PODS II Scholarship Recipient to Study Effects of Obesity on Respiratory Function

Early in his career, Richard Severin PT, DPT, CCS, developed an appreciation for research, with an interest in translating evidence into practice.

“I’ve always been a curious individual,” says Severin. “Research is a great way to harness that curiosity into something productive that can also help people.”

His love for research compelled him to pursue a PhD in rehabilitation Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), with a focus on cardiorespiratory physiology and obesity. His doctoral research will examine the effect of morbid obesity on respiratory muscle performance in patients undergoing bariatric surgery.

Severin was recently awarded the Foundation for Physical Therapy Research’s $15,000 Promotion of Doctoral Studies (PODS) II Scholarship for his dissertation, “Respiratory Muscle Performance: A Predictor of Clinical Outcomes in Morbidly Obese Patients.” This 2019 Scholarship was made possible through the APTA Scholarship Fund.

“I hope to better characterize how potential changes in respiratory muscle performance influence physiological responses to exercise and other health-related outcomes in morbidly obese patients,” says Severin. He hopes his research will also result in preoperative screening tools that can be used to avoid post-operative complications.

Because of the increased costs associated with obesity and increased utilization of weight-loss surgery, Severin believes his research has the potential to mitigate healthcare costs and improve clinical outcomes in this clinical population. Severin notes that these interventions may also be useful to reduce healthcare costs and improve clinical outcomes for obese patients receiving other surgical procedures. He also hopes that respiratory muscle training could be implemented by physical therapists to improve the exercise capacity in obese individuals and their overall health.

This award, he says, will also help him advance the physical therapy profession and improve patient care.

“I would like to see the profession move toward more applied and basic science research,” he says. “More evidence is emerging supporting the benefits of movement and exercise on our health; even down to the cellular and genetic level. As the movement profession we should be taking ownership of this area of research and leading from the front. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in such studies during my doctoral training and I hope that this becomes more common in our profession.” Severin is particularly grateful to the Foundation for financially helping with his doctoral studies which are more focused on this type of research.

Severin serves as a visiting clinical instructor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the UIC. He is a part-time clinical assistant professor in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Baylor University. Severin graduated from the University of Miami with his DPT degree in 2013.

Select Foundation Grants and Scholarships Awarded


Severin Headshot


  • Severin R, Sabbahi A, Mahmoud AM, Arena R, Phillips SA. Precision Medicine in Weight Loss and Healthy Living. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2019;62(1):15-20.

  • Severin R, Wang E, Wielechowski A, Phillips SA. Outpatient Physical Therapist Attitudes Toward and Behaviors in Cardiovascular Disease Screening: A National Survey. Physical Therapy, Volume 99, Issue 7, July 2019, Pages 833–848 https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/pzz042.

  • Gonçalves da Silva A, Sardeli A, Delgado André L, Severin R, de Oliveira C, Hassan C, Borghi-Silva A, Phillips SA, Exercise Training Does Improve Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Post Bariatric Surgery Patients, Obesity Surgery. 2019 Feb 1. doi: 10.1007/s11695-019-03731-9.