Michigan Spinal Cord Injury System (MSCIS)

As Michigan Spinal Cord Injury System (MSCIS), we focus on the full range of needs of people with spinal cord injuries by providing all levels of care, and by conducting innovative research and education.

U-M MSCIS operates within the University of Michigan Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, part of the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers ranked one of the best in the nation by U.S. News and World Report in 2017-2018.  For more information on our clinical services, please follow the link.

To read the latest SCI Access newsletter, please follow the link.  SCI Access v24.pdf


Our Research Objectives

  • To conduct both site-specific and collaborative research studies about spinal cord injury (SCI) and distribute the findings from this research through publications in peer-reviewed journals and conference presentations.
  • To provide information about the findings of important new research conducted elsewhere through our SCI Lecture Series.
  • To be involved in a continuum of comprehensive clinical services, beginning immediately after injury, proceeding through inpatient care, and continuing after discharge from the hospital through the Department's outpatient clinics and various support services.  We help develop, deliver, and evaluate innovative service programs to address the physical and psychosocial needs of people with SCI that are frequently unmet through traditional rehabilitation.
  • To engage in outreach activities that promote full community participation. We do this through our partnership with community agencies.
  • To provide information regarding living effectively with SCI to our patients, their family members, and other interested parties through our SCI Access newsletter, social media including Facebook and Twitter as well as consumer-oriented lectures.

Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems are specialized programs of care that were created so that researchers can study and find ways to improve people's recovery (how much better they get) and outcomes (how well they do in all aspects of their lives) after a spinal cord injury.

What do Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems do?

For information on all  Model Systems, including those on Spinal Cord Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Burn (http://uwmsktc.washington.edu/).

Model Systems gather information and conduct spinal cord injury research with the goal of improving:

  • Long-term functioning
  • Employment and other vocational opportunities
  • Quality of life
  • Independent living

Model Systems demonstrate and evaluate ways to reach out to people with SCI in the community and provide education to help them with the problems they experience in areas such as:

  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Recreation
  • Employment
  • Community activities

The NIDILRR asks all Model Systems to:

Establish a multidisciplinary system for providing rehabilitation services specifically designed to meet the unique needs of individuals with SCI. These services include:

    • Acute Care (inpatient rehabilitation)
    • Periodic inpatient and/or outpatient followup
    • Independent living and employment
  • Disseminate information and
  • Contribute research data to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, the world's largest spinal cord injury database.This database has been the source of information for many important studies conducted at U-M and throughout the nation. Researchers use this data to learn more about many aspects of SCI, including long-term consequences of SCI, medical rehabilitation, health and wellness, service delivery, short-term and long-term interventions, systems research.
  • Disseminate information and research findings to patients, family members, health-care providers, educators, policymakers and the general public.
  • Nurture close working relationships with governmental and voluntary institutions and organizations to unify and coordinate scientific efforts, encourage collective planning, and promote the interchange of data and reports among SCI researchers.
  • Working closely with our state, national, and international partners.

Project Directors

Denise G. Tate, PhD, ABBP, FACRM 
Project Co-director: University of Michigan Spinal Cord Injury Model System

Professor, Clinical Psychologist and Associate Chair for Research, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Michigan

Dr. Tate is a Professor and Associate Chair for Research in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor.  She co-directs the University of Michigan Spinal Cord Injury Model System program, which was established in 1986 and is funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, Washington DC.  Her research focuses on psychological adaptation after injury and on measuring health and quality of life outcomes.  Since 2011, she has been conducting a large study examining the effects of bowel and bladder complications on quality of life after SCI.  She served as a member of the Board of the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) and a member of the Advisory Board of the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research at the NIH.  Most recently, she has begun focusing her research on international efforts and collaborations with other centers conducting similar research around the world. 

Anthony Chiodo, MD

Project Co-Director: University of Michigan Spinal Cord Injury Model System
Clinical Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Michigan
Dr. Chiodo serves as co-director for U-M SCIMS and has been the clinical director of Spinal Cord Injury Medicine at the University of Michigan since 2002.  He has worked on the U-M SCIMS research projects, Wellness in SCI and Predictors of Health, and Department of Defense study on sleep disordered breathing in SCI. He has published several manuscripts on pain management, wellness in SCI, and is preparing several manuscripts on ventilator weaning after SCI. He has served as a co-investigator for two clinical trials on the efficacy of Fampridine™ after SCI: as treatments for spasticity and for restrictive lung disease.

Dr. Chiodo is the primary attending physician for SCI services in the UMHS Adult Rehabilitation Unit, coordinating all clinical services.


