Foundation Scholarship Recipient Looks to Understand Patient Choice and Outcomes in Musculoskeletal Pain

Jason Sharpe, PT, DPT, developed an interest in research while working in an outpatient orthopaedic physical therapy private practice. Many of his patients were suffering from chronic symptoms and had received care from several health care practitioners before physical therapy. Sharpe began to wonder about this pattern and decided to pursue a PhD to learn more about how care is delivered for patients with musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions. He was recently awarded a Foundation 2019-2020 Promotion of Doctoral Studies (PODS) II Scholarship to help him in this goal.

At the University of Utah, Sharpe will look at patients with general musculoskeletal conditions and lower back pain (LBP). Sharpe and his mentors will research into why, how, and when patients choose to seek physical therapy in dealing with MSK conditions. Sharpe’s goals, in line with other Foundation and Orthopaedic Section-funded research (including the Center on Health Services Training and Research [CoHSTAR]), is to better understand how and why patients choose PT and how those choices affect patient care throughout the health care system.

“Our understanding of patient’s choice will provide the foundational knowledge needed to develop a shared decision-making intervention to direct the patients most likely to benefit from physical therapy, while choosing not to use physical therapy, towards physical therapy,” said Sharpe of his research goals.

With the support of the PODS II Scholarship, Sharpe hopes to gain more experience in health services research and clinical research, becoming an independent and well-rounded researcher.

“I will use the award to complete my dissertation projects, including continued training in qualitative and quantitative methodology,” said Sharpe. “I plan on taking several courses, supported by the funding, on health services research methodology, including using the statistical program R.”

Sharpe will study under the mentorship of Julie Fritz, BS, MS, PhD, and Anne Thackery, BS, MPH, PhD. Thackery is a CoHSTAR part-time faculty fellow and works with Fritz on a multi-site Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) LBP grant.

Sharpe ultimately hopes to strengthen the profession by establishing the role of physical therapists in the management of MSK conditions and conditions that influence movement. “Physical therapists have an opportunity to reinforce themselves as the preferred provider for exercise-based interventions, a cost-effective treatment for a wide variety of musculoskeletal diagnoses and conditions influencing movement,” said Sharpe.

Sharpe is also the recipient of a 2018 PODS I Scholarship funded by the Viva J. Erickson Endowment Fund.

Select Foundation Grants and Scholarships Awarded

Funded with support of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)

Funded by the Viva J. Erickson Endowment Fund