First-Ever Combined PODS II/NIFTI Awarded to Julia Mazzarella

Early in 2021, the Foundation for Physical Therapy Research (FPTR) announced it would direct its fellowship funds to support a new award modeled after the National Institute of Health K99/R00 mechanisms. The purpose of the award was to better support post-doctoral students while they pursue a mentored research position.

This first combined PODS II/NIFTI award was awarded the same year to Julia Mazzarella, PT, DPT, of The Ohio State University.

While this award offers up to $115,000 in support of the final year of the post-candidacy phase in addition to the first two years of the research fellowship, Mazzarella was awarded the $15,000 portion of the Combined PODS II/NIFTI scholarship in 2021. This portion of the award was funded through the APTA PODS Fund.

Mazzarella is applying this award to her project titled: “Hippotherapy for Children with Cerebral Palsy: Upper Extremity Activity, Participation, and Engagement.” This project – which will also serve as her PhD dissertation – is a pilot randomized controlled clinical trial on hippotherapy, using equine movement in physical therapy to improve upper extremity function in children with cerebral palsy.

In early October 2021, Mazzarella joined FPTR as guest speaker during the VCU-Marquette Challenge Kick-off for the 2021-2022 cycle, where she discussed her research and the importance of the student-led fundraising initiatives that raise funds for physical therapy research through the Challenge. Mazzarella was the 2020 PODS II VCU-Marquette Challenge Award, named in honor of the student-led Marquette Challenge.

She was also previously awarded the 2019 PODS I Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy Award funded by the Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy Fund.

“Funding from FPTR has been instrumental in my early success as a PhD student. Beyond facilitating success for researchers, the funding enables us to do the necessary research to move our profession forward and provide better outcomes for our patients,” said Mazzarella.

As she works on evaluating upper extremity function using 3D motion capture and questionnaires on daily life activities, Mazzarella believes her preliminary findings will lead to larger clinical trials.

“Ultimately, the results of this preliminary investigation will inform the design of a larger, sufficiently powered clinical efficacy trial in hippotherapy with established outcome measures to evaluate patient engagement in physical therapy and improvements in upper extremity function and participation following physical therapy intervention,” said Mazzarella.

Select Foundation Grants and Scholarships Awarded