Parkinson’s Foundation Awards $30K to First 3 Winners of Physical Therapy Faculty Grants

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by Mary Chapman |

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The first three winners of the Parkinson’s Foundation’s new Physical Therapy Faculty Award will use their up to $10,000 grant for projects aimed at putting exercise to work in improving patients’ lives.

The program underscores an increasing need, as more patients live longer, for physical therapists trained in Parkinson’s. The disorder affects roughly seven to 10 million individuals globally, including 1 million in the United States. And the number of people with this neurodegenerative disorder is expected to double by 2030.

Grant awardees are graduates of the nonprofit’s Physical Therapy Faculty Program, focused on improving physical therapy care by training experts who can, in turn, educate future practitioners. The 40-hour program offers an immersion into the latest scientific findings in Parkinson’s research and care.

“We are delighted to have a program that supports physical therapy faculty leaders who are educating the next generation of PTs [physical therapists] about Parkinson’s care,” said John Lehr, the foundation’s president and chief executive officer, in a press release.

“We wanted to take this support one step further by launching a seed grant funding program that will allow our PT faculty alumni to further develop their independent projects and enhance their impact on the Parkinson’s community,” Lehr added.

In general, physical therapists help Parkinson’s patients maintain use of their limbs, improve fitness and mobility, relieve pain, and help with breathing, with a goal of preventing permanent physical disability. Their programs aid patients in gaining greater their strength and endurance to improve movement and control.

The foundation award, which includes a yearlong mentorship, will fund work proposed by its three winners. These leaders and their projects are:

  • A professor of physical therapy at Western Carolina University, Lori Schrodt, PT, PhD, will set up academic partnerships with community groups to teach physical therapy students how to better assist patients and their caregivers. The collaborations are expected to extend the continuum of care and services available through the local programs.
  • Sarah Fishel PT, DPT, is an assistant professor of physical therapy at Ithaca College. By comparing a land-based exercise program to an aquatic-based one, she hopes to determine how well a “highly challenging” balance training program assists in preventing falls and improving patients’ balance.
  • An associate professor of physical therapy at the University of Michigan-Flint, Amy Yorke, PT, PhD, plans to track the effectiveness of a community-based exercise program on participants’ cardiovascular systems. She will then use the data to develop a heart rate monitoring protocol that community programs might use to monitor the benefits of exercise in people with Parkinson’s.

“While evidence supports how the increase of cardiovascular intensity during exercise can lead to neuroprotection, there is no monitoring system in place that can track the heart rate of people with PD,” Yorke said. “This funding … will allow us to establish a protocol by developing a heart rate monitoring process.”

Applications are now being accepted for the Physical Therapy Faculty Program training at three sites: Boston University, the Oregon Health & Science University Parkinson Center of Oregon, and Washington University in St. Louis.

More information is also available here.