Brown University received a $2.5 million grant from the Foundation for Physical Therapy to establish the Center on Health Services Training and Research, a center that will be established over the course of five years with help from researchers at Boston University and University of Pittsburgh, according to a Thursday press release.
The researchers will collaborate with Brown on CoHSTAR to train physical therapists, conduct research and work to improve physical therapy, the release stated.
Linda Resnik, the lead investigator and an associate professor at Brown, said there is often a lack of evidence and physical therapy health services research to determine the effectiveness of treatments.
“CoHSTAR will develop a cadre of physical therapy scientists who can conduct health services and health policy research to address our gaps in knowledge in these and other important areas,” she said in the release. “Ultimately, our research will demonstrate with empirical data the impact physical therapy has on patient outcomes and will be useful for informing practice and policy.”
Mary Slavin, a CoHSTAR researcher and the director of education and dissemination at the Health and Disability Research Institute at BU, said this caliber of research has not been done before in the field.
“It shows that the foundation for physical therapy is in the forefront of recognizing the needs for these skills,” she said.
Alan Jette, a professor of health policy and management in the School of Public Health, said research done through the program will have the potential to provide ground-breaking information.
“Developing talent to do health services research is something quite new and quite innovative for the field,” he said. “I’m very excited to be a part of that initial effort. It’s good to have a profound impact on what we know about the delivery and the effectiveness of physical therapy services.”
Up to nine postdoctoral fellows, five visiting scientists and various faculty members and researchers will receive training at CoHSTAR’s summer institute, the release stated. A “trickle-down effect” will allow for the research and training to be integrated into doctoral programs.
Jette said a large body of data shared among the three schools will be useful for research.
“One of the areas is to help researchers learn how to analyze big data having to do with healthcare delivery,” he said. “There are a lot of skills required to analyze and interpret large data sets, and that’ll be one of the areas we focus on. We will also focus on training of how to do real world pragmatic trials.”
Kelley Fitzgerald, a CoHSTAR researcher and professor of physical therapy at Pitt, said each of the schools participating bring different areas of expertise in working with a large amount of information.
“Brown University’s area of expertise will be the analysis of large databases to help service research questions,” he said. “Boston University’s expertise is in outcome measures, held outcome, so developing instruments and figuring out better ways to measure held outcomes on a large scale, and the University of Pittsburgh, our area is conducting quality assurance and implementation studies.”
Fitzgerald said the pilot study core program run by Pitt is expected to begin by July.
Anthony Delitto, another CoHSTAR researcher and the associate dean for research in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Pitt, said the field of physical therapy is changing.
“One of the things most everyone agrees on is we are moving from a system that is the more times we see a patient, the more we charge them, the more money we make,” he said. “We form that sort of environment everywhere in the country to one where value comes to the forefront.”
Slavin said the research from CoHSTAR will help physical therapists gain skills and improve treatment.
“Most physical therapists focus on their clinical skill, that’s what they are doing, and to help people get better with the types of interventions they would use with a particular diagnosis. That’s a skill we are looking to improve,” she said. “It shows that the foundation for physical therapy is in the forefront of recognizing the needs for these skills had the foresight.”
Several students said research grants such as this are real-world applications of what they are learning in the classroom.
Hayara Cardoso, a sophomore in the College of General Studies, said she is interested in how public health researchers are collaborating in physical therapy research.
“My major has a concentration in public health, so anything that is benefiting the program would be good,” she said. “I feel like any grant that is benefiting the development of health is beneficial. Obviously it is a lot of money, but it seems like it is going to a good cause.”
Mustafa Shehzad, a freshman in the College of Engineering, said seeing BU get involved in nationwide research can lead to opportunities for students to get involved.
“They are making an effort to empower students with the information,” he said. “The fact that it’s a collaboration between more than one, that’s also a good thing. I want to do hands-on work, and although the research is not direct, it could help me channel my efforts.”