Rosamond Gianutsos, PhD, FAAO, CDRS completed a doctorate in Experimental Psychology in 1970, specializing in human cognition. She became a tenured Associate Professor at Adelphi University where she pursued research in cognition in college students. A sabbatical took her to Bellevue Hospital where she began to work with survivors of brain injury. There she began to develop the Computer Programs for Cognitive Rehabilitation to promote recovery of mental function. Awarded National Finalist status in the Johns Hopkins Personal Computing to Aid the Handicapped competition, they were displayed at the World Trade Center in New York and at the National Science Foundation in Washington, DC. With these tools, Dr. Gianutsos left academia and played a key role in establishing Cognitive Rehabilitation as a mainstream neurorehabilitation therapy.
When she discovered that driver rehabilitation specialists were using some of these programs in their evaluations, she felt it would be better to design procedures especially for driver evaluations. Thanks to a fruitful one-day think tank convened by Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) pioneer, Mike Shipp, she learned from driver rehabilitation specialists what was missing in their toolbox. To explicitly address those needs, Gianutsos designed the Driving Advisement System, later replaced by the Elemental Driving Simulator. Through collaborative research with therapists in neurorehabilitation, she established a psychometric foundation for these valuable simulation tools. ADED recognized her research contributions with its Scholar Award.
In 1988, she was appointed to the NYS DMV Medical Advisory Board which undertook a major review of policies. Gianutsos was in charge of the Subcommittee on the Elderly and Handicapped Driver.
As a neuropsychological rehabilitation specialist, Gianutsos became a CDRS in the 1990’s.
Concurrently, she saw the prevalence and significance of visual impairment for brain injury survivors. She learned much working for almost 20 years in the Head Trauma Rehabilitation Unit at the SUNY College of Optometry and became a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry.
Blending the neuro-optometric and driver rehabilitation interests, she developed more ecologically valid assessment tools: the Roadway Sign Test and the Crash Scene Sketch.
Now, she provides a comprehensive clinical and simulator evaluation with cognitively challenged, but physically able, experienced drivers who seek to continue or resume driving. Some of these individuals have dementia and it is necessary to be the bearer of the bad news that they will need to stop driving. Some are in a gray zone and will need to develop a plan for winding down their driving. Those who demonstrate an ability to perform fully like other drivers are usually able to continue to decide whether, when and where to drive.
In recent years, Dr. Gianutsos has been inspired to join with others – especially Families for Safe Streets – in fighting the epidemic of traffic violence where over 40,000 lives are lost each year in the US.
In addition to offering driver competency evaluations, she is a volunteer New York State accident prevention course instructor for AARP Driver Safety.
She has been recognized for her service in the NYC Medical Reserve Corps
and as a street safety Activist of the year by Transportation Alternatives.
An avid cyclist, Dr. Gianutsos has lived in and peddled around NYC for over a half century. Fortunate to live in an increasingly cycle friendly city, she was grateful that during the height of the COVID pandemic her bike took her wherever she needed to go. The car remained in the driveway for a year. This experience showed her that in the right environment driving is not necessary for independence.
Notwithstanding, Dr. Gianutsos appreciates that driving plays an important role in the lives of most Americans. She is passionate about promoting safety in driving and advocating for safe streets for all.