Children born very prematurely (at or before 28 weeks) are at a greater risk of developing neonatal brain injury, motor disabilities, and learning difficulties. They often require special education. In the past, early intervention measures did not start until infants reached six months of age or when infant delays were considered to be persistent. Infants that began early interventions often received a low dose – below the level that research suggests is needed to promote neuroplasticity and increase independence. To mitigate this issue, Physical Therapist and Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, Stacey Dusing, PT, PhD, has been quantifying developmental changes and designing interventions to support motor and cognitive improvements in infants and children born very prematurely or at risk for disabilities. More than 15 years of research recently culminated with a $2.84 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to facilitate a multi-site clinical trial, “Efficacy of Motor and Cognitive Intervention for Infants Born Very Preterm (SPEEDI2).”

Dusing is a three-time funding recipient of the Foundation for Physical Therapy. Her most notable Foundation grant, the 2013 Pediatric Research Grant, allowed her to complete a pilot study -“Supporting Play, Exploration, & Early Development Intervention (SPEEDI) for Infants Born Preterm: An Initial Efficacy Study”-that directly resulted in the recent NIH R01 funding. Dusing was also the recipient of a 2005 Promotion of Doctoral Studies I Scholarship and a 2002 Mary McMillan Doctoral Scholarship.

Along with other medical specialists, Dusing will determine how early, evidence-based physical therapy intervention will enhance physical, social and cognitive outcomes in at-risk infants.

“The support the Foundation for Physical Therapy has provided over the last 2 decades has been instrumental in moving my career forward and helping me obtain future funding,” said Dusing. “The Foundation has helped kick-start my career and for that I wanted to offer my sincere gratitude.”

Throughout her career, Dusing has continued to advocate on behalf of the Foundation. She has served as a Scientific Review Committee member and, in her role as faculty member at VCU, promotes the Foundation and its mission to physical therapy students through the Foundation’s annual Marquette Challenge.

Learn more about Dusing and her research.


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