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Researcher Spotlights

Jacque Bradford

Orli Weisser-Pike, OTD, OTR/L, CLVT, SCLV, CAPS

Tell us about yourself and what piqued your interest in your chosen field of research? 

I am an occupational therapist with an interest in vision and its impact on human occupation. Early in my career I focused on occupational therapy for adults and seniors with low vision, and started the first occupational therapy low vision rehabilitation clinic here in Memphis. I was fortunate to be recruited to the Hamilton Eye Institute, and through various twists and turns and a dose of good fortune ended up teaching full-time in the occupational therapy program in our college. In the past five years I have turned my attention to learning more about cortical or cerebral visual impairment (CVI) in children, which has more to do with the way the brain processes visual information. So in general, I have research questions related to the intersection of human occupation, the practice of occupational therapy, and vision.

What recent research project have you been working on that you’d like to share with us? 

A few years ago, Dr. Lauren Ditta from the Hamilton Eye Institute invited me on a scouting trip to Kansas to learn about CVI from one of the leading ophthalmologists in the nation. Dr. Ditta was developing a keen interest in CVI and so was I. We both felt strongly that we needed to do more for these children. Our mutual interest in this field led to increased collaboration. She started referring more children from her clinic at LeBonheur to me for occupational therapy evaluations. I needed to know which occupational therapy assessments could be used in evaluating children with CVI and there was little information from within my own profession. This led me to doing a systematic review of assessments of CVI that are within the scope of practice of OT. I am still in the process of the review process. My goal is to submit a manuscript by the end of the year.

Tell us about your role in this study/project?  

I am the primary author and investigator on this systematic review, since it was my question to begin with. I started the project with our previous health librarian, Leah Cordova, who has since left our institution. She helped me conduct the search. Thankfully, early on I was able to convince my mentor and now-retired colleague, Dr. Anita Mitchell, to help me with this study. She has been my anchor throughout the process. So even though I am the primary author, I couldn’t get through it without her knowledge and guidance. Earlier this year, I was able to present our initial findings at the World Federation of Occupational Therapy Congress, in Paris, France. This event takes place once every four years, so it was an honor to have our work selected for presentation at this prestigious event.

What do you want the public to know about your research? Why is your topic important?

CVI is thought to be the leading cause of visual impairment in children in the USA. CVI is perplexing, because it is not something that is visible to the onlooker. Many children can see but cannot organize, categorize, synthesize, and memorize what they are seeing. There are various degrees of severity of CVI. Sometimes, the difficulties that children have can look like negative behaviors. For example, children with CVI have difficulty looking at human faces and making eye contact. Most parents, educators, and even therapists may insist on the child making eye contact. They may interpret the lack of eye contact as disengagement, disinterest or lack of attention.  Parents may think that the child does not love them or does not want to listen to them. What they don’t realize is that the child cannot synthesize and interpret what they are seeing—for example, the meaning of the facial expressions, the movements of the mouth synchronized with what they are hearing, and the meaning of the words and possibly the hidden meanings being conveyed. I always recommend to parents that they allow their child to look away while they are talking. Ask the child to look at them during the pauses or silences. It’s also very important that parents talk to their children. Just because the child can see, does not mean that they understand what they are seeing. Descriptive, narrative language is essential to children who have any kind of visual impairment. It helps give them a way to think about and process their visual experiences.

What are the most interesting or surprising findings from your work so far? 

What is surprising to me is the lack of information about CVI within my profession. I’m also surprised at the lack of reliable and valid assessment tools for this population. Many of the instruments were developed in Europe and translated from one language to another without a validation study of the translated tool. I am learning a lot from Dr. Anita Mitchell about appraising studies and conducting a systematic review. It’s a lot of work.

What is your favorite part of your job? 

I love all aspects of my job. It keeps me on my toes. I enjoy my interactions with the students and I am energized by their youthful ways. I am humbled by my clinical work—I am one of a handful of occupational therapists who are trying to promote and expand this area of practice. Because of my limited clinical time—only two clinic days per month—parents often wait a long time before they get to see me, and they come from other states too. That is very humbling, and gives me the drive to excel at what I do. The most challenging part of my clinical practice is that I don’t get to see patients on a continuing basis. It’s not an ideal process but it’s better than nothing.

What do you like to do outside of your job? Do you have any personal hobbies or interests?

I enjoy running and I try to run all of the half marathons in and around Memphis. On mornings that I don’t run, I enjoy other forms of exercise. I also enjoy arts and crafts. A few years ago  I did a lot of sewing and beadwork.

Previous Spotlights

November 2022

Jacque Bradford

Jacque Bradford, PT, EdD, DPT, MS, CHSE

Tell us about yourself and what piqued your interest in your chosen field of research? 

Simply stated, I am a physical therapist educator. My training began when pursing my undergraduate degree at the University of Memphis with a concentration on exercise and sport science. I enjoyed learning and studying the complexities of the human body and the impact of exercise. My fascination with exercise and the human body enticed me to explore research in this area while obtaining a master’s degree in human movement science. From there I went on to PT school. Post-graduation, I served as a clinical instructor for physical therapist students. 

