NCH Healthcare System Collaborating with Florida Gulf Coast University - Research Study

July 13, 2011 - Two local institutions are coming together to conduct research on mobility issues that people with debilitating conditions face. “During the most recent accreditation survey of the NCH rehabilitation hospital it was recommended that we pursue opportunities to participate in research. One such opportunity has presented itself through collaboration with Florida Gulf Coast University,” says Heather Baker, administrative director of the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center.

he Arthrex Biomechatronics Lab, which is overseen by Dr. Kristine Csavina, an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, is housed within the U. A. Whitaker School of Engineering at Florida Gulf Coast University. This lab is equipped with motion analysis technology that enables researchers to study people’s movements and learn more about the ways in which people can improve their abilities. NCH and FGCU professionals are in the early planning stages of exploring the viability of a research project pertaining to stroke using the technology in the Biomechatronics Lab.

FGCU researchers are currently collecting data on a project to study mobility performance of people affected by Parkinson disease. The people participating in the study are evaluated initially to measure their ability to walk. From there, the person receives spinal mobilization to the lumbar spine by a certified orthopedic manual physical therapist. Once this simple treatment is done, the person is asked to demonstrate his/her walking ability again. The computer measures the movement and the resulting data can then be compared to evaluate any changes. According to Dr. Mollie Venglar, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Human Performance, “The use of the motion analysis equipment and software allows us to see fine changes in movement as well as look at overall movement patterns. The opportunities to study different aspects of movement and balance with this equipment are endless.”

The next project on the horizon is targeted to study recovery outcomes of people who have suffered strokes. NCH and FGCU professionals are working on a proposal to study whether there are differences in people’s walking abilities based on the type of physical therapy treatment they are given following a stroke. The Arthrex Biomechatronics Lab offers a good opportunity to detect and measure, scientifically, any differences.

NCH’s rehabilitation program recently acquired a piece of equipment that is revolutionizing treatment options for clinical staff. The equipment helps supports a person’s weight and thereby allows the person to be in a standing position, ambulating on a treadmill. By doing this early in the recovery process, it allows for brain and muscle stimulation in an effort to retrain the body. “Having this equipment allows our staff to progress their patients safely and at a more aggressive pace. This is very beneficial for the patient’s recovery process. We are very thankful to our donors, Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Grossman, for their support of our program.” says Karen Judd, director of therapy operations at NCH.

These research projects are formally reviewed through a panel of professionals that serve on Institutional Review Boards. Prior to the start of any project, the IRB evaluates the scope of the research proposal, the resources required, and ultimately makes a determination of the value of the research questions in advancing knowledge and practices. Additionally, grant monies are pursued to fund the research. Grant funding is needed to support the equipment and personnel costs of running a study. If the proposed study related to stroke is approved by the Institutional Review Boards of FGCU and NCH, the research team plans to pursue grant funding. “We have to consider what is needed to make any project truly successful. Like any other large undertaking, time and funding are necessities in research,” says Dr. Venglar.

“This collaborative endeavor benefits both organizations, but most importantly—gives us a chance to do meaningful work toward future opportunities to improve people’s lives. As a Stroke Specialty accredited program, we’re looking to redefine recovery options for people within southwest Florida,” says Heather Baker.

NCH Healthcare System—Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center is a not-for-profit organization, operating at the Downtown campus. The rehab hospital is a 60-bed acute rehabilitation provider serving the community of Naples, and the surrounding region. Visit for more information.

Florida Gulf Coast University is dedicated to providing student-centered learning environment that offers the highest quality educational opportunities for the development of the knowledge, insights, competencies, and skills necessary for success in life and work. Visit for more information.

For additional information, contact Heather Baker at the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center at 239-522-7222.

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