Sheltering Arms Institute Hosts First Community Research Symposium

Sheltering Arms Institute hosted a virtual research symposium on January 13, 2021, in an effort to collaborate with the wider Richmond-area community on current research impacting clinical practices. The symposium was attended by at least 60 people and opened with remarks from Amber Walter, clinical science manager, highlighting the potential for the event to connect clinicians and scientists, a known method for closing the gap between research and practice. Platform presentations were delivered by 4 scientists representing various institutions: Sheltering Arms Institute, Sheltering Arms Physical Rehabilitation Centers, and Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center. The work presented has been supported by the Sheltering Arms Foundation, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Central Virginia VA Health Care System.

The first presentation, delivered by Dr. Zach Crump, DPT, utilized a case series methodology to examine an algorithm for the prediction of walking recovery with patients at Sheltering Arms Hospital who utilized a myriad of advanced rehabilitation technologies. Crump, a board-certified neurologic physical therapist, showed the prediction was correct for some people undergoing inpatient rehabilitation after stroke, but some also fared better than the initial predictions. He reported one conclusion to draw may be the intensity of interventions for stroke survivors may matter more than just technology use alone.

Next, Dr. Ashraf Gorgey, PhD and Director of Research for Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders at Central Virginia VA Health Care System, discussed the results of his recent research on neuromodulation. Gorgey emphasized his research taps into the capability of the spinal cord to be “smart” or learn from the implanted spinal stimulation techniques he utilized in his research. In his study for people who had sustained a cervical spinal cord injury, he used this stimulation with an exoskeleton, or overground walking robot, to deliver walking interventions. Results showed less power had to be used from the robot to produce steps by the participants over several weeks of training.

Dr. Carrie Holman, DPT, followed with a presentation in her specialty area of vestibular rehabilitation. Her project aimed to see if individuals with some loss of inner-ear functioning responded to therapy better when dual-task training was incorporated. Dual-task training occurs when patients work on two separate activities at the same time and it has been effective in some patient populations but not the one Holman sought to study. Holman reported those receiving dual-task interventions did improve in a measure of dynamic balance, but not more than those who did not receive the dual-task training. She emphasized the need for therapists to capture outcome measures in order to better investigate questions relating to best practices.

The presentations closed with work by Dr. Logan Shuping, DPT, also a board-certified neurologic physical therapist. Shuping’s work looked at a whole-body vibration intervention on stroke survivors’ walking ability during the inpatient rehabilitation stay. The treatment involving standing on a vibrating platform has recent research that is conflicting and not often addressing the population Shuping looked at. Results did not show statistically significant differences in walking function at the end of the project. Shuping noted her results were limited by a large number of patients that needed to be excluded from the study. The finding may help understand more about the population of stroke survivors in inpatient rehab hospitals to better direct interventions and studies.

To conclude the symposium Alan Lombardo, CEO of Sheltering Arms Institute, gave remarks summarizing important points of each presentation. Attendees were invited to ask questions to the presenters to improve their understanding of the projects’ results and impact on practice. Many thanks are given to an excellent audience who engaged in the conversation. Walter will be working to organize a larger symposium in the Fall with expanded subject areas, which will hopefully be presented in person.

Special thanks to the following individuals for support in organizing the symposium:
Dr. Amol Karmarkar, PhD
Dr. Cristin Beazley, DPT
Lisa Cheney
Tricia Ambler
Devin Bowers