My experience serving as a clinical instructor introduced me to teaching. I deeply enjoyed working with student physical therapists and accepted a position in academia after 5 years of clinical practice. I had become comfortable teaching in the clinical setting as a physical therapist; however, I did not feel confident in my ability to teach effectively in the academic setting. I quickly enrolled in a doctoral program in instruction and curriculum leadership with a concentration in instructional design and technology. My EdD experience transformed me into who I identify as now, a physical therapist educator who enjoys the scholarship of teaching and learning. I am interested in education-based research topics such as simulation-based instruction, student learning outcomes, and faculty development. 

What recent research project have you been working on that you’d like to share with us? 

I recently completed a large research project with a group of astounding colleagues on defining simulation practices in physical therapist education in the U.S. supported by the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT). Our research examined the current practice of simulation in PT education programs and provided recommendations for excellence in simulation in physical therapy curricula. We conducted an expansive review of literature, deployed surveys to collect data on current practices of simulation, and developed recommendations to optimize the delivery of simulation-based education in physical therapist education.

What do you want the public to know about your research? Why is your topic important?

Great question! Simulation is an instructional strategy used to engage students in experiential learning experiences that are similar to experiences in the real clinical environment. The integration of simulation-based instruction in physical therapy education is becoming more common for multiple reasons; however, it is uncertain if simulation-based instruction is being delivered effectively in PT programs. Ineffective simulation-based instruction can result in deleterious effects on students, including not achieving the intended learning outcomes and the feeling of shame, embarrassment, humiliation, disengagement, and more. Our research serves to clarify the essential elements required to optimize the delivery of simulation-based education in physical therapy following simulation and education best practices, and recommends specific actions needed to address the many continued questions related to the effective use of simulation-based education in physical therapist education. 

What are the most interesting or surprising findings from your work so far? 

Based on our research study survey results, we found several interesting findings that informed the current practice of simulation in PT program curricula. Our data revealed that not all PT faculty who used simulation in their instruction followed published simulation best practices which could negatively impact the intended student outcomes. Our data also indicated that PT faculty completed little to no simulation training prior to incorporating simulation into their courses and of the training that faculty did complete, the majority was through their university or was self-taught. PT faculty responded that they predominately use simulation in their instruction to improve clinical decision-making or reasoning skills, self-efficacy, knowledge, and/or to participate in interprofessional activities with other healthcare professional students. 

Our scoping review of the literature highlighted that of the 133 research articles identified in PT literature using simulation in the study design, the majority measured outcomes related to the lower two levels of Kirkpatrick levels of evaluation: reactions and knowledge. Kirkpatrick levels of evaluation range from low to high impact with the higher two levels, behavior and results, measuring whether the participants were truly impacted by the instruction (behavior) or the results were directly measured (results). The result of the scoping review informed us that there is a need for more research studies measuring higher Kirkpatrick levels to advance robust simulation practice in physical therapist education.

What is your favorite part of your job? 

I’ll be honest, my favorite part of my job is working with our incredible PT students and witnessing their rapid transformation from their first day in the program to becoming licensed physical therapists serving patients in our community. I learn so much from our students daily, whether it be hearing the curious, deep questions they ask as we move through their instructional content or observing the passion they exhibit through student debates on current controversial topics in the physical therapy profession. I enjoy working with our students and encouraging their advocacy for our PT profession and for our patients. It is through evidence-based research that excellence in our practice is defined and supported, and through evidence-based literature that our students learn to justify their clinical decisions and treatment rationales in effort to provide quality care to patients. Research defines how we practice in our profession and also how we can effectively teach our future generation of physical therapists. I am proud to be a part of the educational process for our profession. 

What do you like to do outside of your job? Do you have any personal hobbies or interests?

Outside of work, I like to stay active. Keeping active and exercising not only supports the health and well-being of our bodies, but it also supports our mind, attitude, and mood. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, attending my children’s sporting activities, throwing the Frisbee with my dog, Vader, lifting weights, cooking, and traveling. One of my newest hobbies is joining our UTHSC Office of Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity Book Club.

October 2022

Erinn Finke

Erinn Finke, PhD, CCC-SLP

How did you become interested in social and friendship interventions?

Before attending Penn State for my Ph.D. program, I worked as a speech-language pathologist in a school context. During this time, I learned how important it is to families that their autistic children have a solid, reliable, and strong social network that includes “real” friends. I also began to realize that teaching social skills was good, but it most definitely was not enough to meet this goal. As a doctoral student, I began to think about the characteristics of a desirable play partner. At the time I thought peer-mediated interventions involving autistic and non-autistic children would be the best solution, which is the perspective from which I designed my dissertation project. Over time, my thinking about friendships and social interventions has evolved, and my current line of thinking has resulted in a proposed reconceptualization of how we think about friendship-based outcomes (Finke, 2016).

