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Researcher Spotlights

LaToya Green

LaToya Green, PT, DPT, Ed.D, Cert. DN

Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Therapy

 

 

 

Previous Researcher Spotlights

Tell us about yourself and what piqued your interest in your chosen field of research?

I am LaToya Green, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy. I received the following degrees: BA in Psychology from Tougaloo College (1994); Master of Physical Therapy from Arkansas State University (2004); Doctor of Physical Therapy from Arkansas State University (2015); and Doctor of Education in Higher Education from Union University (2019). I practiced in the outpatient physical therapy clinics at Baptist Desoto for 10 years. While at Baptist Desoto, I was a clinical instructor for nine years. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching and transitioned to academia full time in 2015. I began my career in academia as an Assistant Professor in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Arkansas State University. In 2019, I became the Director of Clinical Education at Arkansas State University. I joined UTHSC in August 2021.

I am active in educational and clinical research. My curiosity in educational research was piqued when I began pursuing my doctoral degree in higher education. My interest in clinical research (blood flow restriction) was ignited by one of my mentors, Dr. Roy L. Aldridge, and other clinical research interests (prosthetics, orthotics, myofascial release, etc.) were sparked by courses I taught at Arkansas State University. 

What recent research project have you been working on that you’d like to share with us? 

With regards to educational research, I am currently working with colleagues at Arkansas State on a Socratic method approach for increasing and maintaining safe spaces to develop cultural intelligence and cultural competency within Athletic Training, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy programs. With regards to clinical research, I am currently assisting colleagues at Arkansas State with a study on blood flow restriction (BFR) and myofascial release (MFR). The purpose of this study is to assess strength gains of the pectoralis major muscle in the non-dominant upper extremity after implementing BFR and MFR. I am also assisting Dr. Phyllis Ritchie with the Powered Ankle-Foot Orthosis (PAFO) study to determine if exchanging a typically prescribed Ankle-Foot Orthosis (AFO) for a PAFO will provide a suitable alternative and improve functional performance, ambulatory ability, safety and quality of life for veterans using AFOs. 

Tell us about your role in this study/project?  

I am a co-PI in the educational research study and BFR and MFR study. I am the Evaluation Physical Therapist in the PAFO study.

What do you want the public to know about your research? Why is your topic important?

From the educational research perspective, I would like health care educators to realize that it is vital that difficult topics, such as cultural competence, are introduced in the classroom so that students are better equipped to understand and address situations presented by a diverse patient population. From the clinical research aspect, I would like the public to know that BFR is a treatment option for certain candidates to gain strength in the upper and lower body without overloading and overstressing the joints. 

“The traditional Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO), often prescribed for people who have lower-limb impairment resulting foot drop, has not had any major innovation for over 30 years. That type of orthotic brace generally prescribed for foot drop holds the ankle in a relatively fixed position when a step is taken, which alters the normal walking pattern, throwing off balance and increasing the risk of falling, compared to those without foot drop. The innovative design of a Powered Ankle Foot Orthosis (PAFO) allows the affected ankle to move, both lifting the toe and providing push-off as steps are taken.”

“We are interested in seeing if we can not only improve the quality of movement, but also bring about meaningful changes in overall patient function through the use of technology that is often not available to patients suffering from foot drop.  Additionally, in terms of positively impacting long-term quality of life for foot drop patients, we are interested to know if a device like a Powered Ankle Foot Orthosis (PAFO) could actually improve long-term function, and potentially carry over to when the device is not being worn.”

What are the most interesting or surprising findings from your work so far? 

Although the educational study has not been implemented, it has been quite challenging for me to design a Socratic method approach for increasing and maintaining safe spaces to develop cultural intelligence and cultural competency.

What is your favorite part of your job? 

The favorite part of my job is implementing the research.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Recruiting subjects is the most challenging part of the job.

What do you like to do outside of the lab? Do you have any personal hobbies or interests?

I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

 

Previous Spotlights

May 2022
madlock brown

This month's Researcher Spotlight is feature Charisse Madlock-Brown, PhD, MLS. Dr. Brown has been a faculty member at the UTHSC College of Health Professions Health Informatics and Health Information Management since early 2015. She received her Master’s in Library Science and Ph.D. in Health Informatics from the University of Iowa. She has expertise in data management, data mining, and visualization. She has a broad background in health informatics, and has has authored several book chapters and journal articles.

 What recent research project have you been working on that you would like to share with us?

I have a couple of different projects I have been working on, but recently I have been working with the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C). The N3C is a partnership among the National Center for Data to Health- and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences-supported Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program hubs. The idea for it is to create a large scale repository of millions of patient records from institutions all over the country. It's also a collaborative platform, which makes it so much easier for researchers. Even if you a researcher doesn't have a lot of resources, or you can still access the data and contribute be a part of research teams.  
  
Tell us about your role in this study/project?  

As part of the N3C project, I am the co-lead for the Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) team. The team’s goal is to identify questions that either validate current research or answer new questions for local policy around COVID-19, the impact of groups experiencing resource challenges, and the impact of the pandemic on inequalities. I've been the team co-lead for the past two years.

 What is something interesting or surprising from your long COVID research so far?  

Eventually, the idea is to characterize the subtypes of long Covid that health care providers should expect to see in their clinics. So far, the data has revealed at several clusters of co-occuring diagnosis in long-Covid patients, including cardiopulmonary, neurologic, and metabolic diseases. It is all still preliminary, but we are seeing these kind of patterns emerged that were very much in line with what many of our long COVID clinicians were seeing and this review of the data is helping us validate this. 

We have been able to see some patterns emerging from the data. Different things like the  65+ age group presented with diseases associated with aging like heart failure and atrial fibrillation, and then for the youngest group, there's a multisystem inflammatory syndrome. All of this data gives us much more to explore. 
 

 

April 2022
paek

Tell us about yourself and what piqued your interest in your chosen field of research?  

My name is Eun Jin Paek and I am currently in my fifth year of being an Assistant Professor in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology. My research focuses on acquired neurogenic language disorders including neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, primary progressive aphasia, and post-stroke aphasia. When I majored in Linguistics during undergrad, I took a course on Speech Pathology and was fascinated by the fact that brain disorders can affect language processes so substantially. I chose Speech Language Pathology for my graduate study and was incredibly lucky to land a job as a Speech Language Pathologist in university hospitals. Here, I had the opportunity to evaluate and treat thousands of patients with neurological disorders in all stages. In addition to this, I had personal experience seeing family members with dementia, which further drew me to dementia research. Today, I am using fMRI scans to help identify neural and behavioral characteristics of dementia and aphasia and find management strategies to help patients cope with these conditions.  
 
What recent research project have you been working on that you would like to share with us?

For my most recent project, I am investigating social communication abilities in people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. I am studying how people with dementia communicate with different partners (familiar people and strangers) and how they use their language in various contexts over time. There is limited research on what people with dementia can and cannot do in terms of social communication, so this project will hopefully shed light on how we could better communicate with dementia patients. I was fortunate to be funded by the National Institute on Aging for this study and have begun to collect data on cognitive, linguistic, and gestural characteristics of social communication in this population. After a bit of a delay due to the pandemic, I am excited to start data collection on this important topic.  
  
Tell us about your role in this study/project?  

I am the principal investigator of this project, and I’m responsible for every aspect of it. I have worked on conceptualizing, designing, and conducting the study protocol. I also work with research assistants to train and supervise them. As principal investigator, I will also analyze and disseminate the results. 
 
What do you want the public to know about your research? Why is your topic important? 

Social communication is one of the most important aspects to study for early detection and management of dementia. This is because people with dementia begin showing subtle cognitive and linguistic changes decades before their formal diagnosis. Social communication is so complicated, but we believe we have the power to detect whether someone will develop dementia or not by looking at their social communication abilities closely. Also, social communication needs to be managed and optimized efficiently in this population as they will gradually lose their independence and will need to rely on their care partners in the later stages of their disease. Unfortunately, our society has seldom focused on developing management strategies for communication in this population.  
 
When somebody is diagnosed with dementia, people tend to see only those negative and scary aspects of dementia – losing memory or cognition, and no longer being the person that they used to be. However, there can be hopeful moments in the battle too. There is accumulating research suggesting that people with dementia may not only maintain, but also improve, their linguistic and cognitive abilities with cognitive and linguistic treatment. People with Alzheimer’s disease can delay their disease progression if they were given the right type and amount of stimulation, support, and care. There are so many factors that impact their disease manifestation and how they will live with their diagnosis.  
 
Science has been evolving around how Alzheimer’s disease and related pathologies develop and interact to cause dementia, but my ultimate goal is to investigate how we can detect and treat the symptoms before they appear and to determine personal, neural, cognitive, and linguistic factors that affect disease manifestation.  
 
What are the most interesting or surprising findings from your work so far?  

