The Medical & Scientific Advisory Committee (MSAC) is an interdisciplinary committee that serves in an advisory capacity to United Spinal Association’s Resource Center.


The mission of the MSAC is to maximize the quality of life of all people living with spinal cord injury or disease (SCI/D). We envision a world in which all people living with SCI/D have access to every opportunity that improves health and quality of life.

We achieve this by:

  • Providing information and guidance in medical/other health care-related topics
  • Identifying and addressing health care policy issues that impact the SCI/D community
  • Informing the SCI/D community of the latest advancements in research relevant to their health and independence

Who We Are

The MSAC is comprised of representatives of the multidisciplinary health care community including clinicians, scientists, researchers and other professionals, as well as a lay representative of the SCI/D community who has a basic comfort level with medical and scientific dialogue. The focus of the committee is on the health and well-being of those with SCI/D.

MSAC members provide the clinical and scientific expertise necessary to ensure that United Spinal Association can offer the very best information and resources to the SCI/D Community. By offering valuable professional support, we can empower more people living with SCI/D to make informed decisions and exercise his/her rights regarding health matters. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific medical advice or highly technical questions should consult his or her own physician.

Committee Members


Christine Sang, MD, MPH, Chair of MSAC

Christine Sang, MD, MPH received her medical degree at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and her Master of Public Health at Harvard University. After completing her clinical training in anesthesiology at John Hopkins Hospital, she continued her postgraduate clinical research training at Harvard Medical School and the National Institutes of Health where she served as Associate Medical Director of the Pain Research Clinic. Currently she is the Director of the Translational Pain Research Program at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Her own research program systematically evaluates novel potential analgesics in Phases Ia (First-in-Man) through III clinical trials to target selective mechanisms of pain, particularly in central neuropathic pain following spinal cord injuries. Dr. Sang has served on the Board of Directors of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association and is the founding chairman of its Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee (MSAC).

Kim Anderson-Erisman, PhD

Dr. Anderson-Erisman is a Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the MetroHealth Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine. Her research has focused on translational investigations and bridging the gap between basic science, clinical science, and the public community living with spinal cord injury (SCI). Her training spans the spectrum of SCI research, from cellular and molecular studies, to whole animal and behavioral studies, to human clinical research. Several of her studies have focused on obtaining the perspective of people living with SCI on various aspects of research, including functional priorities, acceptable benefits and risks, preferences for neuroprosthetics, and exercise participation. She has expertise in SCI outcome measures and has conducted a multi-center clinical study evaluating the reliability and validity of the Spinal Cord Independence Measure in the US healthcare setting. In addition to pursuing her own research regarding chronic injury, she was part of the leadership team running the Schwann cell transplantation clinical trials while a faculty member at the University of Miami. At MetroHealth-CWRU she is continuing her involvement in clinical trials with the team pursuing implanted stimulation devices for SCI and further developing a research program for consumer engagement.


Florence C. Barnett, MD

Barnett works as a neurosurgeon in a private practice in the metropolitan Atlanta area. She trained at the Medical College of Georgia in treatment of complex spine injuries as well as spinal cord and brain injury. Dr. Barnett is interested in ongoing treatments investigated through the auspices of United Spinal Association.


Kathleen Dunn, MS, RN, CNS

Ms. Dunn worked in the field of rehabilitation nursing from 1975, and exclusively with clients with SCI from 1984 until her retirement in 2017. She worked in both private sector acute rehabilitation facilities and in a VA SCI Center, as a staff nurse, educator, and clinical nurse specialist, and rehabilitation case manager. She is published in the field, spoke and taught nationally and internationally, and is the recipient of numerous professional awards. She has functioned as moderator on the CareCure website and its predecessors since 1997.


Ann “Downey” Hinrichs, MSPT, CLCP

Downey Hinrichs has been a physical therapist for over 20 years specializing in catastrophic rehabilitation with an emphasis on SCI. She has worked in a variety of settings including a Model Center for SCI rehabilitation. Currently, she works as an independent consultant and clinician in the northern VA area.

Sara J. Klaas, MSW, C-ASWCM

Sara is currently the Director of the Spinal Cord Injury Service at Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago. Sara has been at Shriners Hospital for over 23 years. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and social work from Mundelein College and her master’s degree in social work from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work. Sara has been on the adjunct faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a frequent guest lecturer and is published in the field of pediatric spinal cord injury.


Lawrence C. Vogel, MD

Dr. Vogel has served as the medical director of the Pediatric Spinal Cord Injury Program at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Chicago (SHC) since 1983. He holds a primary appointment as Professor of Pediatrics at Rush Medical College. Dr. Vogel is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and in the Subspecialty of Spinal Cord Injury Medicine. He is the current President of the American Spinal Injury Association and Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Consortium for Spinal Cord Medicine as well as Past President of the American Paraplegia Society. As a research scientist, he has authored over 110 peer-reviewed journal articles and nearly 20 book chapters along with 250 presentations or posters and 20 instructional courses at national and international meetings.


Kathleen Costello, MS, ANP-BC

Kathleen Costello is a nurse practitioner and an associate vice president on the clinical team in the Advocacy, Services and Research Department of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. As such she works with a diverse team of experts on advocacy issues around multiple sclerosis treatment and care, educational initiatives for both professional and non-professional audiences and numerous initiatives regarding development of the MS workforce. Ms. Costello is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins Medicine, where she previously worked in the Multiple Sclerosis Center providing evaluation and management of individuals diagnosed with MS.


Bruce E. Ruben, MD

Dr. Ruben is a wound medicine specialist who is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Infectious Diseases and Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine. He is the founder and Medical Director of Encompass HealthCare in West Bloomfield, Michigan. In Encompass HealthCare, Dr. Ruben has created a barrier-free outpatient facility where patients are treated with compassion and dignity, and without the health risks and bureaucracies associated with hospital care. Encompass HealthCare was built to accommodate quadriplegic, paraplegic, and wheelchair/disabled patients. It features automated door entries, four-foot-tall counter tops and coat hooks, a roll-in shower, a lift system, off-loading exam tables and gurneys.

Dr. Michael J. Kennelly

Michael Kennelly, MD

Dr. Michael J. Kennelly is fellowship trained and board-certified urologist with subspecialty certification in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery. Academically, he is a Professor in the Department of Urology at Carolinas Medical Center and at the University of North Carolina Medical School – Charlotte Campus and actively involved in the training of fellows and residents. Administratively, he is Medical Director of the Charlotte Continence Center at Carolinas Medical Center, Director of Urology at Carolinas Rehabilitation Hospital, and Co-Director of the Women’s Center for Pelvic Health. His interests are in the medical and surgical treatment of urinary incontinence and other types of voiding dysfunction, neuromodulation, prolapse repair, complex redo female urologic surgery, neurourology and fistula repair. He participates in numerous clinical trials and regularly serves as organizer, invited lecturer and visiting professor at local, national, and international events. Dr. Kennelly has authored or coauthored several journal articles, book chapters, and educational videos in the areas of urinary incontinence and neurourology and has lectured extensively on these topics. A Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, he is also a member of 15 professional organizations and holds several leadership positions. He is a Board of Director of the Society of Urodynamics, Female Pelvic Medicine & Urogenital Reconstruction and Academy of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals. He is the current President of the Academy of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals, Past President of the American Paraplegic Society, Past President of the American Spinal Injury Association, in addition to recent Past Chairman of the Bladder Health Committee for the AUA Urology Care Foundation.