Student researchers at the frontline of their profession

November 11, 2011

By Tim Belter ’13

Six third-year physical therapy students got the chance to present research at the annual conference of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists in Anaheim, Calif. The topic of the conference was “Physical Therapy: The Frontline of Musculoskeletal Care.”

“Even at this early stage in their careers, they’re making significant contributions to our field,” said Dr. Cheryl Sparks. Dr. Sparks and Professor Joe Kelly attended the conference with the students. “They may have been some of the only students presenting in a room full of established researchers, academics and clinicians.”

“These graduate students represented Bradley and the department of Physical Therapy to the highest degree at a national conference,” added Professor Kelly. “Student participation in a national conference is a clear commitment to creating a university of national distinction.”

The students worked in pairs and presented three different research projects. Danielle Cooper and Andrew Brannon researched how to recognize patients whose back pain was actually caused by hip problems, Jessica Holloway and Rebecca Terrio studied whether it was more effective to treat the neck or spine for patients with neck pain and Jon Swanson and Lauren Wojcicki determined that spinal manipulation positively affects hamstring stretch tolerance.

“The goal of these projects is to figure out how we, as physical therapists, can get patients better, faster,” said Dr. Sparks.

Each project was presented with a poster and a brief presentation, and the students were placed side-by-side with respected professionals.

“The best of the best attend this conference and it was an honor to be there with them,” said Danielle Cooper, one of the students who presented. “Not many students get this opportunity.”

The students not only distinguished themselves as students, but truly added to the body of knowledge and research in their profession.

“Hopefully, going to an event like this encourages them to continue researching,” said Dr. Sparks. “The work that they do goes beyond the walls of Bradley.”