Commencement Speech Given by Dr. Christine Thomas to her Alma Mater

Christine Thomas, Ph.D. has been researching neuromuscular weakness, fatigue, spasms and regeneration at the Miller School for 26 years. She was recently recognized for her research contributions by her alma mater, the University of Otago in New Zealand, where she gave the commencement speech.

Dr. Thomas encouraged the new biomedical sciences, physical education, surveying, dentistry, pharmacy, health sciences and medicine graduates to challenge themselves and their limitations to attain success. She noted that work and life are unpredictable so it was important to be open to adjusting goals and plans.

As an enrollee at the University of Otago, Dr. Thomas did not know what she wanted to do for a career. She was given the opportunity to experience the workings of a physiology laboratory and research, where she learned that working with a group, and connecting her interests with the talents of others was critical to success.

“Engaging others whether at work or elsewhere, listening to their diverse opinions, and respectively considering their points of view can refine you, compel you to adapt, and make your ideas rigorous.” Thomas told the graduates. “With new technology we have lots of data, new ways to process it, but these are really just tools. Tools will not solve the problem. The difficult task is to understand what you see and to turn that information to some use.”

Her research has mainly examined the neurophysiology of human spinal cord injury, and has tested intervention strategies in humans or animal models that influence long-term functional capability following injury. The data gathered have been essential to improve muscle rehabilitation and health after human spinal injury, a situation in which uncontrollable spasticity, atrophy, weakness, denervation, and fatigue are major unresolved problems.