September 01, 2015

Denise G. Tate, PhD: Researcher, teacher, musician

Denise G. Tate, PhD
What do you do at UMHS?

I do research, teaching and administration in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. As the Associate Chair for Research, I work with our faculty to plan, conduct research, mentor junior faculty and advise on issues of funding and priorities. I co-direct the U-M Spinal Cord Injury Model System. I have a great team of researchers, all very committed to improving the quality of life of persons with spinal cord injury. I also co-direct the Advanced Rehabilitation Research Training post-doctoral program. We train fellows from different backgrounds (e.g., engineers, psychologists, nurses, occupational and physical therapists) and residents interested in conducting research in the community.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I love my job, especially working with teams of investigators to solve problems and establish collaborations across disciplines, countries, and cultures. I enjoy collaborating with international partners and brainstorming on new projects. It takes passion, respect, patience, and discipline and often results in truly sustainable relationships. I’m currently working with a team of Brazilian providers to improve the care of persons with spinal cord injury in Brazil.

Who had the greatest influence in your career path?

Don Galvin, Ph.D., past Director of the State of Michigan Department of Rehabilitation Services, and a professor at Michigan State University, was my first mentor. He taught me the value of listening and being thoughtful in communications with others. His degree of personal commitment to others and high quality work inspired many of my later career decisions. Ted Cole, M.D., complemented Don’s qualities by exemplifying strength in leadership. Ted was decisive and funny but also knew how to reach out to others by always addressing their needs first.

What is one destination you dream of but haven’t gotten to yet?

Antarctica because I’m fascinated by its rough and yet beautifully pristine landscape. I love photography, animals, the ocean, and ice. Although a native of Brazil, I love the cold weather. So I hope to explore it before global warming arrives there.

What are you currently reading?

“Chasing the Flame” by Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a member of President Obama’s cabinet. It’s about the life of Sergio Vieira de Mello, a Brazilian who served as the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and died in a terrorist attack on the U.N headquarters in Iraq in 2003. The book is also about the current survival challenges of our time with wars and poverty.

What is something your colleagues don’t know about you?

I studied classic ballet, jazz, and tap dancing from ages 8-19. Although not a virtuoso by any means, I enjoyed dancing and gave annual group performances at the National Theatre in Rio de Janeiro. I also loved music from an early age. I played the accordion and grew up in a family of musicians where my father played the violin and my mother the piano. Adults often played at my house until the late hours of the night. They played classical music but also Brazilian bossa nova. I have many fond memories of those days.