College of Health Sciences

Physical Therapy Faculty Research

Current Research Projects

Skeletal Muscle Morphology

Marty Eastlack, PT, Ph.D. Dr. Eastlack’s research investigates skeletal muscle morphology, a battery of muscle and physical performance measures that include lower extremity power testing, the sit-to-stand task, and temporospatial measures of gait. Dr. Eastlack uses a variety of techniques to study muscle morphology including muscle biopsies, MRI, spectroscopy and more recently ultrasound.  She is interested in knowing if underlying body structure (muscle morphology) and function (lower extremity power) effect a person’s activity level (chair rise and walking) and whether the underlying body structures change as a result of targeted intervention and so result in changes in activity ability. She is currently working on projects that involve persons after hip fracture and she is collaborating with colleagues to describe the quality of movement in persons with Parkinson Disease.

Recovery from Neurologic Injuries

Shailesh Kantak, PT, Ph.D. The overarching goal of Dr. Kantak’s research is to improve movement rehabilitation of patients with neurologic disorders by advancing our understanding of motor control, learning, and neuroplasticity through systematic, theory-driven research. His research spans from the basic understanding of behavioral and neural mechanisms of motor control and learning to test effects of innovative interventions for motor problems in patients with brain injuries. Dr. Kantak’s research employs behavioral and psychophysical methods in conjunction with motion analyses, electromyography (EMG) and non-invasive brain stimulation to reveal the brain-behavior relationship for goal-directed actions.

One arm of Dr. Kantak’s research is focused on understanding the control and coordination of real-world actions after stroke. Dr. Kantak is investigating how stroke survivors engage their two arms to accomplish functional bimanual tasks. While most activities of daily living involve bimanual actions, traditional rehabilitation assessments and treatments have been focused on the unimanual function of the weaker hand alone. This is problematic because despite improved capability to move their weaker arm after rehabilitation, patients do not use that arm in activities of daily living. Dr. Kantak’s global hypothesis is that lack of coordination between arms during bimanual actions may underlie this “lack of transfer” from rehabilitation to real-life. In the first step of this research, funded by an R03 award from Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Dr. Kantak will determine the relative impairments in different classes of bimanual actions after stroke and the degree to which the unimanual performance deficits predict bimanual impairment. The future steps will investigate how brain lesions, connectivity, and physiology relates to impaired bimanual coordination.

The other arm of Dr. Kantak’s research is focused on determining different behavioral and neurophysiologic strategies to improve motor learning and recovery after stroke. His recent research demonstrated that despite having a weakness, most patients with stroke retain the ability to learn novel movements. This learning was associated with changes in both the damaged and nondamaged hemisphere. Currently, he is investigating if noninvasive brain stimulation and aerobic exercise can augment or accelerate learning and neuroplasticity in healthy individuals and patients with stroke.

Older Adults and Exercise

Kate Mangione, PT, Ph.D., FAPTA. Dr. Mangione’s research combines her clinical passions of older adults and exercises. She began her research career studying the effects of unweighted exercise on cardiovascular and pain responses to treadmill walking in older adults with knee OA. She applied these findings and was funded to perform a randomized clinical trial of moderate and low-intensity cycling in persons with knee OA. For the last 20 years, Kate has been examining various forms of physical therapy programs on improving function in older adults after hip fracture. She has and continues to examine the benefits of strength training, endurance training, multi-modal exercise training performed in the home setting with older adults post fracture. She is currently the site PI for an NIH multi-site RCT. Dr. Mangione has begun investigating whether standardized exercise programs can be applied to older adults with multiple chronic conditions receiving Medicare-funded home care services.

Shoulder Dysfunction

Phil McClure, PT, Ph.D., FAPTA. Dr. McClure’s research centers on shoulder dysfunction and his work includes both laboratory and clinical studies. The broad goals of his research are to understand biomechanical and neurophysiological mechanisms underlying shoulder dysfunction and to develop interventions to optimize shoulder function after injury. His research has centered around disorders of the rotator cuff and related biomechanical issues and has included extensive study of 3-dimensional scapular kinematics and translation of that work into clinical testing.  Currently, his studies are focused on neural activation of the rotator cuff and the effect of pain, pain relief and exercise on neural activation. Dr. McClure, along with a collaborator from the University of Oregon, was recently awarded a four-year grant worth $1.9 million from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, a division of the NIH. He also has funded research from both the Orthopedic and Sports sections of the APTA.

Kshamata Shah, PT, PhD

Kshamata Shah, PT, PhD Dr. Shah’s research includes clinical and laboratory based studies on patients with shoulder disorders. Her overall research goal is to understand the mechanisms and predictors driving a patient’s recovery in patients with chronic shoulder problems such as those with rotator cuff disorders and diabetes, and design optimal rehabilitation programs for these individuals. Dr. Shah has collaborated with Dr. McClure and researchers from University of Oregon on a R01 grant funded by the NIH aimed at examining muscle neurophysiology with pain and exercise in patients with rotator cuff diseases. She has also developed Ultrasound methods to evaluate shoulder muscle morphology and blood flow and, its relationship with patient outcomes. Dr. Shah, Dr. McClure and Dr. Safford have developed a new performance-based outcome measure, Timed Functional Arm and Shoulder Test, and tested the psychometric properties of the test in healthy individuals and patients such as those with neurological conditions. They have received funding from the Orthopedic Section of the APTA to test the use of the TFAST in patients.