In this paper I proposed several factors that seem likely to offer the most optimal context for autistic children to make friends. Specifically, I believe we need to seek contexts for friendship formation in which the autistic children and their peers can obtain equal status, engage in a mutually motivating authentic activity or interest, and have repeated opportunities to interact positively with each other. Since writing this paper in 2016 I have collected new data from autistic and non-autistic young adults asking about their friendship preferences and how they want to be as a friend. The outcomes of these studies showed that though there are some differences in the preferences and practices of autistic and non-autistic people at the group level, these are not absolute and congruence in preferences and practices is really the primary factor that will support friendship formation and maintenance.

What recent research project have you been working on that you’d like to share with us?

I have several ongoing research projects in my lab related to autistic friendship. All of them are collaborations with scholars in other universities or with autistic people themselves. One project that I am finding fascinating is investigating the experience of authentic autistic friendships from the perspective of the people within the friendship. My research collaborator and I are interviewing autistic friends and asking about how they became friends and what they do to maintain their friendship over time. We also ask them about hypothetical situations and potential friendship barriers. During these interviews the friends collectively provide responses to how they would overcome those challenges in their friendship to keep the friendship going over the long term. We have interviewed dyads who have been friends for years as well as new friends and the responses have been so illuminating. There is so much joy in friendship and it is exciting to witness flourishing autistic friendships. We are excited to be able to publish the results and share these experiences with people all over the world.

I am also interested in learning more about contexts that support friendship formation, especially at critical developmental junctures, like the beginning of middle school. Building on the principles advocated in my 2016 paper, I am currently working on a team of researchers from Boston University and James Madison University to establish after school video game clubs at middle schools as a method for creating opportunities for kids with a shared interest in video games to come together to potentially develop connections and friendships. The after-school programs will be initially opened to a set number of autistic and non-autistic 6th graders in all three locations (MA, VA, and TN) as a pilot. Based on the results of the pilot, the program will eventually be expanded for all middle school students who would be interested in the club. The intent is to provide a place where autistic and non-autistic tweens can be their authentic selves and feel a sense of belonging, and hopefully establish new friendships.

Tell us about your role in the project.

I am a lead investigator for both projects and have primary responsibility for the conceptualization, development, and execution at every stage of the research process.

What do you want the public to know about your research? Why is your topic important?

Ask anyone, whether they have a disability or not, what makes their life good and one of the top things they will say is their friendships. We all want to belong to other people; it is core to the human experience. This is no different for autistic people than for anyone else.

For years autistic people have been telling researchers for years about their experiences making and maintaining friendships (e.g., Daniels and Billingsley, 2010; Vine Foggo and Webster, 2017). The challenges in making and maintaining friendships appear to be different for boys and girls. Autistic boys have reported it is difficult for them to choose a potential friend candidate and make initial advances to establish new friendships (Daniels  and Billingsley, 2010). Autistic girls report social interaction is important to them, but difficult because they often feel the need to mask their autistic characteristics to fit in. They have reported they find it exhausting to constantly remain neutral to avoid conflict with their friends because conflict could result in friendship termination (Vine Foggo and Webster, 2017).

Where I am with my thinking about this area of research right now is that instead of focusing on the social deficits of autistics, and the skills they need to learn in interventions, we should focus on the friendship preferences and practices of autistics. In this way, the focus is directed at how autistics want to conduct their friendships and behave as friends rather than on the differences in the ways autistics think and behave compared to their non-autistic peers. Using this perspective, the focus becomes understanding more about what each autistic person wants for themselves and less about helping the autistic person fit into non-autistic norms and practices for friendship

What are the most interesting findings from your work so far?

We know that autistic people want to have friends. Most autistics have reported they have at least one friend (Mendelson et al., 2016), and many have reported a desire for even more friendships than they currently have (Finke, McCarthy and Sarver, 2019). One potential explanation for why autistic people are not satisfied with their current friendship outcomes is emerging evidence of a lack of congruence in the friendship preferences and practices between autistic and non-autistic people (Finke, et al., 2019; Finke, 2022).

Congruence, that is, similarities in perspectives and beliefs particularly with respect to how to be a friend and act in a friendship, is important to friendship intensity and longevity. Research (Finke, et al., 2019; Finke, 2022) has demonstrated that autistic people want to have friends, they want to have more than one friend, they have preferences about how those friendships be constructed, and how they want to act as a friend. Autistic people report they would generally prefer less physical and emotional closeness in their relationships. Autistics also report a preference for being friends with people who share similar interests, that is, with people with whom they would have things to do. Autistics have stated they do not overall value having deep conversations or structuring interactions around talking.

This research offers a potential explanation for the higher proportion of autistics who report being friends or wanting to be friends with other autistics (e.g., Bauminger and Shulman, 2003; Cook et al., 2018). Autistic young adults have a higher likelihood of having congruent perspectives and preferences in friendships with other autistics than with their non-autistic peers. This information can be extremely helpful in guiding SLPs, teachers, parents, and others involved in the daily lives of autistic people in creating opportunities for interactions with others on the spectrum.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Getting to be creative and think of new projects to move the field forward. Thinking about questions to answer and how my work can support autistic people in having the lives they want. Trying to figure out how my work can show the world that autistic people can and should make decisions for themselves, especially with respect to how they construct their social lives and relationships.

