Pivoting during a pandemic Q&A: Sara Maher

We asked physical therapy faculty members about how their lives at work and at home had been affected since the novel coronavirus was declared a pandemic in March 2020.

Health Care Sciences Chair and Associate Clinical Professor Sara Maher, DScPT, MPT, OMPT


Main mission:

To improve the health of people by providing high-quality educational opportunities to students and health professionals, and to advance knowledge through scholarship and research.Sara Maher

How the pandemic has affected that mission:

It is difficult to navigate and lead during these challenging times when the future remains uncertain. I have found many decisions must pass through multiple levels of authority and that process can be very slow.

A positive outcome of the pandemic:  

Rediscovering how enjoyable time at home can be. I have developed a schedule that includes daily yoga, walking more, and sitting outside and enjoying the garden. I think a change in routine is good for many of us, and reconnecting to those we love in new ways has been exciting.

A challenging aspect of the pandemic:  

Sharing the sadness with friends and coworkers who have lost a loved one due to this virus. The virus disproportionately impacts communities with less access to health care, many of whom have underlying medical conditions. In addition, many people could not work or were forced to work in jobs that could place them and their families at risk. Watching people disregard social distancing and CDC guidelines is frustrating when I have witnessed the impact of the disease on the friends and coworkers I care so deeply about.

Recent program or research advisee achievements:

Despite COVID-19, graduates of all programs in the health care sciences need to pass licensure in order to get into practice to improve the health of the individuals we serve. Many licensing examinations had to be shut down temporarily in March and April due to government regulations. As the Item Writer Trainer for the National Physical Therapy Licensing Examination, I held two workshops remotely in March and May to continue to develop examination questions for future physical therapists. If new questions are not continuously developed, the pipeline for examination content slows down, which can impact future examinations.

Recent personal achievement:

In June 2019, I finished all classes for my PhD in Educational Evaluation and Research. I finished data collection for my dissertation on February 27, 2020, just weeks before COVID-19 closed the university. My PhD is focused on creating an assessment tool to help identify noncognitive aspects of students applying to graduate health care professions. I believe looking beyond GRE and GPA can help broaden the diversity in our professions. A second reason for obtaining this PhD was to work with individuals across programs to help advance scholarship in faculty members in clinical tracks. One of the first successful outcomes of this collaboration occurred recently with faculty in the Physician Assistant Studies program. Lolar S, McQueen J, Maher S. Correlation between physician assistant students’ performance score of history taking and physical exam documentation and scores of graduate record examination, clinical year grade point average, and score of physician assistant national certifying exam in the United States. J Educ Eval Health Prof. 2020; 17: 16. Published online May 27, 2020. 

Take a look at how other faculty members responded to our Pivoting During a Pandemic Q&A.

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