Project Description

Foundation Funding Recipient and Past Scientific Review Chair – Samuel Ward, PT, PhD

Many of today’s physical therapist researchers began their research careers with Foundation for Physical Therapy Research funding. Among them is Samuel Ward, PT, PhD.

Ward is Research Vice-Chairman of Orthopaedic Surgery and Director of the Muscle Physiology Laboratory in the Departments of Radiology, Orthopaedic Surgery, and Bioengineering at the University of California San Diego. Much of his research focuses on understanding skeletal muscle design and plasticity using multimodal imaging.

On an engineering track, Ward quickly realized he wanted to pursue a degree in physical therapy, and ultimately wanted to obtain a PhD. While pursuing his doctorate in Biokinesiology, Ward familiarized himself with the funding opportunities afforded to researchers and went on to eventually receive Foundation-funding in the forms of a Promotion of Doctoral Studies (PODS) I scholarship in 2001 and a PODS II scholarship in 2002.

According to Ward, Foundation funding helped kick-start his career. “When you get your first grant, it gives you a little bit of confidence,” he said. “You have to work your way up the ladder to land an NIH grant, and the Foundation is an excellent platform for that process.”

Ward is a perfect example of Foundation funding leading to bigger opportunities and earning additional funding form larger agencies. Throughout his research career, he participated in several larger grant studies. Ward was Principal Investigator on a five-year R01 study funded by the National Institutes of Health, titled: “Muscle Structure, Toxin Dose, and Exercise Affect Botulinum Toxin Efficiency.” In another study funded by the Department of Defense, Ward examined the effect of heavy load carriage on the lumbar spine during operational tasks in military personnel. This work was later translated into non-military populations. Specialized MRI techniques were used to see what happens to the spine when patients are put in positions that are frequently used in the clinical setting.

More recently, Ward was named Lead Scientist on the NIH study, “Lumbar Spine Muscle Degeneration Inhibits Rehabilitation-Induced Muscle.” While still in the preliminary stages, this longitudinal project aims to examine the effects of exercise on patients with low back pain.

Ward’s appreciation for the funding he received prompted him to give back by serving on the Foundation’s Scientific Review Committee in 2011, eventually becoming Chair in 2013. Ward believes that the support received from the Foundation gives young researchers an important sense of confidence early on in their careers.

Ward continues to be an advocate for research and is a strong believer in pursuing excellence in other disciplines. He, himself, has expertise in orthopaedics, radiology, and bioengineering to complement his proficiency within physical therapy. Ward is constantly reminding young researchers to widen their skill set. “To push our field forward, we need to have an impact on the broader fields of medicine, engineering, etc,” he said.

Ward received his Physical Therapy degree from California State University Long Beach in 1997, his PhD in Biomechanics at the University of Southern California in 2003, and post-doc in Orthopaedic Surgery at UC San Diego in 2006.

Select Foundation Grants and Scholarships Awarded

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) and Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT) in Pediatric Hemiparesis

Weakness on one side of the body due to stroke or related events at or around the time of birth can affect the functional ability of an individual during childhood and throughout the lifespan. Emerging research using non-invasive brain stimulation to stimulate the involved areas of the brain has shown improvements in recovery of function. In this study, we are seeking to combine specific forms of brain stimulation and rehabilitation training in order to maximize this effect. Using transcranial direct current stimulation, brain cells that were inactive due to stroke injury have the potential to become active and contribute to improved function. This form of stimulation is painless, cost-effective, portable, and has shown no evidence of seizure or other serious adverse event. Importantly, it also has the potential to be applied in the clinical setting, simultaneous with rehabilitation training. Using a specific form of rehabilitation training called constraint-induced movement therapy, the hand that is less affected by the stroke is temporarily constrained with a solid mitten or a sling, allowing unique training of the hand which is more affected. Treatment focuses on training and activity in the more affected hand in isolation. These two forms of interventions may therefore be combined in order to investigate the potential effect of improving hand function in children with weakness due to stroke.

The long-term objectives of this study are to combine these two types of rehabilitation to investigate the benefit on hand function in children with weakness due to stroke. The translational potential of this intervention may directly impact pediatric clinical applications. The specific aims of the study are established to assess the safety, tolerability and success of the intervention in improving hand function in children with stroke. We are also assessing the feedback from the children and their caregivers as well as a cost-analysis of the intervention compared to usual and customary treatments. The research design would incorporate a 2-week camp-style setting of constraint-induced movement therapy while working with a therapist in combination with brain stimulation delivered at the beginning of each therapy session. Two groups would be established wherein all children receive therapy while one group receives an active form of tDCS and the other a sham tDCS stimulation. A therapist would perform the behavioral and brain stimulation assessments and testing, while a physician would perform medical evaluations for safety assessment. Such a team approach would advance the study toward the stated goals.

