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 Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences Department

Developing Industry Leaders

Through technology-enhanced practice facilities and cutting-edge research labs, Drexel’s PT programs allow students to develop advanced skills through evidence-based clinical practice, teaching and research.


At the forefront of research, our world-class faculty will support you in your efforts to advance knowledge and make an impact. Explore our current research areas and view the dedicated laboratory space.


DHSc Faculty Mentors

PhD Faculty Mentors

Research Studies

Engagement in the Pediatric Rehabilitation Intervention Process: Its Nature, Measurement, and Role in the Determination of Outcomes


  • Gillian King, PhD, Holland Bloorview Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Lisa Chiarello, PT, PhD, PCS, FAPTA; Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, USA
  • Jenny Ziviani, OT, PhD, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  • Anne Poulsen, OT, PhD, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
  • Virginia Wright, PT, PhD, Holland Bloorview Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Heidi Schwellnus, OT, Holland Bloorview Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Roger Ideishi, OT, JD, FAOTA; Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Summary / Overview

The engagement of children and youth with disabilities, and their parents, in rehabilitation interventions is critical to the success of these therapies. A fully engaged client is actively invested in the intervention session. He or she is receptive to what is happening, shares thoughts and experiences, and shows enthusiasm. She/he is also actively involved in a physical and behavioral sense. Client engagement has long been considered to enhance goal attainment and increase the cost-effectiveness of services; however, there are no measures of client engagement that have been created or validated for use in pediatric rehabilitation. Accordingly, research on the best ways of fostering engagement and its predictive value with respect to outcomes and costs has been hampered. >> (Download PDF)

Developmental Trajectories of Impairments, Health, and Participation of Children with Cerebral Palsy - Monitoring Development of Children with Cerebral Palsy or Gross Motor Delay

On TRACK Study


  • Doreen Bartlett, PT, PhD, University of Western Ontario 
  • Sarah Westcott McCoy, PT, PhD, University of Washington
  • Lisa Chiarello, PT, PhD, PCS, FAPTA, Drexel University
  • Robert Palisano, PT, PhD, FAPTA, Drexel University
  • Lynn Jeffries, PT, PhD, PCS, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
  • Alyssa LaForme Fiss, PT, PhD, PCS, Mercer University
  • Steve Hanna, PhD, McMaster University
  • Jan Wilem Gorter, MD, PhD, McMaster University

Summary / Overview

Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most prevalent childhood onset neuromuscular condition, and over 90% of all individuals with CP live well into adulthood. Beginning when their children are young, families need evidence to guide decisions on effective and cost efficient services and supports that build capacity and prepare children and youth for life as adults. The clinical manifestations of CP change with age, including a decline in motor function, which occurs in late childhood through adulthood, yet changes over time in postural control (a defining feature of CP), secondary impairments, and co-occurring health conditions have not been quantified. We propose to create developmental trajectories of impairments that change throughout childhood, the number and impact of associated health conditions, self-care abilities, and participation in family and community recreation. Creation of developmental curves would enable families of children with CP and health care providers to: 1) monitor a child’s development (developmental surveillance), 2) anticipate a child’s future strengths and needs (prognosis), and 3) proactively plan efficient services and supports to optimize a child’s health, function, education, social participation, and prevention of secondary impairments. >> (Download PDF)

Biomechanics of Lower Extremity Overuse Injuries in Recreationally Active People

  • Clare E Milner, PhD, FACSM (PI) – Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences
  • Trey Brindle, MS (Co-I) – PhD student, Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences
Summary / Overview Unfortunately, there is a high rate of musculoskeletal injury in all runners, with some overuse injuries disproportionately affecting women. Three common overuse injuries occur in female runners more often than male runners: patellofemoral pain syndrome, iliotibial band syndrome, and tibial stress fracture. >> (Download PDF)

Relationship between Core Stability and Athletic Injuries

Core Stability StudyInvestigators
  • Sheri P. Silfies, PT, PhD (PI) – Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
  • David Ebaugh, PT, PhD – Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
  • Marisa Pontillo, PT, DPT, PhD Student, Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
  • Courtney Butowicz, MSEd, CSCS- PhD student Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
Summary / Overview The objectives of the grant are to 1) determine the strength of the association between clinical and lab-based measures of core stability in the athletic population and 2) identify the clinical and lab-based measures of core stability that are significant predictors of shoulder injuries in athletes.. Read Full Report. >> (Download PDF)

