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Doctoral student receives $100,000 research grant

March 10, 2023

Bridget Comparato Kraus
Bridget Comparato Kraus

Despite dramatic improvements in initial survival, life expectancy for people with spinal cord injuries has not improved for more than 40 years. This is partly due to the high rate of secondary health conditions that people with spinal cord injuries experience, such as pressure ulcers, respiratory health complications, and bowel and bladder dysfunction. 

Bridget Comparato Kraus, a licensed occupational therapist and PhD student studying Health and Rehabilitation Science, is working to change that. She is developing a virtual-based self-management program that aims to reduce secondary health conditions for people with spinal cord injuries. Her dissertation proposal, “Feasibility and Acceptability of the Spinal Cord Injury Self-Management (SCISM) Program,” recently received a $100,000 grant from the Missouri Spinal Cord Injuries and Congenital or Acquired Disease Processes Research Program. 

Comparato Kraus, BHS ’16, MOT ’18, discovered a passion for working with people with spinal cord injuries during a clinical rotation as an occupational therapy student. 

“Sam was the first quadriplegic patient I served on my own from evaluation to discharge,” Comparato Kraus said. “I spent countless hours working with him to regain function, learn how to live his life again, and get to know him and his family. On our last day, Sam presented me with a handwritten card that he had been working on secretly for days, which was a huge feat due to his hand paralysis. He gave me a hug and promised to see me again.” 

Collage of photos of a man in a wheelchair contrasted with photographs of the patient as a young man, pre-injury
Sam (Darnell) Randle was the first quadriplegic patient Comparato Kraus worked with. He is pictured, top left, at therapy; at right, pre-injury; bottom left, outside of therapy. Photos courtesy of Lisa Randle Gilliam.

That reunion would not happen. Three months later, Comparato Kraus learned that Sam had passed due to sepsis caused by a pressure ulcer. 

“I was devastated to know my patient, and friend, who I had left excited to return to his life, had succumbed to something that could have been prevented,” Comparato Kraus said. “Unfortunately, Sam’s story is not uncommon and was something I continued to see time and time again as a clinician.” 

This experience spurred Comparato Kraus to return to Mizzou a third time — this time for a PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “I felt there was more we needed to know and more we could be doing as clinicians to help people with spinal cord injuries recover and be successful in their communities, where resources and spinal cord injury experts may be scarce,” she said.  

Since starting the PhD program in 2020, Comparato Kraus completed a preliminary study, conducted quality improvement groups with clinicians and patients, and used existing research to design a virtual self-management program for people with spinal cord injuries. Her dissertation research project will measure the feasibility and acceptability of the program and estimate its effects. 

“We hope this program will prove to reduce harmful secondary health conditions and improve the health and well-being of people with spinal cord injuries,” Comparato Kraus said. 

Participate in this study

Individuals with spinal cord injuries who are interested in participating Comparato Kraus’s research study may email her at