Doctor of Physical Therapy program incorporates group research

Physical therapy

Students enrolled in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at YSU teach an exercise class for community members with limited mobility. Photo courtesy of the YSU Department of Physical Therapy.

Last semester, the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Youngstown State University began to use faculty-directed group research as part of the curriculum for second-year DPT students.

There are eight different research groups in the department.

Nancy Landgraff, chair of the physical therapy department, said these projects will give students hands-on experience in the field.

“This has some direction. It’s going to go somewhere,” she said.

Kenneth Learman, an associate professor of physical therapy, leads one of the projects, which investigates the differences in balancing ability between stroke patients and control patients who haven’t had a stroke.

Graduate student Alyson Ellis, one of the co-investigators, said the research group has already collected the data of stroke patients and is working on gathering the data of control patients.

“We can look at the data and see if there is any difference,” she said.

Ellis is working with other members of the department on a textbook of orthopedic cases, which will likely be published next year.

Landgraff, along with other faculty members and six students, is launching exercise programs for people with movement challenges.

“We’ve trained … exercise science students, [DPT] students and community physical therapists to offer these group classes for people that have nowhere to go,” she said. “When patients don’t move around, … they lose ground [mobility]. … So, this gives them a place to go to work out.”

If the projects are not finished by the semester’s end, they will be passed on to next year’s class.

Graduate student Meghan Teitz said these projects add a legacy to the program that will benefit both current and future students.

“They’ve done a lot of great work, and they work very closely with us to make sure … that momentum stays within the program,” she said.