Mechanical Low Back Pain

  • Sheri P. Silfies, PT, PhD (PI) – Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
  • Marco Cannella, PhD — FDA
  • Susan Smith, PT, PhD – Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
  • Simon Giszter, PhD – Neurobiology & Anatomy, College of Medicine, Drexel University
Summary / Overview

The objectives of the grant are to gain a better understanding of how trunk movement and stability are coordinated. Read Full Report. >> (Download PDF)

Validation of Clinical Observation of Aberrant Movement Patterns in Patients with Mechanical Low Back Pain

  • Scott A. Biely, PT, DPT, OCS, MTC (Co-PI) – PhD Candidate, Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University; Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Therapy, Neumann College
  • Sheri P. Silfies, PT, PhD (Co-PI) – Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
  • Susan Smith, PT, PhD (Co-PI) – Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
Summary / Overview
Observation of abnormal back movement patterns is considered an important characteristic in identifying patients who will respond positively to low back stabilization exercises or who have low back pain attributed to clinical spinal instability. Read Full Report. >>(Download PDF)

Osteoporosis & Bone Health

  • Susan Smith, PT, PhD — Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
  • Jan Meiers, PT, DPT, GCS — Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
  • Elizabeth Wang-Hsu, PT, MS — PhD Candidate, Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
  • Han Chen, MD — PhD Student, Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
Summary / Overview
Osteoporosis is “a disease characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue leading to bone fragility and an increased susceptibility to fractures, especially of the hip, spine and wrist, although any bone can be affected”. Read Full Report. >>(Download PDF)

Shoulder Dysfunction

wires taped to shoulderInvestigators
  • David Ebaugh, PT, PhD – Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
  • Bryan Spinelli, PT, MS, OCS, CLT – PhD Candidate, Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
  • Marisa Pontillo, PT, DPT, PhD Student, Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
Summary / Overview
Shoulder impingement syndrome (SIS) is a significant cause of shoulder pain in overhead athletes. Read Full Report. >>(Download PDF)

Activity and Participation of Children with Cerebral Palsy

Move & Play - Movement and Participation in Life Activities of Young Children

  mother and toddlers on slideInvestigators
  • Doreen Bartlett, PT, PhD, University of Western Ontario
  • Lisa Chiarello, PT, PhD, PCS, Drexel University
  • Robert Palisano, PT, PhD, Drexel University
  • Peter Rosenbaum MD, FRCP(C), McMaster University, CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research
  • Sally Westcott McCoy PT, PhD, University of Washington
Summary / Overview
Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most prevalent childhood neuromuscular condition seen by rehabilitation practitioners; however, the evidence base supporting rehabilitation practice from a holistic perspective is very weak. Read Full Document. >> (Download PDF)

Biomechanics of Running

therapist facing girls kneesInvestigators
  • Margo N. Orlin, PT, PhD – Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
  • Oluwabunmi (Bunmi) Oladeji, PT – PhD Candidate, Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
  • Sirinart (Gan) Laibsirinon, PT, MS - PhD Candidate, Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
Summary / Overview
This project seeks to characterize the biomechanics of running in children with cerebral palsy ages 7-14. Read Full Document. >> (Download PDF)

Health Promotion, Fitness and Physical Activity

Validity of Accelerometry to Measure Physical Activity Intensity for Clinical Trials in Youth with Cerebral Palsy

  • Margaret E. O’Neil, PT, PhD, MPH, Drexel University
  • Maria Fragala-Pinkham, PT, DPT, MS, Franciscan Hospital for Children
  • Nancy Lennon, PT, MS, Nemours/AI duPont Hospital for Children
  • Stewart Trost, PhD, The University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia
  • Stephen M. Haley, PT, PhD, Boston University, School of Public Health, Health and Disability Research Institute
Summary / Overview
Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common physical disability of childhood. Although CP is a non-progressive neuromuscular disorder, children with CP often experience decreased physical activity, fitness and functional mobility as they grow and age. Current trends in rehabilitation interventions include activity-based interventions to promote health and function. Objective measures of physical activity (accelerometers) are important to examine outcome effectiveness of these interventions. Further research is needed to validate accelerometers specifically for use in measuring physical activity levels in children and youth with CP. Read Full Document. >> (Download PDF)

School-Based Physical Therapy Services

  • Susan Effgen, PT, PhD, FAPTA, University of Kentucky
  • Lisa Chiarello, PT, PhD, PCS, Drexel University
  • Sarah Westcott McCoy, PT, PhD, University of Washington
  • Lynn Jeffries, PT, PdD, PCS, University of Oklahoma
  • Heather Bush, PhD, University of Kentucky
Summary / Overview

Physical therapy as a related service in schools contributes to the educational programming of students in the least restricted environment, enhancing students’ successful participation in school and community activities leading to further education, employment and independence. Read Full Report. >>(Download PDF)

News & Events



Citizens Bank Park Commencement 2018The tradition continues as the all-University Commencement ceremony was held for the third straight year under the bright lights of Citizens Bank Park. This video captures not only the excitement of the day, but also the essence of the Dragon.

