Cleveland, OH,
11:38 AM

Zubizarreta House Marks 5-Year Anniversary; Facility Credited with Boosting Local Spinal Cord Injury Research

Kevin Kilgore, PhD, a biomedical engineer and researcher at MetroHealth Medical Center, had long dreamed of a fully accessible house that would serve as a home away from home for patients with paralysis enrolled in clinical trials in Cleveland.

The dream became reality when the Zubizarreta House, a 7,000-square-foot one-story house with five suites, opened in May 2017. The suites offer separate bedrooms for patients and caregivers and amenities such as roll-in showers and motorized lifts. The communal kitchen features countertops at various heights and adaptive cooking equipment.

A $100,000 grant from MetroHealth and donations from Miguel Zubizarreta, a former executive at Hyland Software, totaling more than $1.6 million helped propel the project.

The house has become a favorite lodging option for clinical trial participants in town to take part in spinal cord injury research through the Cleveland Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) and Advanced Platform Technology (APT) Centers, consortiums of Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center (VA), MetroHealth Medical Center, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), University Hospitals of Cleveland, and the Cleveland Clinic Neurological Institute.

Research grants cover guests’ lodging and travel costs, leaving them responsible only for food and other incidentals. Study participants, many who travel with a caregiver, have come from across Ohio and throughout the Midwest, and as far away as Texas, Florida, New York, Boston and California. The furthest people have traveled from are Vancouver, Costa Rica, Mexico and Brazil.

Ronald Triolo, PhD, a staff scientist in MetroHealth’s Department of Orthopedics, says Zubizarreta House has made it easier to recruit research volunteers.

“The house has provided a test bed for a lot of the things we’re trying to do,” says Dr. Triolo, a professor in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Orthopedics at CWRU and Director of the APT Center.

“Rather than relying on just a simulated environment in physical therapy and occupational therapy gyms, we have a real home environment and a living arrangement closer to what people are going to experience when they’re out in their own homes,” he says.

For more than 20 years, Jen French has traveled to Cleveland several times a year for research that enables her to exercise, transfer and stand with her otherwise paralyzed lower limb muscles.

Last summer, following a research surgery to repair an experimental implanted system, French recovered at Zubizarreta House for 10 days. Her most recent stay was in early May; she spent five days taking part in one of Dr. Triolo’s studies at the VA.

“For me, personally, it makes my life so much easier to be able to come and go and have the amenities of home, if you will,” says French, who lives in Florida. “You can tell by the design of the house that they had plenty of people advising who were actual wheelchair users.”

“From a research academic point of view, the Zubizarreta House elevates Cleveland’s standing as a center of excellence,” says Ela Plow, PhD, from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Lerner Research Institute and Neurological Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. “It’s a slam dunk for funding agencies. It shows that Cleveland knows how to do this.”

About The MetroHealth System

Founded in 1837, MetroHealth is leading the way to a healthier you and a healthier community through service, teaching, discovery, and teamwork. Cuyahoga County’s public, safety-net hospital system, MetroHealth meets people where they are, providing care through five hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers. Each day, our nearly 9,000 employees focus on providing our community with equitable healthcare — through patient-focused research, access to care, and support services — that seeks to eradicate health disparities rooted in systematic barriers. For more information, visit