Demonstrating leadership in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

Dr. Ben Ritsma has been an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Medicine &Headshot of Dr. Ben Ritsma Rehabilitation (PM&R) at Queen’s University since 2018. He also serves as the Rehabilitation Clinical Director at Providence Care Hospital (PCH), an administrative position he’s held since mid-2019. “From 2018, I have also acted as the Stroke Rehabilitation Director with strong collaboration and partnership with the Kingston Health Sciences (KHSC) Stroke Neurology team and the Division of Hospital Medicine on the inpatient front and ongoing work to bolster outpatient programming, Co-Founder/Co-Director - Kingston Peripheral Nerve Injury Clinic (KPNC) Co-Founder/Co-Director, a collaboration between PM&R, Plastic Surgery, and Orthopedic Surgery, and Neuromuscular/ALS Clinic Co-Director, a collaboration, from a medical perspective, between PM&R, Neurology, Respirology, Palliative Care and in the near future, Cardiology, at PCH,” he explains. Dr. Ritsma’s external leadership work often involves stroke (e.g. CorHealth/Ontario Stroke Network, Stroke Network of Southeastern Ontario), along with ALS (e.g. ALS Canada) and the Canadian Association of PM&R.

Dr. Ritsma’s clinical focus is neurological rehabilitation, namely in stroke, peripheral nerve injury, electrodiagnostics, ALS, and spasticity. “The majority of this activity takes place at PCH, on an inpatient (stroke rehabilitation as well as complex care, geriatric and mental health programs for physiatric matters) and outpatient basis. I also provide virtual stroke physiatric care for Brockville General Hospital and Quinte Health Care,” he shares.

In terms of research interests, Dr. Ritsma says his work mirrors his clinical domains. “This includes stroke recovery, stroke rehabilitation programming/intervention, in collaboration with colleagues in the Centre for Neuroscience Studies, School of Rehabilitation Therapy, School of Kinesiology & Health Studies and other stroke rehab centres, and quantitative assessment of post-stroke function (for example, robotic – in collaboration with LIMB/Kinarm Labs); virtual health care, such as clinical application and assessment of impact, including with the Virtual Health Research Group; peripheral nerve injury such as care delivery/pathways and outcomes, including via the Canadian Peripheral Nerve Research Collaborative; ALS care; and electrodiagnostic medicine (for example, evaluation of electromyographic properties in neurological rehabilitation patient populations).” He is looking forward to having more of the work from recent years, come forward in 2022.

From the perspective of PM&R as a specialty, Dr. Ritsma says he hopes future facilities expand access to physiatric care in terms of established and emerging approaches, and related academic opportunities for patients and caregivers, including those with physical, geographical and social barriers. “As a relatively small specialty group, I believe this requires collaboration amongst colleagues provincially and nationally. Closer to home, I think this also requires ongoing and enhanced collaborations with care partners locally and throughout our region,” he says. “I also foresee the continued use of virtual care strategies, including hybrid options, and refining our understanding of its optimal, domain-specific utilization.” 

Dr. Ritsma says he’s grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Queen’s and Kingston care and academic communities, starting with the committed and collegial group in the Department of PM&R. “I also feel very fortunate to have the occasion to collaborate each day with colleagues clinically across medical Departments/Divisions and other disciplines, academically within SEAMO, other Schools and Faculties at Queen’s and partnering institutions and administratively at PCH, KHSC and beyond,” he describes. “I believe Queen’s, SEAMO and our region has a unique and favourable construct to facilitate such collaboration.”