Hollywood legend M. Night Shyamalan addressed the new graduating class and issued a challenge for our graduates to go out and change the world. We're looking forward to witnessing all the incredible achievements of our CNHP alumni!


CNHP alumnus Won Sung, PhDWon Sung, PhD started his college education as a psychology major at Arcadia University thinking he would find a doctoral program in behavioral neuroscience. He had been doing research on motor behavior and cognitive processes specifically movement control in mice with strokes when his research advisor, a physical therapist, suggested he look into physical therapy (PT). “I had most of the prerequisites completed and there was some common interest based on the research I was doing,” Sung said. What he found appealing about this path was the intersection of his interest in motor control and coordination and the cognitive processes that take place in patients with chronic pain.

He received his PT degree also from Arcadia and worked for ten years before deciding to get his PhD at Drexel. Sung had a different approach than most traditional students looking for a PhD program. He was already working and not worried about finding a program that would help him land a specific job, so he took five years to find a PhD advisor working in the area in which he was interested. As luck would have it, Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions was geographically pleasing to Sung as was the possibility of having Sheri Silfies, PT, PhD, an associate professor in its physical therapy and rehabilitation sciences department, as his faculty advisor. Silfies research on low back pain in relation to neuromuscular control appealed to the behavioral neuroscientist in Sung.

It was during his training and work in physical therapy where he learned about the many methods being used including the McKenzie Method (MDT). Without the use of expensive diagnostic testing, MDT uses patients’ pain responses to their own movement to create a treatment plan. It is a treatment approach that emphasizes patient participation in pain reduction and facilitating movement. To Sung, the rapid change in pain that can occur within a treatment session with appropriate patients suggested that there was something more than just muscle and tissue related. “There had to be something else from a central nervous system, some sort of neuro signaling that had to be happening,” he commented. “As I continued to work with patients with low back pain, and learn more about it, I certainly started to understand that not everybody fits into this one type of treatment plan or approach.” This is where his psychology degree spoke to him. Sung started to see the impact of chronic pain in terms of depression and anxiety and began wondering if cognitive components played a role in patients’ pain levels. Certainly musculoskeletal dysfunction, for which many sufferers find adaptive behavior, plays a part in chronic pain, but Sung contends that there are psychosocial issues that may also contribute. Is there a personality type that's more anxious to begin with where, perhaps, the pain makes them change their behaviors sooner or more readily than somebody else who might not have these anxiety driven behaviors? Does the intensity of pain at the onset force somebody who is very strong and well-adjusted into anxious states? These are the questions Sung wanted to answer. “When you're dealing with more anxiety-driven pain, people have guarding behaviors and tend to walk around tense. It's an anxiety behavior we need to get to first and make sure that the patient understands everything's going to be okay,” he shared. “A lot of people end up in this situation of desperation—‘This is the only thing that's going to work’—and that's when we, as clinicians, have to get down to the psycho-social issues and maybe spend a little bit more time talking to them about the situation and the condition.” Sung suggested that there may only be one or two main issues that manifest in a myriad of symptoms, but in order to get to them, he helps individuals settle in with and accept what’s happening to reduce tension. Then he can focus on their contributing behaviors with appropriate actions.

Sung has been working at Good Shepherd Penn Partners for more than 13 years as the spine team leader where he oversees the orthopedic residency and evaluates and treats patients. His way with the people he sees is gentle and creates hope for those individuals who come to him as a last ditch effort before a surgery which they feel is imminent. He listens intently to a person, wanting to hear their stories, as it helps him understand and gauge where a person is mentally and physically. Sung’s approach is always conservative and favors assigning things a patient would have no trouble doing at home. “There's nothing that is as concrete as, ‘This is the only thing.’ There's typically several alternatives to getting to the desired goal,” he articulated. He must be pragmatic in his thinking—how much time does a person have, how many exercises can they get through in that time and what is the most efficient way to reach the goal. “It's like learning to play an instrument—you need to repeat it over and over and over again to learn that new pattern.” He contended that if you have to do that for ten things, it will take forever and may seem insurmountable. “If you start with one or two different things, it becomes a little bit easier, and then you're able to actually focus on changing that behavior,” he concluded.

