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Researcher spotlight: Dr. Diana De Carvalho

Dr. Diana De Carvalho is a CCRF Professor in Spine Biomechanics at Memorial University in Newfoundland.

In 2017, Canadian Chiropractic Research Foundation researcher Dr. De Carvalho had an ambitious year: she taught Human Factors in the Kinesiology department at Memorial University; chaired seminars in clinical epidemiology; took courses; mentored graduate students, medical students, and internal medicine residents; participated as a selected research fellow in the new Chiropractic Academy for Research Leadership (CARL) program; and successfully applied for and landed new grants.


2017 Highlights of Dr. Diana De Carvalho’s Research:

  • Awarded 2017 Chiropractor of the Year by the Newfoundland and Labrador Chiropractic Association.
  • Successful recipient of a Canada Foundation for Innovation – John Evans Leaders Fund/Research Discovery Corporation (CFI-JELF/RDC) Leverage Award in the amount of $287,392.
  • Established the first, comprehensive biomechanics lab in Newfoundland and Labrador (with the CFI-JELF/RDC Leverage Award).
  • Selected as a Canadian research fellow into a competitive, new program—the Chiropractic Academy for Research Leadership (CARL).
  • Successful recipient of a Newfoundland Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials (SUPPORT) Clinician Led Grant in the amount of $10,000.

Founded the First Comprehensive Biomechanics Lab in Newfoundland

Diana’s CFI-JELF/RDC Leverage Award allowed her to set-up the first, comprehensive biomechanics lab in Newfoundland. The new equipment allows her to synchronously track the 3D motion, whole body force, and muscle activity of a person. Using these data together with new modelling software, her team can now analyze high-quality, complex spine models looking at things like stability, gait, joint and spine angles, and muscle reflex timing to answer their ongoing research questions.


CARL Program

“It’s an extremely integrative experience. That’s the best way to put it. I’m very fortunate to be a part of it.” –Dr. De Carvalho

The CARL Program was established by an international consortium of senior researchers at the University of Alberta, University of Southern Denmark, Nordic Institute of Chiropractic and Clinical Biomechanics, and the University of Technology Sydney in partnership with the World Federation of Chiropractic and the European Centre for Chiropractic Research Excellence. The CARL Program aims to nurture and network promising research talent on the international stage.


From having the opportunity to work with other researchers, put names to faces, network, access multiple resource networks, and receive excellent mentoring and learning, Dr. De Carvalho summed-up the CARL program as, “an extremely integrative experience. That’s the best way to put it. I’m very fortunate to be a part of it.”


Not only has the experience given her the opportunity to work with other researchers and capitalize on multiple resource networks, it’s also been a discovery in learning how other people work and collaborate together from afar. Although scheduling can be quite tricky, Dr. De Carvalho reflected that everyone in the program pushes hard to make it work.


Three Big Projects She’s Excited About

  1. Investigating Transient Low Back Pain Development in Response to Prolonged Sitting. Diana’s collaborated with her electrical engineering colleagues in this study to drill down into the data with machine learning algorithms, mining for the answers to who might develop back pain when sitting, and who might not. She is excited to see the outcomes of this study.
  2. Working with Student Researchers. In 2018, one of her master’s students, JC Snow, who is the 2017 recipient of the Canadian Society of Biomechanics Travel Grant, will be collecting his thesis research at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College comparing a new method of measuring spine angles to traditional tape measures in a population of axial spondyloarthritic patients.
  3. A New Approach to Studying Sitting and Spine Function. Diana’s lab has fabricated a custom jig that will challenge torso balance in the seated position. Using a release mechanism and a forward inclined seat, participants will experience an unexpected and brief fall forward which will cause their back muscles to reflexively turn on. This outcome measure will be tested before and after a long sitting trial to see if prolonged sitting could be changing the way the back normally functions.


Leadership Initiative

Dr. De Carvalho is passionate about understanding and bolstering the conversation around fostering women leaders in research. In 2018, she would like to create a resource, or network, for women in chiropractic research to learn how to support and learn from one another about becoming leaders in research.


As an undeniably successful female researcher, Dr. De Carvalho will certainly be able to lead this initiative by example.


We look forward to learning more about this initiative, and all of Dr. De Carvalho’s projects, as we head into 2018.


A BIG Thank You to Our Donors!

The CCRF would like to thank the Canadian Chiropractic Association and the Newfoundland and Labrador Chiropractic Association for their funding support of CCRF Research Chair Dr. De Carvalho. It is because of our donors that the CCRF is able to fund Canadian chiropractic research and make an impact on our profession and with our patients.

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