Dr. Krista Vandenborne’s research has focused on the implementation of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) to characterize skeletal muscle in patients. Her laboratory has applied magnetic resonance to the study of skeletal muscle in numerous animal models and a variety of patient populations. Over the last ten years, she has been leading the efforts at the University of Florida to develop a strong translational research program dedicated to the development and validation of MR imaging biomarkers for muscular dystrophy. She serves as the current Director of this project, known as ImagingDMD, which is focused on the development and validation of MRI/MRS biomarkers in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. ImagingDMD has collected longitudinal MR images, functional data, clinical endpoints, demographics, and biosamples in ~180 patients with DMD, with 1-9 year followup. The comprehensive natural history data set acquired by ImagingDMD is viewed as one of the field’s most valuable resources for clinical trial design and is utilized by academia, industry and governmental organizations modeling disease trajectory.
My research laboratory in the UF McKnight Brain Institute is funded by multiple NIH grants and focuses on respiratory neuromuscular control and rehabilitation. Current projects are focused on 1) developing gene therapy approaches for respiratory neuromuscular disorders, 2) electrical and pharmacological stimulation of the spinal cord to promote respiratory motor recovery after spinal cord injury, and 3) understanding the spinal neural circuits that modulate respiratory motor output in health and disease.
I serve as Director of the UF Rehabilitation Science PhD Program http://rehabsci.phhp.ufl.edu/ and am also PI of an NIH T32 Training Grant https://pt.phhp.ufl.edu/train-with-us/t-32/. I also serve as the Associate Director of the Center for Respiratory Research and Rehabilitation at UF https://crrr.phhp.ufl.edu/. The Center brings researchers together from throughout the UF campus in a collaborative effort to advance the understanding and treatment of neuromuscular disorders that compromise respiratory and related non-respiratory movements.
Kim Dunleavy PhD, PT, OCS
Dr. Dunleavy is a Clinical Professor and the Director of Community Engagement and Professional Education in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Florida. She has extensive academic experience in Physical Therapy education at the University of Central Arkansas, Wayne State University and the University of Florida.
Dr Dunleavy’s training includes an entry level professional Physiotherapy Bachelors degree from the University of Cape Town, a Masters in Physical Therapy from the University of Central Arkansas, a Masters in Orthopaedic Manipulative Therapy and residency training from the Ola Grimsby Institute, and a PhD in Instructional Technology from Wayne State University. She has been Board Certified by the American Physical Therapy Association as an Orthopaedic Specialist since 1993.
Along with educational scholarship in global and interprofessional education, Dr Dunleavy’s scholarship and has focused on management of musculoskeletal diagnoses, specifically spinal pain. Dr Dunleavy was the PI of a NIOSH pilot study funded by the Southeastern Coastal Center for Agricultural Health and Safety to identify modifiable work and movement solutions for seafood workers with chronic low back pain, and is currently the PI of a team investigating the effectiveness and implementation of self-management strategies for low back pain in nursery and landscape workers.
She was elected as a Distinguished Scholar and Fellow of the National Academies of Practice Physical Therapy Academy in 2017, serving on a taskforce to address the challenge of the organization’s response to the opioid crisis in 2019, and currently serves as the Chair of the Physical Therapy Academy (2023-2025). She serves as the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy representative to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professions Education. She served on the planning committee for a National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine joint workshop on the Non-Pharmacological Management of Pain in December 2018, and co-editor of a special edition of the Journal of Interprofessional Education and Practice on exemplars and models for interprofessional pain education. She has contributed to the interprofessional and evaluation components of the INSPIRE grant from the Department of Education Training for interdisciplinary personnel preparation for early childhood interventions at the University of Florida. Dr Dunleavy is a member of the Healthcare Sciences Interprofessional Committee at the University of Florida and contributed to interprofessional educational initiatives to address the opioid crisis.
Dr Dunleavy has merged her scholarship and service goals in the pursuit of enhancing professional development and instructional design for global physical therapy delivery. She has been actively involved in global clinical and academic educational projects in multiple global locations including Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Suriname, South Africa, Rwanda and Haiti, providing consultation for needs assessment, instructional material design and program evaluation. She was one of two technical advisors who developed the proposal and provided consultation and evaluation for USAID funded grant to develop Physical Therapy continuing education in Rwanda, and contributed to the design and delivery of continuing education courses to upgrade Physical Therapy training in Vietnam. She has also conducted a USAID grant evaluation in Cambodia, served on grant review and consultation committees for future USAID grant directions. She served for 12 years on the Board of Directors of HVO, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving health through education in developing countries for 12 years. Her dissertation documented and evaluated the effectiveness of a culture-neutral instructional design model used by the World Health Organization to design materials for blood safety training across multiple countries.
