Faculty Share Their Knowledge at Conferences

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It’s conference season, so that means faculty of the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program hit the road to share their work with colleagues.

This fall’s professional meetings kicked off with Karen Goodman PT, DPT; Keith Cole PT, DPT, PhD, MBiomedE, and several current and former students presenting posters at the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy Annual Conference held in Minneapolis in September. Kate Atkins (DPT ‘24), Goodman and Cole presented their poster, “Feasibility and usability of gaze stabilization exercises in virtual reality using incrementing visual complexity levels.” The poster highlights the team’s work on vestibular rehabilitation. (A paper on the work is expected to be published in 2024.)

“I really enjoyed participating and being a part of the conference,” Atkins said. “I especially loved attending the different conferences. Being able to attend these talks and view the other researchers' posters answered lots of questions and also provided lots of new ideas that I am excited to try out in clinic.”

The various responsibilities of teaching, conducting research, providing pro bono work and community engagement provided four faculty members material to present at the 18th Annual Physical Therapy Education Leadership Conference (ELC) held in October in Philadelphia. Erin Wentzell, PT, DPT, DrPH, and Jason Dring, PT, DPT, along with Goodman and Cole, presented, “A Classroom Without Walls: Learning through academic-community partnerships.” The presentation discussed the ENGAGE, a department initiative focused on developing community engaged service and research opportunities.  This presentation focused on the integration of mobility screens for the Foggy Bottom West End aging-in-place Village community throughout the DPT curriculum. The faculty members’ goal was to inspire and provide guidance for other programs to build partnerships, enabling students to interact with community members in a beneficial way.

“It was really great to share what we're doing with the Engaged Department here at GW with faculty from programs across the country at ELC,” Dring said. “We've already heard from participants who were inspired to try something similar at their schools. We also got the chance to hear some really great ideas and feedback that we are incorporating into our plans for next year.”

Ellen Costello, PT, PhD, also took part at ELC. leading a session, “Anxious students: What can educators do to foster transformative learning and identity development?” After noticing difficulties that some DPT students were facing, Costello began collaborating with educators from GW, Husson University and Northwestern University to assess the impact of “grit, self-reflection and anxiety” on DPT students. The researchers’ work examines various factors that may affect a student’s ability to cope with challenge. “There is an urgent need to understand what we can do to support our students,” Costello noted.

Marisa Birkmeier, PT, DPT, DHSc, took part in the fall conference season by making dual presentations at the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Pediatrics Annual Conference: “The Art of Teaching Pediatrics: Creating Learning Activities Using an Evidence ‘Paint Palette’” and “Authentic Play in the Community: Creating Mutually Beneficial Experiential Learning Opportunities'' which she co-presented with Wentzell.

The workshops highlighted tools available to educators in pediatric physical therapy and ways to improve learning outcomes for students while providing benefit back to their communities. “It was a good opportunity to share how beneficial service learning can be on a national level,” Birkmeier said. If this conference season is any indication of GW’s presence, she’ll be joined by other DPT faculty members sharing their work to make a difference.