What do you like to do outside of the lab? Do you have any personal hobbies or interests?

Yes, definitely! I have a lot going on in my personal life that does not involve my job. I have a family and busy kids who are in the thick of growing up and becoming the people they are intended to be. I love supporting them in pursuing their passions and interests. Most weekends you can find me cheering at a swim meet or a hockey game. I also enjoy reading novels and crocheting. I am a creator at heart, so I am interested in all things artistic and creative.

September 2022
Jacen MooreJacen Moore, PhD, MA, MT (ASCP)

Tell us about yourself and what piqued your interest in your chosen field of research? 

I have been interested in clinical science from a very young age.  My life experiences with family and friends drove my specific interest in human Immunology and Autoimmune diseases. One of my Grandparents, who passed away young from complications pertaining to Rheumatoid Arthritis, and a high school friend who passed away due to renal failure caused by childhood Systemic Lupus Erythematosus motivated me to better understand the pathogenic mechanisms of autoimmunity and to identify ways to diagnose and treat autoimmune diseases. Much of my experience prior to coming to UTHSC focused on bench research in these areas.  It wasn’t until after I spent time on the clinical bench as a transplant technologist and a number of years as a faculty member in Medical Lab Science Programs that I became passionate about promoting our field and creating pathways for high school students to learn about and pursue careers in lab science to make a greater impact in public health. That is what led me to my current research focus, which is creating training programs for high school teachers and students in rural areas that are focused on educating these populations about lab and data science careers, and to encourage high school students to consider these lesser known health care careers as long term professional options.  

What recent research project have you been working on that you’d like to share with us? 

Drs. Reynolds, Burnett, and I recently received a $1.3 million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health SEPA program to create an educational program in Rural West Tennessee promoting lab and data science careers. To accomplish this, we proposed to create dual enrollment and summer programs providing lab and data science curricula to high school students and professional development offerings to teachers exploring these fields. We are extremely excited about this program, called High School to Health Care (HS2HC). We believe that it will provide a mechanism for rural high school teachers and students to learn about our professions, have an opportunity to explore what these professions have to offer, and for us as faculty to go out into the community and promote UTHSC and lab and data science.  This project also gives us a chance to establish connections and working relationships with peer institutions in the State of Tennessee, as we have established collaborations with staff and faculty from the University of Tennessee at Martin, the extension Centers at Ripley and Selmer and with staff at the University of Memphis. 

Tell us about your role in this study/project?

I am the principal investigator and program director on the project. My role involves being a leader on the project, working with other key personnel, collaborators, and institutions to accomplish our overarching goal of introducing lab and data science professions to Rural West Tennessee high schools and promoting these health professions as valuable and crucial members of the health care team. Not only will I be responsible for working with my team to design the program, developing and delivering curricula, but I will also be involved in recruiting students and teachers, community outreach, and dissemination of the work that we do. 

What do you want the public to know about your research? Why is your topic important?

Lab and data sciences are two of the fastest growing professions in the health field.  We need to find new and innovative ways to promote and educate students and the public about our fields to meet the increasing demand. Grants and programs like ours are one critical way that we can do our part to address the shortage of qualified lab and data science professionals and create a pipeline of students that may enter the lab and data science professions. Furthermore, we hope that our community outreach can improve health literacy in rural areas of West Tennessee and beyond.

What are the most interesting or surprising findings from your work so far? 

We have just gotten started on our project and received funding, so we are very excited to get the project moving forward. This fall, we are offering our Dual Enrollment program Introducing Lab and Data Science to High School students enrolled for college credit for the first time online at the University of Tennessee at Martin.  We were extremely pleased that we had four students enroll for our first course!

What is your favorite part of your job?

I believe that the best part of my job is working face to face with the students. I love being able to work with them hands-on in the lab and to see them achieve that moment of understanding when they are working on a technique or problem in the classroom. I also really enjoy working with students to get their technical writing assignments published. Recently, I was able to get an article pertaining to COVID-induced coagulopathy published with one of our recent MLS graduates.  Seeing the impact on students of getting their work published in peer-reviewed journals is priceless and is definitely one of the best parts of this job. 

What is the most challenging part of your job?

I think the most challenging part of my job is spending so much time behind a computer screen.  I really enjoy the time spent in the laboratory face-to-face with our students. What makes the time behind the computer tenable for me is that I realize how important it is to work hard to develop cutting edge curricula that we can share with our students so they can provide quality health care for our communities upon graduation.  

What do you like to do outside of the lab? Do you have any personal hobbies or interests?

I am particularly interested in medieval history, medicine, and crafts and I love reading about and watching documentaries discussing Tudor history and aspects of medieval life and times.  I am a huge fan of English historians Lucy Worsley and Susannah Lipscomb and follow many of the documentaries they have produced about the Royal palaces, courts, and historic English royalty like Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.  I enjoy working with my hands and like to be creative doing activities like leatherwork, making jewelry, creating and binding homemade books, and cooking.  I also enjoy traveling when I can and I am an avid Walt Disney World fan.  

