Congressman tours USF School of Physical Therapy

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis toured the USF School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences Aug. 20 as part of a visit to learn more about the University of South Florida’s comprehensive research and educational initiatives to benefit veterans and active military.

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The Congressman met with physical therapy faculty members engaged in leading-edge Department of Defense-funded studies – including testing advanced prosthetics for military amputees, evaluating an exercise training regimen intended to protect soldiers against low back injury, and recruiting USF student veterans exposed to blasts while in the military but not diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, to determine whether balance, gait and hearing problems may be early signs of TBI.  He was accompanied by Lt. General Martin Steele (USMC retired), executive director of USF Military Partnerships, and William S. Quillen, DPT, associate dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and director of the School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences.

USF’s physical therapy school is home to a Center for Neuromusculoskeletal Research, with research sponsored by the DOD, Federal Emergency Management Agency and corporate partners, as well as support from recurring state funding.

Bilirakis, vice chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, also met with USF President Judy Genshaft, Larry Braue, EdD, director of veterans services at USF, and several of the university’s Tillman Military Scholars, including some from the Morsani College of Medicine. USF’s college of medicine has one of the largest concentrations of Tillman scholars of any medical school in the country.

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Jason Highsmith, DPT, PhD, assistant professor in the USF School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, shows Congressman Gus Bilirakis a couple of the multifunctional prosthetic feet his team is evaluating as part of a DOD-funded research project.

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John Mayer, DC, PhD, Lincoln College Endowed Chair in Biomechanical and Chiropractic Research, explains the project he leads investigating whether a specific exercise training regimen may protect against low back injury in combat soldiers. They study enrolled healthy medics at Fort Sam Houston, TX.

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Jeannie Stephenson (left), PT, MS, instructor, and Dolly Swisher, PT, PhD, professor, demonstrate the neurocom sensory organization test that will be used to help isolate balance difficulties that may be a preclinical indicator of mild traumatic brain injury.

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Seok Hun Kim, PhD, PT, assistant professor of physical therapy, is among the USF researchers involved in federally-funded research to benefit soldiers and veterans, with applications for civilian amputees as well.

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L to R: Vietnam War veterans Rudy Salas and Jim Daniels, advocates of the advanced prosthetic research conducted at USF, chat with Bilirakis.

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 Photos by Amy Blodgett, USF Communications & Marketing