Sung also believes it's beneficial for people to know that his first focus is to improve function and hopefully make them a little bit more comfortable. “There is an aspect of making sure people understand that you might not always be pain-free because structures do break down,” he admitted. “But even with these people who have this grim, dire outlook on things, for some reason, when they start accepting that, they actually start to have less pain and start to feel better.”

Where does Sung see the future of physical therapy going? It seems predicated on insurance and technology. Gone are the days of seeing patients in the clinic a few times a week for 60 to 75 minutes. “The insurance companies are forcing us to be more efficient. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I think, across the board, the health system can become more efficient, but I think we're going to have to change how we do things and how we think about the situation and the patient in front of us,” he cautioned. Physical therapists will have to become more proficient in exercise prescription and reassessment because they won’t be seeing a person as frequently over the course of their care. “It's maybe not the best change, but it might drive us certainly to be more efficient and be more critical of ourselves as a profession.” How would a physical therapist be helpful then to a person who they aren’t seeing as often? Sung hypothesized that new technologies might support them. Telemedicine, for instance, would work just to touch base with their patients—to check in with them and see how things are going. Videos of prescribed exercises could be downloadable providing a different way of patients getting their interventions. Then there’s live, online interaction between patient and therapist where they can talk. “I can see how they're doing. Are they smiling? Are they not smiling? Sometimes that's all you really need to do,” Sung explained. It may not be what’s called for an initial evaluation which would have to occur in the clinic. “Maybe there are different stratifications of what's going on. If it's a very simple problem when you really just need to show the therapist how your arm is moving, maybe that is something that's eligible for a live, online environment.” Even if the field embraces technology, he warns that, if it’s not working for clinicians or patients, they will have to advocate for the patient. Regardless, Sung feels that that physical therapy will be facing some challenges in the next few years.

As far as what’s in store for him for the next few years, Sung says he hasn’t figured it out yet. “I guess I’ll still be at Penn, depending on if there are enough things that continue to challenge me and keep me thinking like clinicians who need to be mentored or new projects being undertaken. As long as I’m not bored.”


This is the first edition of R & B News (Rundio & Brooks News) or as we like to refer to it: “R & B (Rhythm & Blues) or R & B Rocks.”

The following are nursing highlights from the past month:

The most significant item to highlight is the excellent Collegiate Commission on Nursing (CCNE) accreditation site visit that we had from February 26th through February 28th, 2018. The CCNE will make their final board decision in early October 2018 regarding our reaccreditation of all nursing programs. So, we cannot state that we have been re-accredited. We can state that we had an accreditation site visit and that we met all four standards and elements with no recommendations.

I want to bring attention to the American Heart Association—a passion of mine for several years now. I became involved while supervisor of emergency services at Atlantic City Medical Center, City Division, now AtlantiCare. While serving as chair of the emergency cardiovascular care committee for New Jersey for three years, I led the way to regionalize this committee becoming the DE-NJ-PA ECC Regional Committee and creating more effective use of resources. A group of representatives from each state, not including me, took up the planning of how the committee would proceed. As a result, they requested that I chair the new regionalized committee. I have served two years thus far.

The committee has changed its focus from being, what I call “the CPR police” to getting CPR and AEDs out in the community and policy changes like mandating CPR and AEDs in schools. I would like to encourage everyone to join You’re the Cure—the American Heart Association’s health policy site. There you’ll be able to learn about significant initiatives by state, communicate with key legislators using sample letters provided, connect with advocates near you and stay up-to-date on the heart and stroke issues that matter most to you. This takes less than five minutes to do. As cardiac arrest happens to any one of us, our loved ones and colleagues, I am really passionate about AHA’s initiative.

If you feel the same as I do, please send me the information requested below and I will send it to AHA for you. Yes, I want to join You’re the Cure.

  • NAME

In future issues, I will share more about my work with AHA. And, for anyone who really knows me well, there will certainly be some humorous things that have happened.

Congratulations to Suzan Blacher, PhD (c), MSN, RN, CARN on her appointment as chair of the ANCB (Addictions Nursing Certification Board) for the International Nurses Society on Addictions. Congratulations, Professor Blacher!!!

The next issue will focus more on the Health Professions. Please submit any item that you want published in this newsletter, and don’t forget, anyone, faculty, staff and students, can submit items to the Daily Dose.

Clinical Professor of Nursing
Associate Dean for Academic Nursing
Chief Academic Nursing Officer

Stephanie Brooks, PhD, LCSW, LMFT
Clinical Professor
Associate Dean for Academic Health Professions
Director of PMC Program

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