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Doctor of Physical Therapy Student Work

In addition to classroom, lab, and clinical placements, DPT students have a variety of other work, both required and volunteer, that they find time to excel at while at Samuel Merritt. The DPT Program is busy, but motivated students find time for outside activities such as volunteering in the community and assisting with faculty research projects. Some work, such as Case Report Day and the Physical Therapy Neurologic Clinic, are part of the curriculum but allow students to meet pressing community needs and to practice professional presentations skills for the SMU and physical therapy community. Click on the links below to see some examples of recent student work including:


DPT Students Assisting Faculty with Research
Each year, students are able to elect to work with SMU DPT faculty on research projects.  This work is volunteer or paid by grants/stipends and is on a case-by-case basis. Examples of research currently being assisted by SMU DPT students includes:

  • Approximately 10 students per year have assisted Dr. Gail Widener with a grant entitled “Movement Ability Changes with Balance-Based Torso-Weighting in Multiple Sclerosis (MS)”. This study is funded by the NIH.
  • 4 students assisting Dr. Rolando Lazaro with data collection on "Case Series: Effects of Alter-G Treadmill Training on Balance, Mobility and Strength of Older Adults with Selected Neuromuscular and Musculosketelal Conditions."
  • 7 students assisting Dr. Gail Widener on presenting a "Free From Falls" class for persons with Multiple Sclerosis. This class is part of a National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation initiative to reduce falls in persons with MS.
  • 6 students assisting Dr. Sharon Gorman with creating and shooting videoclip examples of acute care tests & measures for the Function In Sitting Test Online Training and an online continuing education module on tests and measures in acute care for Kaiser Permanente.
  • 5 students have participated in a grant “Balance-Based Torso Weighting Effects in Normal Healthy People and Reliability of the BBTW Method” in data collection and analysis.

Student & Graduate Publications
Every year, approximately two to three student case reports have been presented as posters or platforms at state, national, and international conferences. Additionally, students' case reports have also been published in peer-reviewed journals in orthopedic, geriatric, and student physical therapy and in other international research journals and textbooks. Examples of the most recent publications include the following:

  • Hapai J, Gorman SL. Substanital functional improvements in a patient post stroke with a focus on family support and a multi-modal intervention approach. Poster presentation at CPTA Annual Confernce in Pasadena, CA, September 2013.
  • Lazaro RT, Gorman SL, Novello A, Widener G. Conversion disorder. In: Burke-Doe A, ed. Case Files in Physical Therapy (Neurology). Philadelphia, PA: McGraw Hill. Expected publication: July 2013.
  • Lazaro RT, Luong H. Acute Transverse Myelitis. In: Burke-Doe A, ed. Case Files in Physical Therapy (Neurology). Philadelphia, PA: McGraw Hill. Expected publication: July 2013.
  • Rideout D, Nordstrom T, Lazaro PT. Coccidioidomycosis. In: Burke-Doe A, ed. Case Files in Physical Therapy (Neurology). Philadelphia, PA: McGraw Hill. Expected publication: July 2013.
  • Harvey T, Gorman SL. Non-traumatic spinal cord injury. In: Burke-Doe A, ed. Case Files in Physical Therapy (Neurology).Philadelphia, PA: McGraw Hill. Expected publication: July 2013.
  • Holt E, Gorman SL. Outpatient cerebrovascular accident. In: Burke-Doe A, ed. Case Files in Physical Therapy (Neurology).Philadelphia, PA: McGraw Hill. Expected publication: July 2013.

Case Report Presentations
As part of a Samuel Merritt DPT graduate's culminating experience, students must prepare and present a Case Report on a patient encountered during their 8 week summer clinical placement or  internship.  Students orally present their cases at Case Report Presentation Day each spring to the SMU community and the public, and they also submit an abstract and detailed outline of their case.

Community Volunteer Work
SMU DPT students perform many hours of volunteer community service, in addition to their challenging course load. Examples of recent SMU DPT student community volunteer work include:

  • Volunteering as part of an SMU interprofessional team providing medical clinics in rural Panama with Hands for Americas.
  • Assisting Dr. Sue Grieve in presenting educational sessions on exercise for persons with cancer at the Markstein Cancer Center at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.
  • Working with licensed physical therapists as part of the San Francisco to Los Angelse AIDS Life Cycle ride as part of the Sports Medicine Team.
  • Leading tours of SMU's Anatomy Lab and other facilities and speaking with local  high school students about health sciences careers and college as part of the FACES for the Future program.
  • See photos of DPT students volunteering in the community in the SMU DPT Flickr photostream.

Physical Therapy Neurologic Clinic
In PT 713 PCM Neuro I and PT 718 PCM Neuro II, DPT students run a free clinic for community members with neurologic dysfunction.