, VA San Diego Healthcare System and UCSD Department of Neurosciences. 


You are cordially invited to attend the 2024 San Diego Spinal Cord Injury Symposium, an annual event bringing together researchers, clinicians, patients, caregivers and other stakeholders where cutting-edge research and clinical practice are discussed and disseminated. The intended outcome is a three-way education among and between biomedical researchers, healthcare professionals and the patient community.

This is a free event open to the community and a livestream option will be available for remote participants

Supported in part by Grant #890 from the Paralyzed Veterans of America Education Foundation.

MARCH 29, 2024


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The Speakers

Kobi Koffler, Ph.D.

Head of the Neural Engineering lab at UCSD School of Medicine, Department of Neurosciences

Dr. Koffler, an assistant professor of neurosciences and head of the Neural Engineering lab at UC San Diego's School of Medicine, Department of Neurosciences.  Dr. Koffler leads pioneering research in axonal regeneration following traumatic spinal cord and peripheral nerve injuries. His interdisciplinary lab employs systems neuroscience, tissue engineering, 3D-printing, biomaterials, stem cells, and drug delivery to develop biomimetic devices. Implanted at injury sites, these devices integrate with the host to guide regeneration. Dr. Koffler's focus spans understanding fundamental regeneration mechanisms, including Schwann cells' role in peripheral nerve regeneration, angiogenesis, and axonal responses to biomaterials. These insights inform the fabrication of bioengineered scaffolds, enhancing their functionality. From feasibility studies in rodents to preclinical studies in large animal models, Dr. Koffler's research aims to advance patient outcomes by pushing the boundaries of neural engineering and regenerative medicine.

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Albert Leung, M.D.

Director of the VA San Diego Center for Pain and Headache Research

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Dr. Leung is a distinguished board-certified anesthesiologist specializing in pain medicine with over 20 years of expertise. As Director of the VA San Diego Center for Pain and Headache Research, Dr. Leung's groundbreaking research focuses on non-invasive brain and peripheral stimulation for nerve function restoration and trauma-related pain relief. His lab investigates aberrant neuronal function responses to pain treatments, supported by funding from NIH, Department of Defense, and Veteran Affairs. With extensive publications in peer-reviewed journals, he actively contributes as a reviewer and editor. Dr. Leung earned his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, completing fellowships at UC San Diego, MGH/HST Athinoula A. Martinos Center, and Harvard School of Medicine. As a dedicated faculty member for UC San Diego's PACE Program, Dr. Leung continues to advance pain medicine and clinical education.

Hakan Töreyin, Ph.D. 

Associate Professor of Engineering at San Diego State University

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James Guest, MD, Ph.D., FACS

Professor of Neurological Surgery at the Miller School of Medicine 

Dr. James Guest is a Professor of Neurological Surgery at the Miller School of Medicine and the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. Dr. Guest is a Principal Investigator for the North American Clinical Trials Network (NACTN) for the Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury and his current research focuses on augmenting recovery after spinal cord injury using drugs, biologics, and neuromodulation. Dr. Guest has authored over 150 peer-reviewed publications about therapeutics for spinal cord injury, clinical trial design, neurophysiology, and studies of neuroprotection, cell therapy and biologics.

Dr. Guest earned a B.A. in economics and political science, a B.S. in chemistry and biology and a Medical Degree from the University of Alberta, and a Ph.D. from the University of Miami, Neuroscience Program. Dr. Guest completed his residency in the Division of Neurosurgery at the University of British Columbia and a Spine Surgery fellowship at the Barrow Neurological Institute.

Hakan Töreyin, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Engineering at San Diego State University.   After graduating from the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, he pursued his Master's, Ph.D. and postdoctoral fellowship in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.  With expertise gained through DARPA and NIH-funded postdoctoral studies, Dr. Töreyin prototyped biosignal sensor hardware and designed advanced signal processing methods for biomedical devices.  Currently at San Diego State University, he collaborates on NSF-funded projects, investigating novel signal processing for intracortical neural monitoring systems. Dr. Töreyin's research centers on creating wearable, implantable, and injectable systems for health monitoring of various physiological signals, including ECG, IPG, EMG, PPG, BCG, and joint sounds. 

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Rory Cooper, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor at the University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Cooper is Distinguished Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Founding Director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories, a VA Rehabilitation R&D Center of Excellence in partnership with Pitt.  He is Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research for STEM-Health Sciences Collaborations at Pitt.  Dr. Cooper has authored or co-authored over 400 peer-reviewed journal publications. He has 30 patents awarded or pending. He is the author of two books: "Rehabilitation Engineering Applied to Mobility and Manipulation” and “Wheelchair Selection and Configuration”, and co-editor of “An Introduction to Rehabilitation Engineering”, “Warrior Transition Leader: Medical Rehabilitation Handbook” and the award-winning book “Care of the Combat Amputee”. Cooper is an elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, as well as RESNA, IEEE, AIMBE and BMES. In October 2023, he was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Biden, and he was inducted into the 50th class of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

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Rosemarie Cooper MPT, ATP

Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh

Ms. Cooper is an Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and a RESNA-certified Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) and who worked for over 15 years as a clinical instructor/wheelchair seating clinician before joining the Human Engineering Research Laboratories Directorship Team as Associate Director for Stakeholder Engagement in 2021.  She earned her BA degree with a concentration in International Business from California State University, Sacramento and her Master of Physical Therapy from the University of Pittsburgh.  Ms. Cooper has been an author on several articles on wheelchairs and seating, is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma business academic honor society, and a member of APTA. 

