Current Research Projects
Recovery from Neurologic Injuries
Shailesh Kantak, PT, Ph.D. The overarching goal of Dr. Kantak’s research is to improve movement rehabilitation of patients with neurologic disorders by advancing our understanding of motor control, learning, and neuroplasticity through systematic, theory-driven research. His research moves from the basic understanding of behavioral and neural mechanisms of motor control and learning to testing effects of innovative interventions for motor problems in patients with brain injuries. Dr. Kantak’s research employs behavioral and psychophysical methods in conjunction with motion analyses, electromyography (EMG) and non-invasive brain stimulation to reveal the brain-behavior relationship for goal-directed actions.
One arm of Dr. Kantak’s research is focused on understanding the control and coordination of real-world actions after stroke. Dr. Kantak is investigating how stroke survivors engage their two arms to accomplish functional bimanual tasks. While most activities of daily living involve bimanual actions, traditional rehabilitation assessments and treatments have been focused on the unimanual function of the weaker hand alone. This is problematic because despite improved capability to move their weaker arm after rehabilitation, patients do not use that arm in activities of daily living. Dr. Kantak’s global hypothesis is that lack of coordination between arms during bimanual actions may underlie this “lack of transfer” from rehabilitation to real-life. In the first step of this research, funded by an R03 award from Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Dr. Kantak will determine the relative impairments in different classes of bimanual actions after stroke and the degree to which the unimanual performance deficits predict bimanual impairment. The future steps will investigate how brain lesions, connectivity, and physiology relates to impaired bimanual coordination.
The other arm of Dr. Kantak’s research is focused on determining different behavioral and neurophysiologic strategies to improve motor learning and recovery after stroke. His recent research demonstrated that despite having a weakness, most patients with stroke retain the ability to learn novel movements. This learning was associated with changes in both the damaged and undamaged hemisphere. Currently, he is investigating if noninvasive brain stimulation and aerobic exercise can augment or accelerate learning and neuroplasticity in healthy individuals and patients with stroke.
Phil McClure, PT, Ph.D., FAPTA. Dr. McClure’s research centers on shoulder dysfunction and his work includes both laboratory and clinical studies. The broad goals of his research are to understand biomechanical and neurophysiological mechanisms underlying shoulder dysfunction and to develop interventions to optimize shoulder function after injury. His research has centered around disorders of the rotator cuff and related biomechanical issues and has included extensive study of 3-dimensional scapular kinematics and translation of that work into clinical testing. Currently, his studies are focused on neural activation of the rotator cuff and the effect of pain, pain relief and exercise on neural activation. Dr. McClure, along with a collaborator from the University of Oregon, was recently awarded a four-year grant worth $1.9 million from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, a division of the NIH. He also has received research funding from both the Orthopedic and Sports sections of the APTA.
Dan Safford, PT, DPT, MAT, OCS, CSCS. Dr. Safford’s research includes clinical and laboratory based studies on patients with shoulder disorders. The majority of his research currently involves blood flow restriction training related to the shoulder. Past effort in collaboration with Dr. McClure and Dr. Shah has focused on the Timed Functional Arm and Shoulder Test (TFAST) supported by funding from the Orthopaedic Academy of the American Physical Therapy Association.
Kshamata Shah, PT, PhD Dr. Shah’s research includes clinical and laboratory based studies on patients with shoulder disorders. Her overall research goal is to understand the mechanisms and predictors driving a patient’s recovery in patients with chronic shoulder problems such as those with rotator cuff disorders and diabetes, and design optimal rehabilitation programs for these individuals. Dr. Shah has collaborated with Dr. McClure and researchers from University of Oregon on a R01 grant funded by the NIH aimed at examining muscle neurophysiology with pain and exercise in patients with rotator cuff diseases. She has also developed ultrasound methods to evaluate shoulder muscle morphology and blood flow and its relationship with patient outcomes. Dr. Shah, Dr. McClure and Dr. Safford have developed a new performance-based outcome measure, Timed Functional Arm and Shoulder Test, and tested the psychometric properties of the test in healthy individuals and patients such as those with neurological conditions. They have received funding from the Orthopedic Section of the APTA to test the use of the TFAST in patients.
Musculoskeletal, Orthopaedics, and Sports Physical Therapy
Brian Eckenrode, PT, DPT, OCS. Dr. Eckenrode’s research agenda focuses on understanding the effects of physical therapy interventions on pain processing in lower extremity overuse conditions. His lab uses various tools to assess quantitative sensory testing through conditioned pain modulation, temporal summation, heat/cold pain threshold, and pressure pain threshold. Additionally, he examines the contribution of running biomechanics and training load to running-related injuries.
