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Trine DPT students present research, earn honors at national APTA conference

APTAFORT WAYNE — Reflecting growth in both the number and quality of students in its Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, Trine University took ten third-year students to present research at the annual Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), with one group earning a national honor.

The event, held Feb. 12-15 in Denver, Colorado, brings together more than 18,000 attendees from more than 30 countries.

Emily Reif of Gibraltar, Michigan, Kate Groenhagen of Oregon, Illinois, and Morgan Truex of Harrod, Ohio, along with faculty advisors Steve Sullivan, PT, DPT, and Tricia Widenhoefer, PT, DPT, were honored with an Education Influencer Award for an outstanding poster presentation. The Physical Therapy Learning Institute (PTLI) gave five such awards among the 1,200 posters presented at the meeting.

The awards recognized research consistent with the aim and vision of PTLI, which provides leadership and advocacy for physical therapy education, research and practice.

“We were all very surprised,” Sullivan said. “I was really proud of the work the students put into their project and I was humbled to be recognized at a national event. This award is definitely one of the highlights of my professional career.”

The group’s poster, “Physical Therapy Student Loan Debt and Methods of Repayment,” found that the cost of physical therapy school is rising, while the salary of physical therapists is not. More than 70 percent of physical therapists surveyed by the group reported they are working a second job to assist with loan repayment.

“Steve and I both came from a management background where we were responsible for hiring personnel,” said Widenhoefer, “so we have experience and interest in employment, hiring and interviewing. In our current roles we help counsel our students on entering the workforce, and, more specifically, offer advice on their job search, resume review, interviewing, job acceptance, questions to ask, and items to consider when accepting their first jobs. We know the students are very conscientious of their loan debt and repayment and are seeking ways to lower their debt.”

“From their analysis, the results and conclusions told a compelling story about how students are managing student loan debt,” Sullivan said.

Other Trine students presenting at the conference included Jithmie Jayawickrema of Sri Lanka, Carlee Richardson of LaGrange, Indiana, and Kristin Mercker of Jonesboro, Indiana, who gave a platform presentation on “The Influence of Attentional Focus on Landing Kinetics.” Their study compared lower extremity joint kinetics during drop landings when given instructions promoting an external (focused on the effect of the action) or internal (focused on the mechanics of the action itself) focus of attention.

The results showed vertical ground reaction forces were decreased when adopting an external focus of attention, which could lead to a reduced risk of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.

Trine students Cameron Buzzard of Warren, Indiana, Shawna Carbone of Wolcottville, Indiana, Madison Cook of Kendallville, Indiana, and Lindsey Welsh of Eaton, Indiana, gave a poster presentation on “The Potential Utility of a Wearable Sensor for Injury Risk Screening in Female Athletes.” The study examined the relationship between impact accelerations recorded via a wearable sensor and vertical ground reactions forces measured via force plates. The goal was to determine the potential for indirect assessment of landing forces for the purpose of risk screening in athletes.

Jenna Encheff, PT, Ph.D., director of Trine’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program, said this year’s group is by far the largest number of Trine students to participate in the conference.

“This level of participation is a testament to the growth of the Trine DPT program as well as the scholarship of our students,” Encheff said.

Photos: Top, from left, David M. Morris, PT, PhD, FAPTA, board member of the Physical Therapy Learning Institute (PTLI); Steve Sullivan, PT, DPT, assistant professor, Trine University; Trine University third-year Doctor of Physical Therapy students Morgan Truex, Emily Reif and Kate Groenhagen; and Tricia Widenhoefer, PT, DPT, assistant professor, Trine University. The Trine group earned an Education Influencer Award for an outstanding poster presentation from PTLI during the Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association. At right, Trine University Doctor of Physical Therapy students Carlee Richardson, left, and Jithmie Jayawickrema give a platform presentation on “The Influence of Attentional Focus on Landing Kinetics” during the Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association.