August 2022
Dr. Woods

Tell us about yourself and what piqued your interest in your chosen field of research? 

I am an occupational therapist with a history of working in inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation as well as the public school system. My doctorate is in Educational Psychology. I am interested in a variety of areas of research including resilience and coping, traumatic brain injury, pediatrics, and teaching and learning. 

What recent research project have you been working on that you’d like to share with us? 

I am currently the primary investigator in a project looking at ways to better engage students when teaching theory. In the past couple of years, I have co-authored  several  articles in multiple peer reviewed publications. My article in the Journal of Occupation Therapy Education related to epistemic and ontological cognition in occupational therapy students during their didactic and fieldwork experiences. 

Additionally, I published two articles in the Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools and Early Intervention. The most recent was related to parental perceptions of barriers to implementation of tummy time with infants. The other article looked at parent perception of competence related to school preparation for the children after participation in a brief kindergarten readiness workshop. 

 What do you want the public to know about your research? Why is your topic important?

I love learning and want to be the best instructor I can possible be to my students. I also feel that it is important to continue to develop my skills as a researcher. I would like to contribute to evidence to base the field of occupational therapy while also exploring best practices for educating future practitioners.

What are the most interesting or surprising findings from your work so far? 

This is a difficult question to answer because my research topics have all been so different. I think the most interesting findings would be the factors that positively impact the resilience of caregivers and individuals with traumatic brain injury because I can see the connection between factors that foster resilience to individuals dealing with struggles in all walks of life. It is helpful for me to keep in mind when working with students from various backgrounds and when teaching them to work with clients who have experienced loss and trauma.

What is your favorite part of your job? 

My favorite part of my job is having the space to explore my interests while sharing my knowledge with future practitioners. 

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job has been finding the time and space to collaborate with professionals in other colleges. I feel this is because I began working at UTHSC in April 2020.

What do you like to do outside of the lab? Do you have any personal hobbies or interests?

When I am not completing tasks for work, I enjoy riding my bike, kayaking, seeing live music, cooking, and making mosaics. 

July 2022

Blakey Rafferty

Blake Rafferty

PhD Student in Speech and Hearing Science

This month we sharing profiles on a few of our amazing PhD students and their current research studies.

Tell us about yourself and what piqued your interest in your chosen field of research? 

I’m a fifth year PhD student in Speech & Hearing Science. My research uses EEG to study how the human brain represents linguistic information during language comprehension. Recently, I’ve focused this work on investigating how these processes are disrupted in individuals with post-stroke aphasia. 

I first got interested in studying language in general during my undergraduate degree in anthropology. My advisor was one of just a handful of Americans who spoke the language of this tiny nomadic people group in northern Mongolia, and his stories always emphasized how people around the world can use language to conceptualize their experiences in wildly different ways. I basically flipped that idea around and applied it to studying communication disorders in grad school, with the goal being that the research I do might help to rehabilitate someone who has lost their ability to communicate those central parts of themselves and their experiences.

What recent research project have you been working on that you’d like to share with us? 

I’ve recently been developing my dissertation project, where I’m hoping to record the brain activity of individuals with aphasia and to investigate how it relates to their ability to understand grammatically complex sentences, which are generally quite difficult for them. It’s a really neat project because the analysis I’m hoping to use should allow me to evaluate several of the major competing theories for aphasic comprehension simultaneously, which hasn’t been done before using a time-sensitive neuroimaging measure like EEG.

Tell us about your role in this study/project?  

Since it’s my dissertation work, I’ve been leading all aspects of the project’s theoretical conceptualization and design, with a lot of helpful input of my academic committee as well. I’ve also been collaborating with some great speech-pathologists to develop some practical long-term goals for the project to keep it clinically grounded.

What do you want the public to know about your research? Why is your topic important?

My area of research is important because it increases understandings of the functional causes underlying the difficulties experienced by people with aphasia. My hope is that future work will be able to take my findings and use them to develop better-focused treatment approaches for language rehabilitation for these individuals.

What are the most interesting or surprising findings from your work so far?

From my work with healthy adults, I have found that the brain seems to build up sentences incrementally, based on whatever information is available in the speech input at a given time, even if the initial representation is somewhat inconsistent with the way the sentence should eventually be interpreted when it’s finished. If my interpretations are correct, this is an intuitive way for language to work, since speech input is really fast but is still encountered one word at a time. This finding was somewhat surprising though, because it is not entirely consistent with many traditional theories for how language processing works.

What is your favorite part of your job? 

I love data collection and analysis, and I love working with others to conceptualize/design experiments. Getting to do those things within a healthcare setting, where everyone’s goal is to help people is fun and rewarding.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Writing is tough. EEG data analysis can also get complicated quickly because there are many, many data points.

What do you like to do outside of the lab? Do you have any personal hobbies or interests?

My wife and I try to travel any time there is a break from school. I also really enjoy trail-running and playing guitar. Both are really cognitively engaging for me, which is great because I can be fully, mentally present in something that is totally separate from my research. It’s great for giving my brain a break and helping me check back into life outside of the lab. 

