The University of Wisconsin-Madison is considered one of the premier research institutions in the country, and the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program is proud to contribute to this reputation. 

Faculty within the program conduct research on a variety of topics and their work spans from basic science to applied clinical research. Faculty are well-respected in their research and clinical fields, and give numerous presentations nationwide and internationally.

Students not only have the opportunity to learn from accomplished clinicians but from individuals who are striving to expand the knowledge base of physical therapy, health and science in general.

An important component of the Doctor of Physical Therapy curriculum is the research track. Students receive instruction in research design and statistics germane to rehabilitation medicine and become good "consumers" of published research through a review of articles relevant to physical therapy practice. They also have the opportunity to work with research mentors within or external to the program. Many students coauthor journal publications and present research findings at national and state meetings.

Active projects

Evaluating a Patient-centered, Web-based Intervention to Improve Work Ability of Breast Cancer Survivors

The purpose of this project is to evaluate the effects of a novel health information technology that incorporates symptom management and ergonomic strategies to improve work ability in breast cancer survivors. This project targets both symptom management of breast cancer survivors and modifiable workplace risk factors to minimize work disability.

Factors Affecting Work Limitations in Women with Advanced Breast Cancer

The purpose of this project is to identify factors that influence work limitations and employment in those with advanced breast cancer. This information will be used to develop resources to help women address employment challenges that they may encounter.

Optimizing Survivorship Care Coordination: A Sociotechnical Systems Approach

The overall goal of this proposal is to improve the fragmented and uncoordinated care experienced by cancer survivors. Human factors engineers, in conjunction with oncology and primary care clinicians, will re-engineer a survivorship care plan and surrounding work system in order to improve survivorship care.

Assessment of an Electronic Health Record Generated Cancer Care Plan to Improve Health Outcomes in Cancer Survivors

The objective of this project is to evaluate the effect of an electronic health record-generated care plan on survivor health outcomes and clinical workflow in oncology and primary care.

Designing Usable and Accessible Health Information Technologies

The purpose of this project is to research and develop innovative technological solutions for, and promote universal access to, current and emerging health information technologies and technology interfaces that promote a seamless integration of multiple technologies used by individuals with chronic illnesses or disabilities in the home, the community and the workplace.

Development and Validation of the University of Wisconsin Running Injury and Recovery Index

The objective of this project is to develop the first running specific patient-reported outcome measure enabling clinicians and researchers to quantify limitations in running resulting from an injury. This project involves a multi-stage, iterative process to develop the outcome measure and evaluate the psychometric properties.

Student Physical Therapists’ Acquisition of Joint Manipulation Skills

This project aims to assess how student physical therapists acquire the technical skill and self-efficacy required to proficiently perform joint manipulation interventions. Joint manipulation skill development is tracked, in combination with the curriculum, throughout the entry-level program. Through this process, we evaluate the effectiveness of various instructional methods in all phases of DPT education.

Establishing a Clinical Database for Spinal Muscular Atrophy: A Multidisciplinary Approach to a Complex Pediatric Population

This study will develop a basis for establishing a standard of clinical care for children with spinal muscular atrophy based on the current care from multiple centers. The study will initially collect retrospective data but will move to collecting prospective data to establish long term outcomes of clinical care.

Multi-center Clinical Trials for Gene Modifying Therapy (AVXS 303) and Gene Replacement Therapy (AVXS 304) for Children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Functional Testing as Additional Criteria for Return to Play Following an ACL Sprain

The objective of this study is to investigate changes in body composition and dynamic force measures following an acute ACL sprain with the goal of improving return to play criteria.

Funding: UW Sports Medicine Research Foundation

Using a Performance Testing Battery to Track Injury-risk and Athletic Performance in Student-Athletes

Performed in collaboration with  the UW Badger Athletic Performance program, this research area involves several individual projects encompassing neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, cardiopulmonary, nutrition and sleep behaviors.

Understanding Underrepresented in Medicine Students’ Perspectives in Pursuing Health Professional Careers

Diversification of the health care workforce by race and ethnicity offers a strategy for addressing health care disparities. This study explores the experiences with pathways programming and mentoring of underrepresented-in-medicine (URM) undergraduates aspiring to health professional careers.