If, as physical therapists, we are able to maximize the potential recovery of a child who had a stroke early in their life the potential impact throughout their lifetime could be positively influenced. The current comprehensive cost of care for a person with cerebral palsy is estimated to be 1 million US dollars. The proposed intervention has potential to decrease cost of care through improved lifetime activity and participation.

In the course of my career in physical therapy to date, I have been exposed to many different areas. I have taught students both in the clinic and classroom, worked as a legislative chairman for the Eastern District of the Illinois Physical Therapy Association and held both clinical and administrative positions. I have been an instructor in the Physical Therapy Program at Marquette University, an instructor and pre-Physical Therapy advisor at both the University of Alaska and Seattle University and now an instructor in Neuroanatomy for Physical Therapy and Medical Students at the University of Minnesota. All the while, I have advanced my own education and continued to treat patients in the clinic simultaneously. I would now like to use that education and experience more fully by combining teaching, research and clinical work in a physical therapy academic setting. My overarching goal is to challenge traditional ideas about optimal therapies, best practice and outcomes. As our profession continues to increase its role in interdisciplinary teamwork, I would like to be on the leading edge of
those professionals who continue to work toward questioning our practices and the manner in which we contribute to the rehabilitation of an individual. Specifically, I would like to spend my doctoral work developing an advanced foundation in rehabilitation research and neuroscience. I am interested in post-doctoral training specifically to further my ability to pursue neuroscientific research, and I intend to apply for a position at the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation (CNBS) at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School. During this post-doctoral pursuit I would also like to complete the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) interdisciplinary training program. This program is geared toward post-graduate fellows who are interested in assuming leadership roles in providing health care services for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families. I hope to apply this postdoctoral training by obtaining an academic position in a Physical Therapy program that would allow me to
combine research and clinical work with teaching. I was recently asked what I would like to have said about me, one day, when I retire. I would be honored to have it said of me that I somehow contributed to the growth and quality of life of others, whether towards the growth of the student who is interested in becoming a PT or the patient who recovers function. I am confident that my doctoral work will give me all the tools I need to make that contribution.

In the course of my career in physical therapy to date, I have been exposed to many different areas. I have taught students both in the clinic and classroom, worked as a legislative chairman for the Eastern District of the Illinois Physical Therapy Association and held both clinical and administrative positions. I have been an instructor in the Physical Therapy Program at Marquette University, an instructor and pre-Physical Therapy advisor at both the University of Alaska and Seattle University and now an instructor in Neuroanatomy for Physical Therapy and Medical Students at the University of Minnesota. All the while, I have advanced my own education and continued to treat patients in the clinic simultaneously. I would now like to use that education and experience more fully by combining teaching, research and clinical work in a physical therapy academic setting. My overarching goal is to challenge traditional ideas about optimal therapies, best practice and outcomes. As our profession continues to increase its role in interdisciplinary teamwork, I would like to be on the leading edge of
those professionals who continue to work toward questioning our practices and the manner in which we contribute to the rehabilitation of an individual. Specifically, I would like to spend my doctoral work developing an advanced foundation in rehabilitation research and neuroscience. I am interested in post-doctoral training specifically to further my ability to pursue neuroscientific research, and I intend to apply for a position at the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation (CNBS) at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School. During this post-doctoral pursuit I would also like to complete the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) interdisciplinary training program. This program is geared toward post-graduate fellows who are interested in assuming leadership roles in providing health care services for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families. I hope to apply this postdoctoral training by obtaining an academic position in a Physical Therapy program that would allow me to
combine research and clinical work with teaching. I was recently asked what I would like to have said about me, one day, when I retire. I would be honored to have it said of me that I somehow contributed to the growth and quality of life of others, whether towards the growth of the student who is interested in becoming a PT or the patient who recovers function. I am confident that my doctoral work will give me all the tools I need to make that contribution.

SAMUEL WARD, PT, PhD

SELECT PUBLICATIONS

  • Berry DB, Regner B, Galinsky V, Ward SR, Frank LR. “Relationships Between Tissue Microstructure and the Diffusion Tensor in Simulated Skeletal Muscle”  2018 Jul;80(1):317-329. doi: 10.1002/mrm.26993. Epub 2017 Oct 31.

  • Shahidi B, Hubbard JC, Gibbons MC, Ruoss S, Zlomislic V, Allen RT, Garfin SR, Ward SR. “Lumbar multifidus muscle degenerates in individuals with chronic degenerative lumbar spine pathology.”   2017 Dec;35(12):2700-2706. doi: 10.1002/jor.23597. Epub 2017 May 23.

  • Berry DB, Rodríguez-Soto AE, Su J, Gombatto SP, Shahidi B, Palombo L, Chung C, Jensen A, Kelly KR, Ward SR, “Lumbar spine postures in Marines during simulated operational positions.”  2017 Oct;35(10):2145-2153. doi: 10.1002/jor.23510. Epub 2017 Jan 30.