She has published a textbook on Therapeutic Exercise Prescription, with multiple international and national presentations and peer-reviewed publications related to management of musculoskeletal diagnoses. She currently teaches musculoskeletal and health promotion courses and coordinates the interprofessional and community engagement activities for the University of Florida Department of Physical Therapy.
Sean Forbes, PhD is a Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy. Sean completed his doctoral studies at the University of Western Ontario (School of Kinesiology), where his research focused on skeletal muscle bioenergetics using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). Following graduate studies, he completed post-doctoral fellowships with Dr. Ron Meyer at Michigan State University (Department of Physiology) and Drs. Krista Vandenborne and Glenn Walter in the Muscle Physiology Laboratory at the University of Florida. Sean’s primary research interests involve implementing novel MRI/MRS techniques to monitor the progression of disease and treatments in muscular dystrophies. His research utilizes a translational approach, and he is currently examining the effects of potential therapeutic interventions and exercise on skeletal muscle and cardiac function.
Emily J Fox PT, PhD
Emily Fox, PT, DPT, MHS, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Director of Neuromuscular Research at Brooks Rehabilitation. She also directs the Brooks Motion Analysis Center, a clinical and research assessment facility. She is the Director of the Brooks-PHHP Research Collaboration, an established collaboration between Brooks Rehabilitation and the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions. In this role, she brings strategic leadership to to grow rehabilitation research and enhance the missions of Brooks and PHHP.
Dr. Fox’s research is focused on control and recovery following neurologic injury and disease. Her objective is to apply intrinsic neural and biomechanical control principles to enhance rehabilitation and promote recovery. As a physical therapist and researcher, she has extensive experience working with individuals with stroke, spinal cord injury, and older adults. Her research represents an interdisciplinary, translational approach to investigate mechanisms underlying motor control and the use of activity-based interventions to restore function.
The specific objectives of her research are to: 1) identify mechanisms associated with motor function and recovery, 2) develop innovative approaches to enhance walking control and recovery, including community ambulation, 3) investigate novel approaches to enhance the delivery and effectiveness of rehabilitation interventions and 4) advance strategies to enhance respiratory recovery after spinal cord injury. Dr. Fox’s current funded projects investigate therapeutic approaches such as transcutaneous electrical stimulation and acute intermittent hypoxia to enhance neuromuscular plasticity and recovery.
Dr. Gonzalez-Rothi is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and an investigator in the Breathing Research and Therapeutics Center and the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida. She directs the Neuroscience course in the Doctor of Physical Therapy curriculum. The fundamental objective of Dr. Gonzalez-Rothi’s research program is the development of effective therapies to treat respiratory and motor deficits following incomplete cervical spinal cord injury (SCI). Her work aims to advance our understanding of the basic mechanisms underlying plasticity within neural networks, particularly as it applies to breathing and upper extremity motor function. Her current research portfolio focuses on therapies designed to harness endogenous neuroplasticity, including traditional rehabilitation approaches and mild intermittent hypoxia. She is also investigating the impact of high-dose, chronic intermittent hypoxia, similar to that experienced by individuals with sleep disordered breathing, on expression of respiratory motor plasticity and recovery of breathing after chronic cervical spinal cord injury. Dr. Gonzalez-Rothi has expertise in characterizing anatomical substrates of defined neural circuits including identification and characterization of interneurons contributing to both respiratory and upper limb motor function. In addition, she has extensive experience with experimental models of spinal cord injury, characterizing the extent and time course of anatomical, physiological, and functional plasticity that occurs both spontaneously and induced via therapeutic intervention. She is uniquely suited to conduct basic science research in the field of spinal cord injury, as her clinical background as a physical therapist working with individuals with acute SCI in a neurologic ICU setting has shaped her research portfolio and enabled her to bring a unique perspective to her pre-clinical work.
Donovan J. Lott, PT, PhD, CSCS, completed his undergraduate degree in Exercise Science at Brigham Young University and his MSPT degree at Washington University School of Medicine. After working in both outpatient and home-health settings as a physical therapist, he returned to Washington University to obtain a PhD in Movement Science with an emphasis in soft tissue mechanics. Donovan came to the University of Florida as a post-doctoral fellow to work with Krista Vandenborne, PhD, PT, in the Muscle Physiology Laboratory. Currently, he is a Research Professor within the Department of Physical Therapy, and his primary teaching responsibilities are in the Introduction to Exercise Science and Prosthetics & Orthotics courses for the entry-level DPT students. His research interests include investigating skeletal muscle damage, exercise, and the relationship between muscle pathology and functional mobility in people with neuromuscular disease.
Gordon S Mitchell Ph.D.
