Doctoral students from the Department of Physical Therapy’s class of 2016 presented their bold and innovative research at the department’s Second Annual Doctor of Physical Therapy Evidence Based Research Symposium on March 10th.

The 32 students that make up the class of 2016 have been working diligently on their research and this event, which follows their doctoral defense presentations the week prior, serves as the culminating project for the future physical therapists and serves as the final doctorate project toward their degree.

All students who enter the Physical Therapy program are required to complete an evidence-based project that looks at some aspect of the physical therapy practice. They started their journey of deciding a strong clinical question that they wanted to answer with evidence, about a year ago and have been working steadily toward that goal since then.

“They then do a meta analysis looking at the existing literature and draw clinical conclusions based on that analysis,” said Dr. Marcia Thompson, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy. “It’s an important part of effective clinical practice as a doctor of physical therapy given that it’s very hard to do primary research, but even out in the clinic they can look at the evidence and look at the studies that exist and draw conclusions on what works best for a client. This is a very intense year for them – but it exemplifies their critical thinking as a doctoral level physical therapist.”

The hallway and lab rooms of the Physical Therapy and Intercollegiate Athletics Building was bustling as students, faculty, alumni, donors and community members came together to learn about the bold research on display.

Doctoral student, Erica Garcia.

Through her research project,  The effects of fitness and fatigue on jogging biomechanics in obese children, Erica Garcia found that just being overweight alone has a big impact on the way children move, and how that can negatively impact their joints, causing an increase in health-related injuries.

“I think that the focus being on children really projects the prevalence of how obese our society is getting and how the future looks,” said Garcia, who chose her research project based on her own interest in fitness. “Whenever you talk about the future, you take a look at children and that kind of shows you what direction we’re going as a society.”

The Symposium also featured keynote speaker, Dr. Katherine Sullivan, who presented on “The Importance of Evidence-Based Practice in the Clinic”. Sullivan, retired physical therapy faculty from the University of Southern California, is the founder and CEO of MetroHealth Station – an interprofessional private practice group that established the first patient-centered medical home in the Los Angeles area.

Sullivan speaking with student, Steve Overstreet.

Sullivan is known nationally for her expertise in brain injury and rehabilitation after stroke has received numerous honors for her research, teaching and service. Her passion lies in her commitment to improving health and access to health services in medically underserved neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

Each of the faculty in the department worked closely with the third-year students throughout the course of their research to serve as mentors and provide guidance, as needed.

Garcia said her experience working with faculty in the Physical Therapy department has been awesome, particularly with Dr. Bhupinder Singh and Dr. Jenna Sawdon-Bea, whom she collaborated with on her project.

“As professors, they are so inspiring and they really care about their students,” Garcia said. “They are really invested in our learning so it’s been a really good experience.”


To view more photos from the DPT Research Symposium, check out the Department of Physical Therapy facebook page. A full list of the students’ research projects are listed below.