Inaugural Health Sciences Division Clinical Awards support four faculty research projects

The WSU Applebaum Office of the Associate Dean for Health Sciences has announced the recipients of the 2021-22 Health Sciences Division (HSD) Clinical Awards, a new program designed to promote research activities for health sciences faculty, particularly those early in their research careers.

Assistant professors Kimberly Banfill, Jennifer Dickson, Martha Schiller and MaryAnne Stewart were selected to receive funding for their research projects, described below. 

“I’m so pleased to advance our college’s commitment to new health sciences research through these awards,” said Diane Adamo, WSU Applebaum director of research, interim chair of the Department of Health Care Sciences and associate professor of physical therapy. “Giving faculty a financial boost to get their ideas off the ground will pay off in the long term as they continue to pursue innovative and impactful projects over the course of their careers.”

Kimberly Banfill
Kimberly Banfill

Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy and Academic Fieldwork Coordinator Kimberly Banfill aims to move the needle on insurance coverage of sensory integration therapy (SIT) for children with sensory processing disorders (SPD).

Pediatric occupational therapists commonly use sensory integration approaches in treatment of atypically developing children, however there is currently little data to verify its effectiveness on psychological functioning and mental health. For this reason – and because the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) does not recognize SPD as a diagnosis ­– therapy focused on sensory integration is often not covered by medical insurance as a reimbursable benefit. If researchers can prove that SIT can improve the outcomes of children with SPD, it could demonstrate to policymakers that this intervention is worth paying for, expanding access to this valuable treatment.

Using retrospective data from a local clinic that has invested in the systematic training of its therapists in the provision of evidence-based Ayres Sensory Integration® (ASI) with standardized outcome measures, Banfill’s study will inform pediatric occupational therapists on the value of using standardized tools and interventions to better measure the effectiveness of the SIT treatments they provide.

Banfill hopes her study will both improve treatment standards and provide the empirical evidence required to justify the need for SIT to improve sensory regulation, psychosocial functioning and well-being of such atypically developing children.

Jennifer Dickson
Jennifer Dickson

Assistant Clinical Professor of Physical Therapy Jennifer Dickson hopes to expand the integration of preventative health and wellness education into standard PT practice, starting right here with WSU Applebaum Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2030 initiative sets data-driven national objectives to improve health and well-being; however, at the same time, reports from both the WHO and CDC show epidemic and pandemic levels of lifestyle diseases – those strongly associated with physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and tobacco use. To truly make a change, Dickson says there is a need for a shift in the focus of health care from treating illness and disease to prevention by promoting health and wellness.

Physical therapists are well positioned to be leaders in health and wellness initiatives, with the ability to play an important role in lifestyle disease prevention through encouraging physical fitness and healthy lifestyle choices. Although nationwide DPT curricula include extensive training in exercise prescription and non-invasive disease management, studies show that general health and wellness education with patients receiving physical therapy is not routine clinical practice.

To work toward making it routine, Dickson will create and direct a service-learning project comprised of health and wellness workshops executed by WSU Applebaum DPT students at three local low-income housing communities. She will measure the impact of the educational workshops on both the students and residents of the community to determine if such a focused learning opportunity improves students’ provision of health and wellness education as part of standard physical therapy care they deliver in the clinical setting.

Martha Schiller
Martha Schiller

Assistant Clinical Professor of Physical Therapy and Director of Clinical Education Martha Schiller is the PT coordinator of Wayne State’s Interprofessional Team Visit (IPTV) program, an important and collaborative educational experience for students in physical therapy, pharmacy, physician assistant studies, occupational therapy, medicine, nursing and social work. Her study will compare the effectiveness of both virtual and in-person formats of the program.

Traditionally done in person at clients’ homes, in early 2020 the IPTV program shifted to a virtual format to adhere to COVID-19 prevention measures. Data is needed to plan the future direction of the IPTV program, with a focus on deciding whether it should remain virtual or return to an in-person experience. 

The purpose of Schiller’s study is to determine the value of the current virtual IPTV program to students, as well as whether there is a difference in student outcomes between the virtual and in-person IPTV experiences. She will investigate the impact of each format on students’ perceived beliefs, behaviors and attitudes of collaborative care by examining student and client feedback. 

Schiller’s project will provide the IPTV team with objective data to help determine the program’s next steps so it can deliver the most valuable experience for students in the many programs involved.  

MaryAnne Stewart
MaryAnne Stewart

Assistant Clinical Professor of Clinical Laboratory Science MaryAnne Stewart will measure the impact of embedding lecture enhancement technology into CLS classroom instruction.

To ensure that CLS students receive optimal training to become successful allied health professionals, Stewart proposes enhancing the classroom setting by effectively applying technological lecture enhancement tools such as Kahoot and MediaLab. As an application, Kahoot boosts engagement, participation and motivation through competitive, game-based learning experiences. MediaLab, on the other hand, provides a simulation of a hospital hematology lab. It lets students evaluate real patient cases using a virtual microscope, honing their skills with real-time feedback. Stewart believes that embedding these tools into instruction will help provide support needed to improve student success.

To develop CLS students into highly skilled practitioners, they must be taught specific and detailed clinical material. Stewart’s pedagogical research shows that effective instruction of this type of material requires sophisticated methods, active learning experiences and the creation of effective group dynamics ­– a substantial challenge. The use of technology, when embedded in instruction, can provide interactive opportunities and a more flexible learning environment; when students interact with their peers and professors, they are more likely to participate, leading to more effective learning.

Through active publication of instructional designs, student assessment and research protocols, Stewart intends to place Wayne State University in a national leadership role for the development and execution of embedding technology into CLS classroom instruction.

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