Martin Forchheimer, MPP
Senior Research Associate and Co-investigator

Mr. Forchheimer has been with U-M SCIMS since 1989 and is the Director of Research. He is a co-investigator on all of our research studies, assists with project administration, and also works on other projects for the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Mr. Forchheimer’s primary research interests are in the areas of outcomes research, community integration, and quality of life. He has authored more than 60 peer-reviewed publications. 

Claire Z. Kalpakjian, PhD
Associate Professor, Project Manager, and Co-investigator

Claire Z. Kalpakjian, PhD, M.S. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at the University of Michigan. She is a Clinical Psychologist with specialized training in Rehabilitation Psychology and post-graduate training in clinical research. Dr. Kalpakjian has practiced in the field of rehabilitation since 1992 and has been on faculty at the University of Michigan since 2004 after completing a three year fellowship in rehabilitation research. Her program of research centers on disability and rehabilitation, with a dual focus on women’s health and psychological outcomes. She also has a strong interest in measurement development and validation, which cuts across these areas. She has received federal and foundation funding for her research and serves as co-investigator on several other large, federally funded projects in rehabilitation. She has published over 50 refereed journal articles and three book chapters, presented at numerous national conferences, and serves on several national committees.

Michelle Meade PhD
Associate Professor and Co-Investigator

Michelle A. Meade, PhD is an Associate Professor with tenure in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the School of Medicine at the University of Michigan.  She is a rehabilitation psychologist who conducts research with and provides clinical services to individuals with spinal cord injury and other physical disabilities.  Dr. Meade serves as PI and Director of the University of Michigan Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) – Technology Increasing Knowledge: Technology Optimizing Choice  - which is focused on developing and evaluating technology to promote the ability of adolescents and young adults with disability to manage their health and gain independence.  She is also principal investigator or co-investigator on several other grants, including the UM SCI Model Systems and a Department of Defense study looking at issues of happiness and resilience among individuals with SCI. 

Dr. Meade is active in numerous professional associations and scientific boards, including serving as a member of the Board of Directors of the Academy of Spinal Cord Injury Professional’s section of Psychologists and Social Worker and on the editorial board for the journal Topics in Spinal Cord Injury.  Her primary research interests focus around enhancing health and participation, and reducing health care disparities and costs, among individuals with disabilities through (1) identification of modifiable factors; (2) development and validation of culturally relevant interventions; and (3) implementation of (tailored) dissemination and knowledge translation strategies. 

Gianna Maria M. Rodriguez MD 
Assistant Professor

Dr. Rodriguez, is Board Certified in SCI medicine and is on the PM&R SCI Consultation Team. Her research interests include SCI, musculoskeletal rehabilitation and traumatic brain injury (TBI). She was Chief Resident in PM&R at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, and Advanced Fellow in SCI Medicine at the Veterans Affairs North Texas Health Care System in Dallas. Dr. Rodriguez is the PM&R Administrator and Manager for the Michigan Bowel Control Program and on staff for the Adult Ventilator Program here at the University of Michigan Health System.

Associated Faculty

Anne Kathleen Pelletier Cameron, MD

Lisa A. Diponio


Gina M. Jay, PhD
Research Area Specialist and Database Manager
Gina Jay completed her graduate work at Penn State University in human development and family studies with an emphasis on adult development and aging, and her postdoctoral work in public health and gerontology at University of Michigan, before taking a position in survey methodology at the Institute for Social Research. She took a hiatus from research to focus on raising her family and doing community work before joining the UM-SCIMS team in 2014. She is currently SCIMS database manager, involved in all aspects of research staff training and supervision, participant recruitment and retention, and data collection and management. Gina also works on regulatory management, grant preparation, data analysis and dissemination activities.

Connie Pines, RN, CCM
Research Assistant, Community Outreach and Recruitment

Constance Pines joined the project staff at the University of Michigan Spinal Cord Injury Model System in March 2011. Her area of expertise for the past 37 years has been as Nurse Case Manager with Cardiothoracic Surgery/ Cardiology specialty services at U-M and The Ann Arbor VA Medical Center. Ms. Pines currently has oversight responsibilities for three research grants. Ms. Pines is the widow of a former U-M Spinal Cord Model System patient and therefore has hands-on experience and critical knowledge of the challenges facing those people with spinal cord injuries.

Rebecca Parten, LLMSW
Social Media and Dissemination Consultant

Rebecca has worked on and off with SCIMS since May 2014, assisting us with expanding our social media presence and various newsletter activities.  She has a B.A. in Communications from the University of Michigan - Dearborn as well as a Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan.  Her professional interests include community organizing, disability advocacy and social media use in nonprofits.  When she’s not working she enjoys listening to music, going to the movies with friends, and reading.   

Our Partners       

Community Partners: