School of Health Professions Students Showcase Their Scholarly Work

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School of Health Professions Students Showcase Their Scholarly Work

May 27, 2022

Graduate students in the School of Health Professions gathered on Zoom on May 10 and 11 to share their research findings at the school’s annual Aletheia Research Symposium. Aletheia (Greek for “truth”) showcases scholarly research that student teams have carried out under faculty supervision.

Ninety-five students pursuing master’s degrees in physician assistant studies (PA) and occupational therapy (OT) and doctorates in physical therapy (D.P.T.) uncovered truth for this spring’s symposium. Two faculty from the College of Osteopathic Medicine also worked on projects with physical therapy students.

Co-chairs Rosemary Gallagher, Ph.D., associate professor of PT, and Shinu Kuriakose, DHSc, associate professor of PA, and research committee members organized the two-day event.

On May 10, New York Tech President Hank Foley, Ph.D.; Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, and Interim Provost Jerry Balentine, D.O.; and School of Health Professions Dean Gordon Schmidt, Ph.D., welcomed attendees.

Schmidt described the poster presentations as “polished and professional.” He added, “They are evidence of the quality of research coming out of the School of Health Professions.”

Assistant Professor of Nursing Jessica Varghese, Ph.D., gave the keynote address. She discussed the tools that health professions students need to identify and adequately empower patients who come from various cultures and experiences. She emphasized the small change and big impact that cultural humility and trauma-informed practices would have, advocating that they need to become part of the professional toolkit. In 2019, Varghese was part of a multi-discipline medical outreach trip to work with refugee populations in Athens, Greece, to enhance cultural awareness among students.

Following Varghese’s address, each group of student researchers shared their posters. A single student representing each research group described their findings while the poster appeared on screen. Audience members asked follow-up questions at the end of each formal talk.

On May 11, D.P.T. students gave detailed presentations of their capstone research with platform presentations. Research committee member John Handrakis, D.P.T., Ed.D., professor of PT, noted that as doctoral students, D.P.T. students are required to give a platform presentation.

“Up until this year, the D.P.T. program has been the only doctoral-level program in the School of Health Professions,” said Gallagher. Research committee member Beth Elenko, Ph.D., associate professor of OT, added, “The occupational therapy program launched a doctoral-level program in 2020 (O.T.D.). Beginning next year, third-year O.T.D. students will be defending their capstones.”

A panel of experts judged the 23 poster projects and presented awards in four categories. Research committee members Kristine Prazak-Davoli, Alexander Rothstein, and Michael Tautonico, D.P.T., organized the faculty voting, and the following teams were recognized in their categories.

The winners are:


First Place: Walking and Using a Cell Phone: Differential Changes in Gait Kinematics Found in Young, Older Healthy, and People with PD

Physical Therapy Students:

  • Aissa Beaton
  • Michalea Chee
  • Dianna Hanna
  • Hripsime Petrosyan

Advisor: Rosemary Gallagher, Ph.D.

Gait was significantly impacted by a dual-task activity (walking while using a cell phone) in older individuals and people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Walking while typing resulted in more detriments in gait compared to baseline trials and swiping trials in older adults and people with PD. Knowledge of gait changes while walking and using a cell phone in older adults and people with PD may be valuable to clinicians to develop proper treatment programs that include dual task activities that are applicable to daily life.

Health and Medicine

First Place: The Effect of Online Learning During COVID-19 on PA Students’ Mental Health

Physician Assistant Students:

  • Leo Choi
  • Tiffany Cuth
  • Andrew Pudlik
  • Janelle Zapiti

Advisor: Sara Winter, PA-C

The focus of this study was to compare anxiety levels for in-person learning vs. online learning. A cross-sectional survey was distributed online. The survey utilized components of the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item (GAD-7) scale to sample anxiety levels with in-person learning vs. online learning. When comparing the two samples, there were no statistically significant differences in anxiety levels for in-person vs. online learning. However, anxiety levels among the sampled population of graduate healthcare students were significantly higher than the average reported anxiety levels of college students reported by the American psychological society.


First Place: Manual Therapy and Pain Modulation: A Systematic Review

Physical Therapy Students:

  • Philip Balcer
  • Kristin Kujan
  • Jaclyn Marry
  • Victoria Porretti
  • Matthew Romaine

Advisor: Mark Gugliotti, D.P.T.

This project reviewed the literature published in the last 11 years. This systematic review showed a moderate level of evidence to suggest that manual therapy applied to the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral regions provided analgesic effects. Therefore, manual therapy can be considered an effective tool for pain modulation.


First Place: Adaptive vs. Maladaptive Perfectionism in PA and D.O. Students and Its Multifaceted Impact on Academic Performance

Physician Assistant Studies Students:

  • Brittany Lofgren
  • Yancey McCoury
  • Alexis Rohrbaugh
  • Jennifer Rollins

Advisor: Shinu Kuriakose, DHSc

The unending goal of achieving perfectionism among PA students, in the context of social media, often leads to increased depression and anxiety. The study’s results highlighted the fact that PA students, even when achieving high GPAs, were not immune to this increased anxiety. The drive to achieve high scores led to maladaptive traits such as increased competition and reliance on social media output as reality. The awareness of students being at risk when comparing themselves to social media norms should, in the long term, lead to better student mental health outcomes.

This article was contributed by John Handrakis, D.P.T., Ed.D., professor of physical therapy.