From Challenge Coordinator to FPTR Funding Recipient: Thoughts on Current Health Crisis, Simple Respiratory Exercises

Anne E. Palermo, PT, DPT, first became involved with the Foundation for Physical Therapy Research  (FPTR) during the 2013-2014 Marquette Challenge. She served as Chair for the University of Miami’s Challenge efforts.

Most student fundraisers who participate in the Challenge do not go on to become researchers. However, Palermo received several FPTR awards as she pursued a research career. She was awarded a Florence P. Kendall Scholarship in 2016 and a Promotion of Doctoral Studies I Scholarship in 2017. Most recently, she was awarded the Mary Lou Barnes PODS II Award for her neurology-related research.

Palermo is currently completing her PhD studies at the University of Miami, and like many, she has adjusted her research and training to adapt to the current challenges of COVID 19. While trying to maintain her work from home, Palermo created a few videos geared towards helping people with Spinal Cord Injury. The videos are meant to train respiratory muscles to better prepare people for the off chance they contract COVID 19.

How has this health crisis impacted your work and research?

I have moved research into a virtual format. Luckily, my research project was assessing a home-based training program so those that were in the training phase have continued to train. I am now able to evaluate an extended period of training time in these individuals compared to those who completed the training period prior to the pandemic.

What do you foresee the future of physical therapy will look like?

I think we can start to look at more acute and subacute populations. These individuals will already be in hospitals and will not be risking exposure to participate in in-person studies. These measures may be especially important for people at risk of developing severe forms of COVID 19. Surveys may be more utilized in the near future as well. I also think that more focus will be put on how COVID 19 impacts functional mobility.

What challenges do you think physical therapy and physical therapist assistant students and new graduates will face?

We are already seeing that it is difficult to create lab and hands on experiences for our students. There may be more simulation-based training. Overall, many students are not feeling prepared for their clinicals or practicing.

How do you think students can adapt or overcome these challenges?

I really don’t know how students are going to be able to adapt. We are getting feedback from some of our students that they don’t feel like they will be ready for their clinicals in August because they have missed so much hands-on time. Our department is coming together to work with students to provide a safe return to the classroom for hands-on and lab experiences, while limiting the number of students in classrooms. It is looking like I will be including more video tutorials into the course that I teach in the fall semester. Watching videos and interacting on zoom or other video platforms might help to equip students for a telehealth based delivery platform. I think physical therapy delivery is changing and, because of the circumstances, physical therapy education appears to be changing in similar ways by taking advantage of online platforms.


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