As the saying goes, people come into your life for a reason – or a season. Some relationships come and go quickly, passing through to impart small lessons or moments of joy. Others last over years and span great distances.
One of our longest lasting research relationships has spanned decades. For more than 20 years Dr. Abiodun E. Akinwuntan has been a friend, supporter, and research ally. We first met Dr. Akinwuntan when he was working on his doctoral thesis at the Catholic University of Leuven in Leuven, Belgium. Now, after traveling the world and climbing the scholastic ladder, Dr. Akinwuntan is the Dean for the School of Health Professions at University of Kansas Medical Center. He, along with colleague and key research ally Dr. Hannes Devos, have opened a new clinical and research laboratory focusing on drivers who face physical and cognitive issues.
The KU Health Partners Driving and Mobility Service, along with associated research partner the Laboratory for Advanced Rehabilitation Research in Simulation (LARRS), are working to provide assessment and clinical services via virtual and augmented reality-equipped devices.
The main goal of this center is to assess and treat people who have been affected by visual, cognitive, and mobility issues stemming from Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, concussions, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. They aim to help people determine, within a safe, controlled environment, whether they are able to safely drive. If not, they can help provide services to either retrain those who are able to be retrained, or make recommendations for adaptive equipment for those who are not.
At the very heart of LARRS lies equipment that is near and dear to us: STISIM Drive Model 300WS/Console driving simulator. This driving simulation system features a car cockpit surrounded by large computer screens that show drivers simulated road conditions as an eye-scanning device tracks the driver’s gaze during the test. Dr. Akinwuntan is well-versed in the usefulness of this simulator since he first began thinking about and planning how to use driving simulators while he was earning his doctorate in Belgium.
And this is the reason for our long-lasting relationship with Dr. Akinwuntan: he is dedicated to improving the daily lives of people using simulation technologies – just like we are.
We’re proud to be a part of the work of our friends at LARRS and the KU Health Partners Driving and Mobility Service. This work has the potential to touch the lives of countless people across Kansas, and, in the future, all over the country.