Lisa VanHoose, PT, PhD, MPH, is a physical therapist researcher, educator, and practitioner on the front lines in addressing health disparities in the current health pandemic. Though there is much more to be learned about the causes of these disparities, the evidence is clear. As with many diseases, racial and ethnic minority groups are shouldering a disproportionate burden amidst the COVID 19 health crisis.
VanHoose, an Associate Professor and Program Director in Physical Therapy at the University of Louisiana at Monrow, was recently appointed to the Health Disparities and Research subcommittee of the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. The expertise that VanHoose will contribute builds on years of studying cancer-related side effects in minority cancer survivors and the physical therapy interventions that improve outcomes for these patients.
With the possibility of more frequent disruptions due to viral pandemics in the years to come, VanHoose sees a shift in research and research funding on the horizon.
“The effect is pretty evident,” says VanHoose. “For those currently conducting research, try to be as creative as possible. Moving forward, we may see funders asking for an alternative plan in the application process itself.”
VanHoose also predicts fundamental changes in physical therapy research study design. Future research will go beyond biological measures to move towards learning more about social determinants of health. These factors – including socioeconomic status, access to healthcare, location, and social support – are often predictors of outcomes along with underlying health conditions and baseline health.
While completing her PhD in rehabilitation science at the University of Kansas Medical Center, VanHoose was the recipient of the 2006 Foundation for Physical Therapy Research (FPTR) Florence P. Kendall Scholarship. She was also awarded the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) 2009 Minority Faculty Development Scholarship. As the world moves forward with greater consideration to diversity and inclusion, VanHoose emphasizes the importance of scholarships for people from diverse backgrounds.
“Financial support that focuses on those from disadvantaged background and, even more important, scholarships that consider lived experience, are needed,” says VanHoose. She notes that this type of funding creates structural mentorship opportunities, a benefit of scholarships that VanHoose credits for helping her in her development as an independent researcher and educator.
VanHoose participated in a recent American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Facebook live panel, “Health Disparities Brought to the Forefront as COVID-19 Spreads: What the Physical Therapy Profession Can Do.” VanHoose also recently recorded a podcast with the APTA Student Assembly addressing issues of inclusion and diversity in the profession.