Staff and interns from the Foundation for Physical Therapy Research recently toured the newly built Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) College of Health Professions building by invitation of the VCU Department of Physical Therapy. Mary Shall, PT, PhD, the Department Chair, and Shawne Soper, PT, DPT, MBA, the Assistant Director of Clinical Education, welcomed the visitors to the new 8-floor building. The state-of-the-art location unites the previously scattered VCU health programs under one roof.
Staff from the Foundation periodically tour nearby physical therapy research facilities to learn more about current trends, practices, and programs. In addition to providing an opportunity for the Foundation to see the new building, VCU was chosen for this summer’s site visit in celebration of the 2019-2020 VCU-Marquette Challenge. VCU students earned top-fundraising honors in the 2018-2019 Challenge, earning cohosting rights for the upcoming year.
2019-2020 Challenge Chair Katie Dingman, 2018-2019 Challenge Chair Adrienne Lewis, and American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) student representative Katie Smith joined the Foundation staff for lunch. VCU students are already looking ahead to their upcoming Challenge fundraising. Among other events, VCU students previously hosted a PT Prom and Cornhole Tournament. The students rely on the community to help them in their fundraising goals. The PT Prom and Cornhole Tournament have been hosted at low to no cost at local businesses. The upcoming VCU-Marquette Challenge will officially kick off at the upcoming APTA National Student Conclave in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
After lunch, Foundation staff toured the new VCU Department of Physical Therapy Biomechanics and Motor Development labs. These labs are among several at VCU, where faculty also engage in clinical research and collect data at various other sites in Richmond and the U.S.
Peter Pidcoe, PT, DPT, PhD, the Director of the Engineering and Biomechanics Lab, shares a Foundation connection. Pidcoe collaborated with Foundation-funded researcher Thubi Kolobe, PT, PhD, FAPTA, a recipient of the Foundation’s 2008 Pediatric Research Grant. Kolobe’s Foundation-supported pilot research helped to develop a device to assist infants with cerebral palsy learning to crawl. The University of Oklahoma and VCU have a jointly held patent on the Self-Initiated Prone Progressive Crawler (SIPPC), a motorized skateboard-like robot equipped with sensors that facilitates crawling in infants unable to do so independently. Pidcoe shared several prototypes and iterations of the invention with the Foundation staff to show the evolution of the SIPPC. Pidcoe’s engineering background has allowed the VCU program to work on projects that link engineering principles with physical therapy practice. The VCU Engineering and Biomechanics Lab is equipped with tools to help conduct this research – including motion monitor systems, eyetracking equipment, and electromyography systems – and prototyping equipment—including a laser cutter and 3D printers.
In the VCU Motor Development Lab, Sonia Khurana, PhD, a post doctoral fellow, and PhD students Becky Molinini, DPT, and Ketaki Inamdar, MS, presented on systematic review, early problem-solving indicators, and data collection. Lab Director Stacey Dusing, PT, PhD, is 3-time Foundation funding recipient. She was recently awarded 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 Preterm (SPEEDI2).” When possible, Dusing and team conduct research in the homes of families of infants and children. However, the VCU Motor Development Lab is outfitted with equipment such as a motion monitor system and pressure mapping system to help the researchers collect data in an environment designed with children in mind.
The tour concluded with meeting Kate Wason, PT, DPT, a participant in the competitive VCU Sports Residency Program. Wason is preparing for advanced specialty practice with an interest in women’s athletics and sports injury. Wason is a graduate of the Duke University School of Medicine Doctor of Physical Therapy program.