NeuroRecovery Training Institute Founder Named 2014 Partners in Health Care Innovator of the Year

Dr. Susan Harkema Recognized by Business First for Her Work With Spinal Cord Injuries and Paralysis

The NeuroRecovery Training Institute (NeuroRTI) is proud to announce that founder Susan Harkema, PhD, has been named “Innovator of the Year” by Business First of Louisville in a special supplement to the paper recognizing Greater Louisville’s 2014 Partners in Health Care.

Since the 1970’s, scientists have known that movement in animals could be initiated via stimulation of the spinal cord. However, most thought that the human brain was too complex to function the same way. Harkema has spent the last twenty years compiling evidence to the contrary in the hopes of improving the health and quality of life of the 1.275+ million Americans who are currently living with spinal cord injury. She was named “Innovator of the Year” for her efforts to help individuals suffering from spinal cord injuries and paralysis.

In 2009, she became the first researcher to implant an epidural electronic stimulator into a patient, Rob Summers. Summers, who was paralyzed from the chest down in 2006, is now able to wiggle his toes, shake his feet, and stand alone when the stimulator is turned on. Since then, three people have received the electronic stimulator and eight more are set to be implanted within the next year.

“It’s truly an honor to be named Innovator of the Year,” said Dr. Harkema. “This research has challenged the belief that complete paralysis is permanent and no recovery is possible. To be able to present someone with new possibilities and an improved quality of life is really a wonderful thing and we are optimistic about what it could all mean for the continued improvement of motor functions.”

To learn more about Dr. Harkema and her work with NeuroRTI, please visit