KeithAnn Halle PT, DPT, CBIS. Dr. Halle is collaborating with the Department of Defense and the Army Adaptive Sports Program to investigate the impact of participation in adaptive sports competitions for injured service members. The goal of this research is twofold: to pilot outcome measures in the adaptive sport service member population and to illustrate the physical, emotional, and quality of life changes related to participation in large scale adaptive sports competitions such as the Warrior Games and the Invictus Games. We hope to support the Department of Defense’s large scale events and provide quantitative outcomes in an area where qualitative data is common. Dr. Halle is also involved in research related to clinical education, factors correlated with success in clinical education, and the impact of the hybrid mode of instructional delivery on clinical education outcomes.
Phil Malloy, PT, PhD. Malloy's primary research interest is in biomechanics, in particular understanding the relationship between bone structure and human movement as it pertains to young and active adults with hip disorders. His long term research goal is to advance the diagnosis and treatment of hip disorders through rehabilitation approaches administered both before and after surgery. He is a member of Hip Preservation Research group in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, where also holds a visiting assistant professor position in Rush Medical College.
Ryan Zarzycki, PT, DPT, PhD. Dr. Zarzycki’s research is focused on traumatic knee injury with emphasis on athletes after ACL rupture and ACL reconstruction. More specifically, Dr. Zarzycki is interested in gaining a better understanding of how the central nervous system changes after injury/surgery and how this affects rehabilitation. His lab uses electromyography (EMG), transcranial cranial magnetic stimulation, clinical measures (e.g. strength testing), and motion analysis testing to study movement and neuromuscular control after injury/surgery.
Older Adults and Exercise
Kate Mangione, PT, Ph.D., FAPTA. Dr. Mangione’s research combines her clinical passions of older adults and exercises. She began her research career studying the effects of unweighted exercise on cardiovascular and pain responses to treadmill walking in older adults with knee OA. She applied these findings and was funded to perform a randomized clinical trial of moderate and low-intensity cycling in persons with knee OA. For the last 20 years, Kate has been examining various forms of physical therapy programs on improving function in older adults after hip fracture. She has and continues to examine the benefits of strength training, endurance training, multi-modal exercise training performed in the home setting with older adults post fracture. She is currently the site PI for an NIH multi-site RCT. Dr. Mangione has begun investigating whether standardized exercise programs can be applied to older adults with multiple chronic conditions receiving Medicare-funded home care services.
Exercise Protocols for Individuals with Parkinson Disease or Multiple Sclerosis
Janet Readinger, PT, DPT. Dr. Readinger has collaborated with several faculty members to pursue her research interests. Dr. Readinger’s research involves investigating exercise protocols for individuals with Parkinson disease or multiple sclerosis. Her current project focuses on examining the effects of a concentrated, week-long brief intense exercise program for individuals with Parkinson disease. Her preliminary data has shown promising results of this novel approach to care for individuals with chronic neurologic disease. She has extensive experience working in inpatient rehabilitation and serves as the Director of the Dan Aaron Stay Fit Exercise Program, working with individuals with Parkinson disease or multiple sclerosis.
Pediatric Physical Therapy
Ann Tokay Harrington, PT, DPT, Ph.D., PCS Dr. Harrington's research is focused on the promotion of physical fitness and mobility in children and adolescents with disabilities resulting from neurological, neuromuscular and genetic disorders to allow them to overcome barriers to community participation and recreational physical activity with an underlying goal of improving quality of life. In addition to her faculty position at Arcadia, she maintains a position as a Research Scientist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where her current research is focused on building participant self-efficacy for exercise in adolescents and young adults with Trisomy 21. She also provides guidance on outcome measure collection methods and endpoints in natural history studies of patients with neuromuscular and neurogenetic diagnoses. Dr. Harrington has received research funding from the Foundation for Physical Therapy, Orthopaedic and Pediatric Sections of the American Physical Therapy Association, and intramural pilot grants.
Acute Care Physical Therapy
Julie M. Skrzat, PT, DPT, PhD, CCS. Dr. Skrzat’s primary research agenda focuses on optimizing functional outcomes in patients who are critically ill, specifically patients with heart failure. In collaboration with colleagues at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, PA and Virginia Commonwealth University Health in Richmond, VA, she aims to use functional outcome measures to guide acute care interventions, assist in discharge planning, and reduce re-admission rates. Dr. Skrzat’s secondary research focus is on cardiovascular and pulmonary educational methods, including simulation, in the entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy curriculum.
Skeletal Muscle Morphology
Marty Eastlack, PT, Ph.D. Dr. Eastlack’s research investigates skeletal muscle morphology, a battery of muscle and physical performance measures that include lower extremity power testing, the sit-to-stand task, and temporospatial measures of gait. Dr. Eastlack uses a variety of techniques to study muscle morphology including muscle biopsies, MRI, spectroscopy and more recently ultrasound. She is interested in knowing if underlying body structure (muscle morphology) and function (lower extremity power) effect a person’s activity level (chair rise and walking) and whether the underlying body structures change as a result of targeted intervention and so result in changes in activity ability. She is currently working on projects that involve persons after hip fracture and she is collaborating with colleagues to describe the quality of movement in persons with Parkinson Disease.