Jenny Nordine, OTR/L, CDRS

Driving to Independence, Founder

Ms. Nordine is the founder of Driving to Independence, an Arizona-based company offering Comprehensive Driver Evaluation and Training Programs since 2001.  She hails from the upper Midwest and holds a degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of North Dakota. With a decade of experience working in inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation in major Phoenix metro hospitals, Ms. Nordine recognized the scarcity of adapted driver rehabilitation resources in Arizona, and established Driving to Independence.  Ms. Nordine expanded the practice to Tucson, Albuquerque, NM, and Las Vegas, Nevada. As a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS), she served two terms as president of the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED). Ms. Nordine enjoys discussing adaptive equipment options with small groups, while her personal time revolves around family, running, travel, and reading.

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Louis Irvin

Paralyzed Veterans of America, Cal-Diego 

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Louis Irvin is a passionate advocate for SCI/D (Spinal Cord Injury/Disorders) and former National Executive Director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA).  Louis served in the U.S. Navy from 1987 to 1993, then worked as the PVA National Service Officer in San Diego and became Executive Director of the PVA Cal-Diego Chapter.  He then went on to serve as Associate Executive Director for Veterans Benefits at PVA and became National Executive Director in 2006.  Mr. Irvin subsequently worked as President of Irvin Technologies, an engineering software firm, earned a BA in Business Management from Rollins College in 2016, and served as Education Consultant for PVA and Logistics Analyst for the U.S. Navy.  More recently, Mr. Irvin served as Community Development Financial Institution Director at Redbud Financial Alternatives in Hazard, Kentucky, from 2019 to 2022. Louis continues to serve on PVA National boards and committees, emphasizing his commitment to veterans and individuals with SCI.  He is currently pursuing an Associate degree in Architecture at Mesa College, San Diego.

Sara Kate Frye, OTD, MS, OTR/L, ATP, CAPS

Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy, Widener University 

Dr. Frye completed her bachelors and masters level training in occupational therapy at Towson University and her occupational therapy doctorate at Thomas Jefferson University. In addition to teaching in the Institute for Occupational Therapy Education at Widener University, she maintains a clinical practice with Penn Medicine at Home, as part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. Her clinical specialization is rehabilitation for spinal cord injury, brain injury, neurological disorders, oncology, and cardiopulmonary conditions. Her research interests have focused on upper extremity function after spinal cord injury and self-management for chronic conditions under the overarching goal of developing evidence to support high-quality and effective occupational therapy services. Sara Kate is a member of the San Diego SCI Symposium Planning Committee. 









Full Breakfast


Opening Remarks - Henry York M.D.

VA San Diego SCI/D Chief


Carmine Chavez-Martinez -  Neurosciences, UCSD

Zheng Lab Updates


Alina Garbuzov, Ph.D. 

Tusznyski Lab Updates


Kobi Koffler,Ph.D. -  Neurosciences, UCSD

3-D Printed Scaffolds for Spinal Cord Injury Repair 


Albert Leung, M.D. - VA San Diego Director

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Treatment of Neurotic Pain in SCI/D




James Guest, M.D., Ph.D., FACS - Miller School of Medicine and Miami Project to Cure Paralysis

Transcutaneous Spinal Cord Injury Stimulation


The Duane Norman Memorial Lecture
Rory Cooper, Ph.D. - University of Pittsburgh
Forging a New Future: Participatory Action Design and Engineering Technologies with People with Disabilities 




Rosemarie Cooper, MPT, ATP

Clinical and Consumer Engagement in Technology Research 


Hakan Toreyin, Ph.D. – SDSU Engineering 

Wearable Sensors for Diaphragmatic Monitoring 


Christina DeAlmeida, RN, VA San Diego

Autonomic Dysreflexia Inpatient Protocol




Jenny Nordine OTR/L, CDRS,

Driving to Independence 

Adapted Driving in the Community 






Louis Irvin & Sara Kate Frye, OTP, MS, OTR/L, ATP, CAPS

Consumer Profiles in SCI


Community Transition and Exhibits - PVA, Cal-Diego



The Venue

The Venue

UCSD Faculty Club, Atkinson Pavillion

9500 Gilman Drive 

La Jolla, CA 92093

The UCSD Faculty Club was established in 1968 to provide a place for faculty, staff, visitors and the campus community to meet regularly, both formally and informally, to exchange ideas and information. The Ida and Cecil Green Faculty Club building was opened in 1988 as a dining and conference facility to be used for hosting meetings of Club members and guests.


The Faculty Club facility includes six small private meeting rooms, Atkinson Pavilion and Patio, Cecil’s Lounge and Fireside patio, the O’Brien Dining Room, and an open-air courtyard.

Our Sponsors


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