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A career built on pain research

By Michelle Osmond

Dr. Sandra LeFort has been studying pain for nearly 25 years. In fact, her master’s thesis from 1986, which focused on the use of exercise to reduce low back pain, is still being cited in publications today.

It was one of the first research reports to document the benefits of water-based exercise on low back pain.

She has received more than $1 million for pain-related research funding in her career, has had 56 peer-reviewed and book chapters in print (28 of these are related to pain), and has given over 100 presentations regionally, nationally and internationally on the subject of pain.

So, it’s no surprise that she was recently given the Distinguished Career Award from the Canadian Pain Society; an award that recognizes longstanding service in pain research and/or management. Dr. LeFort, a professor in the School of Nursing, believes that pain research has come a long way since she began because of better funding and awareness of the scope of the problem.

“Pain affects everyone at some time in their lives and chronic pain is estimated to affect one in five Canadians,” explained Dr. LeFort. “Persistent pain is a very disabling and a difficult problem to manage and can have devastating consequences for the sufferer, his/her family, and society as a whole. It’s costly - an estimated $50 billion per year in Canada in both direct and indirect health and societal costs.”

In 2009, Dr. LeFort also received the 2009 Nursing Excellence in Pain Management - Janssen‐Ortho Inc. Award, which is presented annually to a nurse who consistently exemplifies leadership in an area of nursing practice, education, or research in pain management.

The Canadian Pain Society consists of 850 members from a variety of fields including physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and lay persons. Dr. LeFort has been a member of the Canadian Pain Society since 1988, served on the executive for five years, was the chair for the planning committee and member of the scientific program committee for the 1999 CPS annual meeting held in St. John’s, and she is a current member of the National Task Force on Service Delivery for Pain.

Dr. LeFort is currently a co-investigator on a $ 5 million project titled “Community Alliances for Health Research and Knowledge Translation on Pain”, funded by CIHR.