Geoff Fernie

Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering

CM, BSc, PhD, FCAHS, PEng, CEng

Toronto Rehab - University Centre - UHN
550 University Avenue, Room 811, Toronto, Ontario Canada M5G 2A2
Research Interests
Rehabilitation Technology Sciences

Geoff develops technologies for two broad purposes:

  • To prevent injury and disease
  • To help individuals and their family caregivers continue to live in their own homes as they age

He has maintained a focus on the reduction of falls through the development of innovative mobility products, non-slip winter footwear and improvements to accessibility and building codes. He has made significant advances in preventing hospital acquired infections by improving hand hygiene. His recent involvement in the development of a disposable instrument for home diagnosis of sleep apnea has the potential to significantly reduce the prevalence of cardiovascular complications resulting from untreated sleep apnea. Geoff has been responsible for many products that assist people’s independence, including innovative wheelchairs and bathroom aids. Many of his inventions have reduced the physical burden of caring for people, including the prevention of back and shoulder injuries in professional nurses and family caregivers caused by lifting and moving people.

Research Synopsis

Application of technology to understand and solve common problems of aging

The importance of this neglected area of academic study is now understood as the stresses and costs of caring for a growing proportion of elderly people are appreciated. The research employs very sophisticated methods to address significant practical problems facing large numbers of people. The results lead not only to scientific publications but also to solutions that can be purchased at a store or from a catalogue.

Currently we are:

Developing systems of Assistive Devices to help elderly people with mobility difficulties function as independently as they choose with dignity. These products are designed for the home and institutional markets. We attempt to reduce the physical and emotional stress on family and professional care givers. Successful products have included plastic modular handrail system, the first portable battery-powered lift system, innovative walking aids, accessible bathroom products and an advanced powered wheerchair with extraordinary manoeuvrability. Current projects some very exciting engineering design challanges. There are numerous biomechanical and ergonomic aspects of activities of daily living that require measurement and analysis in order to develop appropriate products.

Studying falls and fall prevention to develop a model of postural control and guidelines for environmental design to reduce the chances of falls and/or reduce the probability of injury from a fall. The deterioration of postural control with aging contributes to an increasing tendency to falling. Falls are the most common cause of accidental death in people over 65 and are the main reason for hospital admission and doctor visits. We have a laboratory that is equipped with sophisticated computer-controlled moving rooms that are being used to develop a model of postural control. Other related projects focus on environmental design to reduce the chances of falls and/or reduce the probability of injury from a fall. Current projects include the development of new flooring materials and the establishment of design guidelines for the design and placement of handrails.

Our development tools include measurement and analysis of biomechanical and ergonomic aspects of activities of daily living and CAD facilities.

The Centre for Studies in Aging is an attractive, well-equipped research laboratory at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre. Graduate students share the office, laboratory and workshop spaces as full members of the research team. The hospital is a major teaching facility providing opportunities to mix with graduate students from many departments and to enjoy collaborating with enthusiastic clinical staff.

The elderly, their families and professional care givers benefit from our research.

Recent Publications

  1. Walkway Safety Evaluation and Hazards Investigation for Trips and Stumbles Prevention 
    2019; Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing; Fekr, A.R. | Evans, G. | Fernie, G.
  2. Improving Slip Resistance on Ice: Surface-Textured Composite Materials for Slip-Resistant Footwear 
    2019; Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing; Bagheri, Z.S. | Anwer, A.A. | Fernie, G. | Naguib, H.E. | Dutta, T.
  3. Effect of electronic real-time prompting on hand hygiene behaviors in health care workers 
    2018; American Journal of Infection Control; Pong, S. | Holliday, P. | Fernie, G.
  4. Secondary measures of hand hygiene performance in health care available with continuous electronic monitoring of individuals 
    2018; American Journal of Infection Control; Pong, S. | Holliday, P. | Fernie, G.
  5. Reproducibility and predictors of the apnea hypopnea index across multiple nights 
    2018; Sleep Science; Alshaer, H. | Ryan, C. | Fernie, G.R. | Douglas Bradley, T.