I find it remarkably interesting that there is so much individual variability and heterogeneity in this population. With the same diagnosis and severity, and similar general (global) cognition scores, some people show excellent social communication skills while others do not. How could people function at such various levels with the same amount of neuropathology, which hypothetically causes brain dysfunction?  
 
We have so much to learn. It is well known that about 40% of older adults in their 90s have Alzheimer’s disease in their brain, but do not show dementia symptoms. This is where I want to focus my research. By studying the differences between those who maintain their cognitive and linguistic functions and those who develop symptoms of dementia, I hope to uncover ways to help prevent dementia in people of all ages.  
 
What is your favorite part of your job? 

What I love the most is the collegial interactions with people that I work with. I love to work with my colleagues who are so inspirational, intelligent, and kind. As a junior faculty member, there is so much to learn from my colleagues and staff, and I genuinely enjoy learning everything here. I also equally enjoy interacting with students who are so brilliant, inquisitive, and good-hearted. Listening to the questions and thoughts of students when they are learning something is so fun because they bring fresh perspectives. I love to hear those thoughts from outside the box. I am learning so much from everybody around me in my work, and I am so blessed as I feel grateful every day doing my job.  
 
What is the most challenging part of your job? 

The most challenging part is also a favorite part of my job -- pushing myself to grow. I always try to learn new information and skills and like to participate in various workshops and seminars to keep up with the new knowledge and findings in my field. As you can imagine, there is no end to this activity and it is sometimes overwhelming, but I also love it so much. Also, I challenge myself to grow by continuously participating in competitions, such as writing grant applications. It requires so much time and energy, but at the same time I get to find myself improving a lot after each opportunity, and the feelings of achievement (when I was done with all the writing or when I was awarded grants) cannot be exchanged with anything else in my work.  
 
What do you like to do outside of the lab? Do you have any personal hobbies or interests? 

I am a mama bear with a 5-year-old boy, and my family is quite child-centered, so I currently don’t really have any hobbies. I'm sure some parents might be able to relate to that. Before my son was born, I really loved to travel and experience new places, people, and diverse cultures  (e.g., India, Egypt, Thailand, Japan, Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia). I look forward to having more trips with my family when we are ready, and this pandemic is over. Other than traveling, I absolutely love spending time with my family, going to the beautiful state and national parks around us, hiking, and visiting museums, zoos, and aquariums. You might also find our family dining at well-known, and hidden, restaurants in and around Knoxville because I love eating and trying new food is a big part of the pleasure in my life! 

March 2022
Jerry Williams

Tell us about yourself and what first interested you in your chosen field of research? 

My name is Lee Williams. I graduated from UTHSC in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy. I received my doctorate from Quinnipiac University in 2017. During my 25+ years of clinical practice I have been fascinated by the evolution of evidence-based practice related to stroke. Despite the prevalence of stroke there is little solid evidence regarding best practice for management of symptoms. There is also a lack of research into intervention efficacy. My goal as a researcher is to attempt to fill this gap with solid evidence supporting best practice. 

Is there a recent research project have you been working on that you’d like to share with us? 

I am currently involved in an AOTF (American Occupational Therapy Foundation) supported study examining the access to and effectiveness of occupational therapy in home health stroke rehab in Tennessee Medicaid patients. We are looking at SDOH as well as differences in treatment provided in rural versus urban areas. 

My role in this study has included providing background information on practice interventions used, identifying ICD-10 codes for the study, selecting relevant CPT codes indicating OT involvement in the POC of clients, performing literature review and drafting a preliminary scoping review of the topic. 

What would you like the public to know about your research and why it is important? 

It is vital that we identify intervention strategies that result in the best outcomes for our clients. As the number of older adults continues to increase, there is increased burden on the healthcare system to maximize benefit to clients to reduce long term illness and disability. Payors need to understand which services are most efficacious and cost effective in order to stay competitive and to reduce expense associated with stroke.

What are the most interesting or surprising findings from your work so far? 

One thing I have found interesting is how little communication occurs between healthcare providers in different practice settings. Although stroke survivors often receive care in multiple clinical setting, these providers have little contact with one another resulting in duplication of services and poorer outcomes.

What do you like to do outside of the lab? Do you have any personal hobbies or interests?

I love the outdoors! I enjoy camping, travel, riding ATVs, shooting guns, and doing gardening and landscaping. I also enjoy volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and the Memphis Union Mission. 

 

Jun 15, 2022