Notable Alumni: Kelly O’Brien

Kell O'BrienDr. Kelly O’Brien is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, cross-appointed with the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (IHPME), Clinical Epidemiology and Rehabilitation Sciences Institutes (RSI) at the University of Toronto.  Kelly holds a New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).  Her research is focused on disability and rehabilitation in the context of HIV/AIDS and chronic disease. Kelly graduated from the University of Toronto in 1998.

Her research involves an international, multidisciplinary and community-engaged approach; she collaborates with researchers, clinicians, and people living with HIV/AIDS across over 30 academic institutions, hospitals, community organizations and health centres to ensure successful translation of research.

Kelly co-founded the Canada-UK HIV and Rehabilitation Research Collaborative (CUHRRC), which recently expanded to Ireland and the USA to address common priorities in HIV and rehabilitation research. Kelly’s contributions span the fields of episodic disability, rehabilitation and scoping study methodology. She developed and validated the Episodic Disability Framework, a novel method for conceptualizing the episodic nature of living with chronic illness. Cited over 130 times, this Framework is used widely to inform health curricula, disability research, and policy related to employment and income support in chronic illness.

Using the Framework, she developed the first HIV-specific disability measure, the self-administered HIV Disability Questionnaire (HDQ), which measures the presence, severity and episodic nature of disability and possesses sensibility, reliability and validity with people living with HIV in Ontario and Ireland. The HDQ is used by clinicians, researchers, and community organizations in Canada, UK, Ireland, and USA to document health outcomes and guide health referrals.

Kelly is engaged in 14 peer-reviewed grants, five as Principal Investigator (PI) and has been awarded over 15 salary awards from agencies such as CIHR, Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, and the Ireland Canada University Foundation. She has 73 peer-reviewed publications (30 as first author) and an h-index of 22 demonstrating her ability to plan, implement and translate impactful research. With 78 invited presentations, her expertise is recognized provincially (47), nationally (21) and internationally (10).