Orest Z. Roy, BSc EE, MSc EE
Born: May 11, 1934 - Winnipeg, Manitoba
How I got into the field
In 1960 we at the National Research Council of Canada were asked to assist a young man who had had a severe stroke and could not communicate. He was completely paralyzed except for a slight movement in his right hand. I designed and built a communication device called the Comhandi. It was an electronic letter board. The board allowed him to select letters and thus build up words. It was one of the first devices of its kind in the world.
Important event(s) that influenced my early decision to get into the assistive technology field
My professional background is in electrical engineering and biomedical engineering. I graduated from the University of Manitoba in 1956 with a degree in electrical engineering and then in 1960 received a Masters Degree in electrical engineering from McGill. In 1956, I began my career in biomedical engineering at the National Research Council. My first project was to integrate the ecg, blood pressure monitor, etc into a unit that could be used in the OR during corrective cardiac procedures. Over a period of 35 years I have carried out research on cardiac pacemakers, defibrillators, the effects of micro currents on the heart, including taser currents and research on assistive technology. I am a founding member of the Canadian Medical and Biological Engineering Society (CMBES) and was its president from 1976 to 1980. I was the Secretary General of the International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering from 1984 to 1990. I am a fellow of the Rehabilitation Society of North America and the Canadian Medical and Biological Engineering Society. I am a life member of the International Federation of Medical and Biological Engineering and a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
Although my major areas of interest were in the acute care field I have always championed the importance of rehabilitation engineering. I thought the NRC, with its laboratories and expertise, needed to have a presence in this area. To this end, as head of the biomedical engineering at the National Research Council of Canada, I established a rehabilitation engineering program and was instrumental in bringing the first ICRE meeting to Toronto Canada and hosting the 1984 ICRE 2 conference to Ottawa.
My inspiration and mentor
I was inspired by the dedication, optimism, and professionalism of all the people in this field. Dr. David Symington, physiatrist and professor at Queens University, Kingston Ontario, had a great influenced on me. Dr. Symington lived and breathed importance of the rehabilitation process.
My memorable successes and greatest contributions to the field
Besides being involved with the first ICRE meeting in Toronto and hosting the second ICRE meeting in Ottawa, I was instrumental in establishing a marketing agency TASH, Technical Aids and Systems for the Handicapped. With the support of NRC, TASH had a mandate, which addressed the problem of getting useful technical aids manufactured and available to the disabled community. In 1991 the Canadian Rehabilitation Council for the Disabled recognized the importance of this achievement by presenting me with the Walter Dinsdale award. The award was to celebrate exceptional achievement in the development of technical aids for the benefit of disabled persons.
My most memorable failures
I was instrumental in establishing the NRC Associate Committee on Research and Development for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons. This was an important committee that solicited input from people across Canada as to the direction and priorities of rehabilitation engineering research. Unfortunately it was disbanded after three years, not due to the lack of interest, but due to the lack of funding.
On the future of RESNA
RESNA should continue to raise the profile of rehabilitation engineering and technical aids development. With our aging population, all the rehabilitation sciences will gain in stature and relevance.
My suggestions for those just entering the field
The work is rewarding, the challenges are many, and it is an area of activity that addresses a vital need.