 


Genevive Lambert

Genevieve Lambert

PhD students in Integrated Biomedical Sciences

Tell us about yourself and what piqued your interest in your chosen field of research? 

My name is Genevieve Lambert, and I am a second-year student in the Integrated Biomedical Sciences PhD program, more specifically in the Rehabilitation and Regenerative Sciences track. I received my bachelor degree from the University of Montreal (Canada) in Kinesiology and my master degree from McGill University (Canada) in Experimental Surgery. 

Over the past 5 years, I have worked in clinical research with pediatric cancer patients and survivors, and with adult cancer patients. The projects I worked on were prehabilitation and rehabilitation interventions designed to improve functional and physiological health in patients and survivors.

My vocation in the field of pediatric oncology research is inspired by a childhood friend that battled Ewing sarcoma. However, my passion for research has been cultivated by many encounters with great researchers that have mentored me, in addition to every patient I had the chance to work with.

Therefore, I will be doing my thesis in the field of childhood cancer under the supervision of Dr. Kirsten Ness. My topic of interest is immune function in childhood cancer survivors and its impact on recurring infection and inflammation.

What recent research project have you been working on that you’d like to share with us? 

Lately I have been working on a systematic literature review on the topic of: “Infection and Immune Functions in Childhood Cancer Survivors”. This project aims to review and summarize the literature describing infection and immune function in childhood cancer survivors.

Tell us about your role in this study/project?  

With the support of Dr. Kirsten Ness and Dr. Chelsea Goodenough at St Jude Hospital, I have created a protocol for a systematic literature review and have started the process for registration.

What is your favorite part of your job? 

My favorite part of doing research is doing the statistical analyses and getting the results. I think that part of the research process feels like assembling the pieces of a puzzle and seeing the image come together. 

What do you like to do outside of the lab? Do you have any personal hobbies or interests?

In my free time, I like to play with my dog, do arts and crafts and physical activities. 

June 2022
LaToya Green

Tell us about yourself and what piqued your interest in your chosen field of research?

I am LaToya Green, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy. I received the following degrees: BA in Psychology from Tougaloo College (1994); Master of Physical Therapy from Arkansas State University (2004); Doctor of Physical Therapy from Arkansas State University (2015); and Doctor of Education in Higher Education from Union University (2019). I practiced in the outpatient physical therapy clinics at Baptist Desoto for 10 years. While at Baptist Desoto, I was a clinical instructor for nine years. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching and transitioned to academia full time in 2015. I began my career in academia as an Assistant Professor in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Arkansas State University. In 2019, I became the Director of Clinical Education at Arkansas State University. I joined UTHSC in August 2021.

I am active in educational and clinical research. My curiosity in educational research was piqued when I began pursuing my doctoral degree in higher education. My interest in clinical research (blood flow restriction) was ignited by one of my mentors, Dr. Roy L. Aldridge, and other clinical research interests (prosthetics, orthotics myofascial release, etc.) were sparked by courses I taught at Arkansas State University. 

What recent research project have you been working on that you’d like to share with us? 

With regards to educational research, I am currently working with colleagues at Arkansas State on a Socratic method approach for increasing and maintaining safe spaces to develop cultural intelligence and cultural competency within Athletic Training, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy programs. With regards to clinical research, I am currently assisting colleagues at Arkansas State with a study on blood flow restriction BFR) and myofascial release (MFR). The purpose of this study is to assess strength gains of the pectoralis major muscle in the non-dominant upper extremity after implementing BFR and MFR. I am also assisting Dr. Phyllis Ritchie with the Powered Ankle-Foot Orthosis PAFO) study to determine if exchanging a typically prescribed Ankle-Foot Orthosis AFO) for a PAFO will provide a suitable alternative and improve functional performance, ambulatory ability, safety and quality of life for veterans using AFOs. 

Tell us about your role in this study/project?  

I am a co-PI in the educational research study and BFR and MFR study. I am the Evaluation Physical Therapist in the PAFO study.

What do you want the public to know about your research? Why is your topic important?

From the educational research perspective, I would like health care educators to realize that it is vital that difficult topics, such as cultural competence, are introduced in the classroom so that students are better equipped to understand and address situations presented by a diverse patient population. From the clinical research aspect, I would like the public to know that BFR is a treatment option for certain candidates to gain strength in the upper and lower body without overloading and overstressing the joints. 

The traditional Ankle Foot Orthosis AFO), often prescribed for people who have lower-limb impairment resulting foot drop, has not had any major innovation for over 30 years. That type of orthotic brace generally prescribed for foot drop holds the ankle in a relatively fixed position when a step is taken, which alters the normal walking pattern, throwing off balance and increasing the risk of falling, compared to those without foot drop. The innovative design of a Powered Ankle Foot Orthosis PAFO) allows the affected ankle to move, both lifting the toe and providing push-off as steps are taken.

