Andrea Behrman

Professor, Neurological Surgery
Executive Director, UofL Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric Neurorecovery

It was curiosity that sparked Andrea Behrman’s intrigue in pediatric neurorecovery.

Early in Behrman’s medical career, she worked in a rehabilitation center and would often treat patients with significant spinal cord injuries.

“I would watch these patients and occasionally a brace would come loose and they’d be standing briefly, or their knee would spasm, and I would think ‘They have some brain control over things people think they don’t. There’s just something masking their potential’,” she said.

So Behrman set about to unmask it, focusing on children who had lifetimes of possibility ahead.

In her years as a clinician and researcher, including nearly a decade at UofL, she has continued to search for answers to help children with spinal cord injuries regain movement and motion. Behrman is not only a preeminent leader in the field, but she is a beacon of hope for children and families across the globe.

“We walk beside these children for a period in their lives, providing an incredible service that opens opportunities for them to reach their potential,” she said. “We’re physically helping them, but opening these doors means they can participate in the world much differently.”

Behrman, professor of neurological surgery, and her team at UofL have pioneered the use of locomotor training in children, partnered with UofL’s Speed School of Engineering to manufacture the latest technology involved in treatment and employed innovative, science-based therapies that are changing lives for children.

“In order to achieve what you want to achieve, you have to push the envelope and challenge some of the science for understanding and to try to apply it,” Behrman said. “Life is one big adventure and one big learning event, and that’s why this is of interest. We know differently and we know more than we did when I started my career. And that means we need to make decisions differently.”

Behrman came to UofL in 2012 to start the pediatric neurorecovery program, but also to be surrounded by other leaders in spinal cord research, including Susan Harkema, whose groundbreaking work with epidural stimulation led to paralyzed patients with complete spinal cord injuries being able to walk again. Behrman also knew she was joining peers and scientists “studying things in a different manner that could propel us forward” and that she would collaborate with an invaluable partner in Kosair Charities.

“Kosair Charities commitment to this community, the combination of resources and commitment to science, and then how we can fast track it into application. You can’t get this at your local outpatient pediatric clinic.”

What she didn’t necessarily expect was to find that Louisville itself is an entire community dedicated to finding solutions leading to healthier lives.

“People appreciate what’s being done for the greater good in Louisville” she said. “That grassroots level of kindness and appreciation, that drive for helping our community be better together is amazing.”