Musculoskeletal, Orthopaedics, and Sports Physical Therapy

Brian Eckenrode, PT, DPT, OCS. Dr. Eckenrode’s clinical research lies in the area of musculoskeletal, orthopedics, and sports physical therapy. His primary focus is on running biomechanics, athletic functional performance, and the role of clinical intervention for both overhead athletes and distance/track runners.  Brian also collaborates with Dr. Scott Stackhouse regarding pain processing and mechanisms of eccentric strengthening in individuals with chronic tendinopathy.

Exercise Protocols for Individuals with Parkinson Disease or Multiple Sclerosis

Janet Readinger, PT, DPT. Dr. Readinger has collaborated with several faculty members to pursue her research interests. Dr. Readinger’s research involves investigating exercise protocols for individuals with Parkinson disease or multiple sclerosis. Her current project focuses on examining the effects of a concentrated, week-long brief intense exercise program for individuals with Parkinson disease. Her preliminary data has shown promising results of this novel approach to care for individuals with chronic neurologic disease. She has extensive experience working in inpatient rehabilitation and more recently has assumed the role as the Director of the Dan Aaron Stay Fit Exercise Program, working with individuals with Parkinson disease or multiple sclerosis.

Maximizing Student Performance in Clinical Education

Susan Tomlinson, PT, DPT. Dr. Tomlinson’s current research focuses on the area of maximizing student performance in clinical education. She began working with colleagues to describe the use of standardized patients for assessing performance in the affective domain. In further work with colleagues, she examined student performance after didactic curricular changes designed to better prepare students for early clinical experiences.

Most recently, she has described performance outcomes of students participating in final clinical education experiences of different lengths. She is also interested in endeavors that promote the collaborative model of clinical education supervision (more than one student working with the same instructor).

Best Practices for Treatment Following Total Knee Replacement

Carol A. Oatis, PT, Ph.D. Dr. Oatis’s research program has spanned the range from biomechanical mechanisms of knee joint stiffness in osteoarthritis to examination of factors influencing functional outcomes following total knee replacement. The common thread throughout this program is the focus on improving function in individuals with arthritis. Her current efforts represent a natural progression from basic biomechanical research to outcomes research.

Dr. Oatis’s current research, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, examines the physical therapy services provided individuals following total knee replacement. Working with a team of orthopedic surgeons, health services researchers, and biostatisticians, Dr. Oatis is investigating characteristics of the physical therapy intervention that are associated with positive functional outcomes. The team utilizes a national database of patients allowing for analyses that help to distinguish between individual patient factors that affect outcomes such as age and obesity and the specific details of the intervention that produce positive outcomes. The goal of this research is to identify “best practices” for physical therapists who treat individuals following total knee replacement.

Pediatric Physical Therapy

Ann Tokay Harrington, PT, DPT, Ph.D., PCS Dr. Harrington's research is focused on the promotion of physical fitness and mobility in children and adolescents with disabilities resulting from neurological, neuromuscular and genetic disorders to allow them to overcome barriers to community participation and recreational physical activity with an underlying goal of improving quality of life.

In addition to her faculty position at Arcadia, she maintains a position as a Research Scientist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where her current research is focused on building participant self-efficacy for exercise in adolescents and young adults with Trisomy 21. She is also involved in a natural history study and clinical trials for children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Dr. Harrington has received research funding from the Foundation for Physical Therapy, Orthopaedic and Pediatric Sections of the American Physical Therapy Association, and intramural pilot grants. 

Ryan Zarzycki, PT, DPT, Ph.D Dr. Zarzycki’s research is focused on traumatic knee injury with emphasis on athletes after ACL rupture and ACL reconstruction.  More specifically, Dr. Zarzycki is interested in gaining a better understanding of how the central nervous system changes after injury/surgery and how this affects rehabilitation.  His lab uses electromyography (EMG), transcranial cranial magnetic stimulation, clinical measures (e.g. strength testing), and motion analysis testing to study movement and neuromuscular control after injury/surgery.

Educational Methods to Enhance Clinical Decisions Making

Amy Miller, PT, DPT, EdD  Dr. Miller’s research focuses on educational methods used to build clinical decision making skills for students and clinicians.

More specifically Dr. Miller is interested in investigating educational methods that engage learners and develop clinical reasoning through integrating content areas and translating current research into practice. She has investigated the use of patient simulations utilizing standardized patients (actors trained to portray a specific case) and other case-based and experiential learning models to enhance student outcomes. Other projects include the use of knowledge translation models in practice settings to enhance clinical outcomes.

Michael A. Tevald, PT, Ph.D. Dr. Tevald studies the impact of aging and chronic disease on skeletal muscle physiology and performance.  The overall goal of his research is to identify impairments in muscle physiology that have the greatest impact on physical function in clinical populations, and develop novel intervention strategies to mitigate those impairments.  Prior work focused on the age-related changes in muscle performance and energetics, and the role of skeletal muscle power in the decline in physical function associated with older adults and those with knee osteoarthritis. Dr. Tevald’s current focus is on the changes in skeletal muscle that accompany chronic lung disease and lung transplantation, in collaboration with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.  Dr. Tevald has received funding from the American Heart Association, the Foundation for Physical Therapy, and the Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Section of the American Physical Therapy Association.