We are interested in seeing if we can not only improve the quality of movement, but also bring about meaningful changes in overall patient function through the use of technology that is often not available to patients suffering from foot drop.  Additionally, in terms of positively impacting long-term quality of life for foot drop patients, we are interested to know if a device like a Powered Ankle Foot Orthosis PAFO) could actually improve long-term function, and potentially carry over to when the device is not being worn.

What are the most interesting or surprising findings from your work so far? 

Although the educational study has not been implemented, it has been quite challenging for me to design a Socratic method approach for increasing and maintaining safe spaces to develop cultural intelligence and cultural competency.

What is your favorite part of your job? 

The favorite part of my job is implementing the research.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Recruiting subjects is the most challenging part of the job.

What do you like to do outside of the lab? Do you have any personal hobbies or interests?

I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

May 2022
madlock brown

This month's Researcher Spotlight is feature Charisse Madlock-Brown, PhD, MLS. Dr. Brown has been a faculty member at the UTHSC College of Health Professions Health Informatics and Health Information Management since early 2015. She received her Master’s in Library Science and Ph.D. in Health Informatics from the University of Iowa. She has expertise in data management, data mining, and visualization. She has a broad background in health informatics, and has has authored several book chapters and journal articles.

 What recent research project have you been working on that you would like to share with us?

I have a couple of different projects I have been working on, but recently I have been working with the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C). The N3C is a partnership among the National Center for Data to Health and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences supported Clinical and Translational Science Awards CTSA) Program hubs. The idea for it is to create a large scale repository of millions of patient records from institutions all over the country. It's also a collaborative platform, which makes it so much easier for researchers. Even if you a researcher doesn't have a lot of resources, or you can still access the data and contribute be a part of research teams.  
  
Tell us about your role in this study/project?  

As part of the N3C project, I am the co-lead for the Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) team. The team’s goal is to identify questions that either validate current research or answer new questions for local policy around COVID-19, the impact of groups experiencing resource challenges, and the impact of the pandemic on inequalities. I've been the team co-lead for the past two years.

 What is something interesting or surprising from your long COVID research so far?  

Eventually, the idea is to characterize the subtypes of long Covid that health care providers should expect to see in their clinics. So far, the data has revealed at several clusters of co-occurring diagnosis in long-Covid patients, including cardiopulmonary, neurologic, and metabolic diseases. It is all still preliminary, but we are seeing these kind of patterns emerged that were very much in line with what many of our long COVID clinicians were seeing and this review of the data is helping us validate this. 

We have been able to see some patterns emerging from the data. Different things like the  65+ age group presented with diseases associated with aging like heart failure and atrial fibrillation, and then for the youngest group, there's a multi-system inflammatory syndrome. All of this data gives us much more to explore. 
 

 

April 2022
paek

Tell us about yourself and what piqued your interest in your chosen field of research?  

My name is Eun Jin Paek and I am currently in my fifth year of being an Assistant Professor in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology. My research focuses on acquired neurogenic language disorders including neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, primary progressive aphasia, and post-stroke aphasia. When I majored in Linguistics during undergrad, I took a course on Speech Pathology and was fascinated by the fact that brain disorders can affect language processes so substantially. I chose Speech Language Pathology for my graduate study and was incredibly lucky to land a job as a Speech Language Pathologist in university hospitals. Here, I had the opportunity to evaluate and treat thousands of patients with neurological disorders in all stages. In addition to this, I had personal experience seeing family members with dementia, which further drew me to dementia research. Today, I am using fMRI scans to help identify neural and behavioral characteristics of dementia and aphasia and find management strategies to help patients cope with these conditions.  
 
What recent research project have you been working on that you would like to share with us?

For my most recent project, I am investigating social communication abilities in people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. I am studying how people with dementia communicate with different partners (familiar people and strangers) and how they use their language in various contexts over time. There is limited research on what people with dementia can and cannot do in terms of social communication, so this project will hopefully shed light on how we could better communicate with dementia patients. I was fortunate to be funded by the National Institute on Aging for this study and have begun to collect data on cognitive, linguistic, and gestural characteristics of social communication in this population. After a bit of a delay due to the pandemic, I am excited to start data collection on this important topic.  
  
Tell us about your role in this study/project?  

I am the principal investigator of this project, and I’m responsible for every aspect of it. I have worked on conceptualizing, designing, and conducting the study protocol. I also work with research assistants to train and supervise them. As principal investigator, I will also analyze and disseminate the results. 
 
What do you want the public to know about your research? Why is your topic important? 

Social communication is one of the most important aspects to study for early detection and management of dementia. This is because people with dementia begin showing subtle cognitive and linguistic changes decades before their formal diagnosis. Social communication is so complicated, but we believe we have the power to detect whether someone will develop dementia or not by looking at their social communication abilities closely. Also, social communication needs to be managed and optimized efficiently in this population as they will gradually lose their independence and will need to rely on their care partners in the later stages of their disease. Unfortunately, our society has seldom focused on developing management strategies for communication in this population.  
 
