Timothy D. Faw, PT, DPT, PhD, is a 5-time Foundation for Physical Therapy Research (FPTR) scholarship recipient. With colleagues, Faw recently published a study that looks at how downhill locomotor rehabilitation promotes myelin plasticity in people with spinal cord injury (SCI). This research was funded in part through FPTR support. Faw also recently completed his PhD studies at The Ohio State University and joined Duke University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program as a Medical Instructor. We caught up with him to ask about his research goals and seek his advice for fellow researchers navigating the challenges of the times.
How do you hope that your research will translate to improved patient care?
My research investigates the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying nervous system damage and recovery. It is my hope that better understanding of the neurobiological processes of conditions, such as spinal cord injury, and how these processes interact with rehabilitation will allow the development of novel interventions or improve the delivery of current interventions to maximize individuals’ recovery and ability to participate in the things they find meaningful.
How does your experience in clinical practice inform your research?
Having a strong foundation in clinical practice is essential for my research. My experience working with spinal cord injured individuals allows me to ask fundamental neurobiological questions in clinically-relevant animal models that are important to the individuals living with the condition. Moreover, the ability to develop and utilize clinically-relevant outcome measures allows for more rapid translation from the bench to the clinic and back.
How did FPTR funding affect the direction of your research career?
Funding through the Foundation for Physical Therapy Research and the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy has been instrumental to my research career. Not only did this funding provide much needed financial support to pursue research training, it also gave me the confidence that I can compete for grant funding at the highest levels and helped me to establish a track record of successful funding that is allowing me to do just that..
What advice do you have for researchers navigating the disruptions caused by the COVID 19 pandemic?
This situation is unprecedented in so many ways. I think the best advice I could give, and could honestly be better at practicing, is to be patient and kind, both to ourselves and others, and to support one another as we’re able. Regardless of level, we are all impacted by the current situation. Whether you are a graduate student whose dissertation projects are on hold, a postdoctoral researcher facing uncertainty in the academic job market, a new faculty member trying to establish an independent line of research, or an established researcher trying to keep the lab funded and running, we are in this together and a bit of patience, kindness, and support can go a long way.
Faw has applied for and received 5 scholarships from the Foundation for Physical Therapy Research. His awards include: a 2013 Florence P. Kendall Scholarship; a 2014 & 2015 PODS I Scholarship; & a 2016 & 2017 PODS II Scholarships. For his outstanding application in postprofessional studies within neurology, Faw’s 2015 and 2017 awards were designated as the Patricia Leahy Award and the Mary Lou Barnes Award, respectively.