University of South Florida

USF Health physical therapy program expands research footprint to improve patient outcomes

The USF Health School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences (SPTRS) is taking strides to expand its research efforts and contribute significantly to the improvement of patient care and the advancement in the movement sciences, particularly in physical therapy and athletic training. With a vision to make lives better, the school is focused on internal and external collaborations, securing grants, and conducting research that addresses critical questions using scientific methods.

Guided and supported by the school’s leadership, SPTRS faculty are committed to increasing their research footprint by attracting new faculty members, obtaining additional grants, and generating research with widespread implications. They aim to create a significant impact on patients, their families, and society, said Dave Russ, PT, PhD, associate professor and assistant director of research at SPTRS.

“Our primary goal is to produce research that goes beyond mere accreditation requirements,” Dr. Russ said. “We aspire to explore real questions and apply strong scientific methods to address them.” 

USF Health’s strategic location in the growing Tampa Bay region plays a pivotal role in SPTRS research pursuits. The area’s diverse population mirrors that of the entire United States. This provides a unique opportunity to collaborate with clinical partners, local hospitals, and the community, which enables the school to produce research findings that are generalizable and applicable to the broader U.S. population. 

“Our presence in Tampa Bay allows us to work closely with our clinical partners and the community to tackle diverse research topics,” said Doug Haladay, PT, DPT, PhD, MHS, professor and director of the USF Health School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences and associate dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. “Despite the variations in subject matter, we share one common vision… to make lives better.” 

The research produced by SPTRS faculty benefits patients directly and contributes to the advancement of the physical therapy and athletic training professions. Not only does their research advance the professions, but they are able to bring that research into the classroom for their students to ensure they are being taught contemporary practices and evidence. The school prides itself on its ability to have a collaborative environment, where interdisciplinary partnerships with different departments and colleges strengthen potential research projects and grant applications. The athletic training faculty have a strong partnership with USF Health Sports Medicine and Athletics and are continually working to share research findings and collaborate on best practices to support our USF athletes and teams.

Furthermore, the school is proud of its ability to secure research funding from many sources, ranging from local foundations to nationally funded initiatives, including the prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense (DOD). This diversified funding approach enables researchers to explore a wide array of topics and pursue programmatic research that can drive significant improvements in patient outcomes.

Research milestones at USF Health School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences: 

  • Growth in Peer-Reviewed Publications: Over the last three years, the USF Health School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences has experienced a substantial 76% increase in peer-reviewed publications.
  • Engagement in Professional Presentations: The school’s faculty members actively participate in more than 32 professional presentations annually, sharing their research findings with the wider academic and healthcare communities both nationally and internationally.
  • Surging Research Expenditures: The school has experienced an impressive 33% increase in research expenditures from 2019 to 2023.
  • Funding from DOD and NIH: Several projects have been awarded funding from esteemed organizations such as the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  


As the USF Health School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences continues to expand its research endeavors, its focus on producing impactful, evidence-based research continues to contribute to the betterment of society striving for its vision of making lives better.

Story, photos, and video by Ryan Rossy.

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