The Impact of Lung Transplantation on Skeletal Muscle Quantity and Quality
Michael A. Tevald, PT, Ph.D. Dr. Tevald studies the impact of aging and chronic disease on skeletal muscle physiology and performance. The overall goal of his research is to identify impairments in muscle physiology that have the greatest impact on physical function in clinical populations, and develop novel intervention strategies to mitigate those impairments. Prior work focused on the age-related changes in muscle performance and energetics, and the role of skeletal muscle power in the decline in physical function associated with older adults and those with knee osteoarthritis. Dr. Tevald’s current focus is on the changes in skeletal muscle that accompany chronic lung disease and lung transplantation, in collaboration with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Tevald has received funding from the American Heart Association, the Foundation for Physical Therapy, and the Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Section of the American Physical Therapy Association.
Physical Therapy for People with Multiple Sclerosis
Evan T. Cohen, PT, MA, PhD, NCS has a clinical and research focus on maintaining and improving functional mobility in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). This includes quantifying the impact of subjective fatigue and objective fatigability on motor performance experienced by people with MS through the use of a combination of commonly used clinical measures and more advanced multi-modal measures. He attempts to examine interventions with high clinical utility, that is, they are inexpensive to deliver and can be implemented in the typical clinical environment. Two areas in which his research proved quite effective were in the use of interval training for walking rehabilitation, and in the use of maximal strength training to restore walking and balance function. Dr. Cohen has also explored the use of assistive devices during walking to improve functional mobility while minimizing the psychosocial impact often associated with their use. Finally, Dr. Cohen has worked on developing and publishing resources for use by front-line rehabilitation clinicians to assist them in providing the best possible care for their patients with MS. This includes materials recommending outcome measurements relevant to physical therapy practice and research and on evidence-based descriptions of practice to facilitate decision-making and problem-solving for clinicians working with the patient with MS.
Jessica S.B. Denniston PT, DPT, NCS is the Director of Student Experiential Learning, and coordinates and leads the International Service Learning (ISL) elective available to all second-year student physical therapists in Arcadia’s program. Her continuing education and research lies in the ethics and best practices in short-term international engagements, with the goal of facilitating global health equity.
The Advocacy for Global Health Partnerships (AGHP) published the Brocher Declaration in 2020 “to lay out six main principles that should guide ethical and appropriate [short-term experiences in global health] STEGH practices.” While the Declaration is now endorsed by signatories including educational institutions and other stakeholders, the question now turns to implementation and assessment of the principles. Dr. Denniston is currently using Arcadia’s ISL electives as case examples for implementation of the Brocher Declaration principles at both national and international conferences.
Kathleen Fortier, PT, DPT, MBA has focused her current research endeavors on enhancing the delivery of healthcare and ultimately improving patient outcomes. Two key projects are central to this pursuit:
Cost-Effectiveness of Telerehabilitation: Oneprimary research projects examines the cost-effectiveness of telerehabilitation in the context of healthcare delivery. Telerehabilitation is an emerging approach that leverages digital technologies to provide rehabilitation services remotely. Through this study, we aim to evaluate the efficiency and economic viability of telerehabilitation compared to traditional in-person rehabilitation methods. This involves assessing factors such as the net benefit (cost savings, avoided costs), patient satisfaction, and the effectiveness of remote rehabilitation interventions. By analyzing these data, we aim to provide insights into the economic and practical implications of integrating telerehabilitation into healthcare systems.
Social Determinants of Health and Physical Therapy Outcomes: We are investigating the influence of social determinants of health on physical therapy outcomes. This initiative recognizes that various social factors, such as income, education, race, and access to healthcare resources, can significantly impact an individual's health and their response to physical therapy interventions. Our research seeks to uncover the complex interplay between these social determinants and the effectiveness of physical therapy treatments. Additionally, our research seeks to explore the attitudes, beliefs, and prevalence of identifying social determinants of health within our patient’s plan of care. By identifying these connections, we aim to develop strategies and interventions that can mitigate disparities in healthcare outcomes, ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their socio-economic background, have equal access to and benefit from physical therapy services.
These two research projects collectively contribute to the overarching goal of advancing healthcare delivery by assessing the cost-effectiveness of innovative approaches like telerehabilitation and addressing disparities in healthcare outcomes linked to social determinants of health. Through these endeavors, we aim to inform evidence-based policies and practices that can ultimately lead to better patient experiences and improved healthcare outcomes.
PT Faculty Research at Arcadia University
Learn about the most recent research projects faculty have in progress for physical therapy.