When somebody is diagnosed with dementia, people tend to see only those negative and scary aspects of dementia – losing memory or cognition, and no longer being the person that they used to be. However, there can be hopeful moments in the battle too. There is accumulating research suggesting that people with dementia may not only maintain, but also improve, their linguistic and cognitive abilities with cognitive and linguistic treatment. People with Alzheimer’s disease can delay their disease progression if they were given the right type and amount of stimulation, support, and care. There are so many factors that impact their disease manifestation and how they will live with their diagnosis.  
 
Science has been evolving around how Alzheimer’s disease and related pathologies develop and interact to cause dementia, but my ultimate goal is to investigate how we can detect and treat the symptoms before they appear and to determine personal, neural, cognitive, and linguistic factors that affect disease manifestation.  
 
What are the most interesting or surprising findings from your work so far?  

I find it remarkably interesting that there is so much individual variability and heterogeneity in this population. With the same diagnosis and severity, and similar general (global) cognition scores, some people show excellent social communication skills while others do not. How could people function at such various levels with the same amount of neuropathology, which hypothetically causes brain dysfunction?  
 
We have so much to learn. It is well known that about 40% of older adults in their 90s have Alzheimer’s disease in their brain, but do not show dementia symptoms. This is where I want to focus my research. By studying the differences between those who maintain their cognitive and linguistic functions and those who develop symptoms of dementia, I hope to uncover ways to help prevent dementia in people of all ages.  
 
What is your favorite part of your job? 

What I love the most is the collegial interactions with people that I work with. I love to work with my colleagues who are so inspirational, intelligent, and kind. As a junior faculty member, there is so much to learn from my colleagues and staff, and I genuinely enjoy learning everything here. I also equally enjoy interacting with students who are so brilliant, inquisitive, and good-hearted. Listening to the questions and thoughts of students when they are learning something is so fun because they bring fresh perspectives. I love to hear those thoughts from outside the box. I am learning so much from everybody around me in my work, and I am so blessed as I feel grateful every day doing my job.  
 
What is the most challenging part of your job? 

The most challenging part is also a favorite part of my job -- pushing myself to grow. I always try to learn new information and skills and like to participate in various workshops and seminars to keep up with the new knowledge and findings in my field. As you can imagine, there is no end to this activity and it is sometimes overwhelming, but I also love it so much. Also, I challenge myself to grow by continuously participating in competitions, such as writing grant applications. It requires so much time and energy, but at the same time I get to find myself improving a lot after each opportunity, and the feelings of achievement (when I was done with all the writing or when I was awarded grants) cannot be exchanged with anything else in my work.  
 
What do you like to do outside of the lab? Do you have any personal hobbies or interests? 

I am a mama bear with a 5-year-old boy, and my family is quite child-centered, so I currently don’t really have any hobbies. I'm sure some parents might be able to relate to that. Before my son was born, I really loved to travel and experience new places, people, and diverse cultures  (e.g., India, Egypt, Thailand, Japan, Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia). I look forward to having more trips with my family when we are ready, and this pandemic is over. Other than traveling, I absolutely love spending time with my family, going to the beautiful state and national parks around us, hiking, and visiting museums, zoos, and aquariums. You might also find our family dining at well-known, and hidden, restaurants in and around Knoxville because I love eating and trying new food is a big part of the pleasure in my life! 

March 2022
Jerry Williams

Tell us about yourself and what first interested you in your chosen field of research? 

My name is Lee Williams. I graduated from UTHSC in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy. I received my doctorate from Quinnipiac University in 2017. During my 25+ years of clinical practice I have been fascinated by the evolution of evidence-based practice related to stroke. Despite the prevalence of stroke there is little solid evidence regarding best practice for management of symptoms. There is also a lack of research into intervention efficacy. My goal as a researcher is to attempt to fill this gap with solid evidence supporting best practice. 

Is there a recent research project have you been working on that you’d like to share with us? 

I am currently involved in an AOTF (American Occupational Therapy Foundation) supported study examining the access to and effectiveness of occupational therapy in home health stroke rehab in Tennessee Medicaid patients. We are looking at SDOH as well as differences in treatment provided in rural versus urban areas. 

My role in this study has included providing background information on practice interventions used, identifying ICD-10 codes for the study, selecting relevant CPT codes indicating OT involvement in the POC of clients, performing literature review and drafting a preliminary scoping review of the topic. 

What would you like the public to know about your research and why it is important? 

It is vital that we identify intervention strategies that result in the best outcomes for our clients. As the number of older adults continues to increase, there is increased burden on the healthcare system to maximize benefit to clients to reduce long term illness and disability.Payorss need to understand which services are most efficacious and cost effective in order to stay competitive and to reduce expense associated with stroke.

What are the most interesting or surprising findings from your work so far? 

One thing I have found interesting is how little communication occurs between healthcare providers in different practice settings. Although stroke survivors often receive care in multiple clinical setting, these providers have little contact with one another resulting in duplication of services and poorer outcomes.

What do you like to do outside of the lab? Do you have any personal hobbies or interests?

I love the outdoors! I enjoy camping, travel, riding ATVs, shooting guns, and doing gardening and landscaping. I also enjoy volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and the Memphis Union Mission. 

Dec 6, 2022