Dr. Mitchell joined the University of Florida in 2015 as a Preeminence Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Physical Therapy and McKnight Brain Institute. He founded and directs the UF Center for Breathing Research and Therapeutics (BREATHE) and the NIH-funded graduate and postdoctoral training program of the same name. A major focus of BREATHE is to understand and treat impaired breathing and airway defense (swallowing/cough) caused by neuromuscular injury or disease. Dr. Mitchell also serves as Deputy Director of the UF McKnight Brain Institute. For the past three decades, Dr. Mitchell pioneered studies of neuroplasticity in the neural system controlling breathing. Areas of active investigation include: intracellular and intercellular mechanisms of long-lasting respiratory motor plasticity triggered by repeated exposure to brief episodes of low oxygen (intermittent hypoxia), the ability to harness that intermittent hypoxia-induced spinal plasticity to treat respiratory and non-respiratory paralysis following spinal injury and during motor neuron disease (ALS), cell-based strategies to treat breathing deficits, and the impact of systemic inflammation on breathing and its control. Investigations span intracellular, intercellular and physiological systems level mechanisms, and translation to humans with acquired or neurodegenerative neurological disorders (SCI and ALS). Dr. Mitchell grew up in California where he received his B.S. (Biological Sciences) and PhD (Developmental and Cell Biology) degrees from the University of California at Irvine. After two years of post-doctoral training at the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine in Goettingen, Germany, he moved to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After one year as a postdoc, Dr. Mitchell became an Assistant Professor in 1981, and then the ranks to become Professor and Chair of the Department of Comparative Biosciences (17 years) and director of the NIH funded Respiratory Neurobiology Training Program (14 years). He chose to leave the University of Wisconsin for the opportunity to join the University of Florida and create the BREATHE Center. Dr. Mitchell has been recognized for his research and teaching accomplishments, including a National Institutes of Health MERIT Award, the Norden Distinguished Teacher Award, the Pfizer Research Award on multiple occasions, the Steenbock Professorship for Behavioral and Neural Science, and distinguished lectureships from the Society for Neuroscience (SFN), American Physiological Society (APS), Association of Chairs of Departments of Physiology (ACDP), American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA), and the Oxford Conference for Modeling and the Control of Breathing.
Gina Maria Musolino, PT, DPT, MSEd, EdD is an experienced educator, scholar, author/editor, and advocate clinician. Currently, Dr. Musolino is serving as Clinical Professor and Associate Director of Curriculum of Physical Therapy, University of Florida, College of Public Health and Health Professions. She has served as tenured Professor, Program Director/Chair, and Director of Clinical Education. Dr. Musolino’s scholarly works include impacting, peer-reviewed articles and textbook chapters examining critical components of professional formation and holistic admissions. Dr. Musolino is co-editor/author of Clinical Reasoning & Decision-making in PT: Facilitation, Assessment & Implementation, 2020 & Patient Practitioner Interaction: An Experiential Manual for Developing the Art of Health Care, 2016. In collaboration with colleagues, Dr. Musolino has earned over 130K in funded research and teaching grants. Appointed by the APTA Board of Directors to the APTA Credentialed Clinical Instructor Program Advisory Work Group (2020-23), Gina serves as an APTA Level 1 & 2 Credentialed Clinical Trainer. She has previously served as 2-term President of the APTA Academy of Education; 2-term Chief Delegate-FL and Director, Florida Physical Therapy Association; Federal Affairs Liaison for the Academy of Neurologic PT; and Congressional Key Contact. Gina received the APTA Lucy Blair Service Award (2012) for service of exceptional value to the profession, was honored with the APTA Academy of Education, Feitelberg Journal Founders Award (2005) and recognition as a distinguished, senior manuscript reviewer with the APTA Physical Therapy Journal. Dr. Musolino serves as a contributing editorial board member with the Association of Schools Advancing Health Professions, Journal of Allied Health.
Rachelle Studer-Byrnes, PT, DPT,NCS received her Doctor of Physical Therapy from the University of St. Augustine in 2007. In 2012 she became an ABPTS Neurological Certified Specialist and achieved re-certification in 2022. She also served as the coordinator and mentor for three years for a neurological residency program. In 2020 she received the Clinical Excellence in Neurology, awarded by the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy, APTA. Her practice started in the inpatient rehabilitation setting with a focus of practice on the treatment of patients following stroke along with complex neurological, cardiac, and traumatic orthopedic injuries for seven years prior to transitioning to the acute care setting. She practiced in the acute care setting for six years in both the ICU and step-down units with a focus of practice on the acute management of patients post-stroke and those with neurodegenerative diseases and disorders while also practicing in the areas of cardiac, neurosurgical and post-traumatic injuries. She currently dedicates her services to the community outreach and pro-bono efforts of the Department of Physical Therapy. Her primary teaching role is within the neurological coursework and contributes to the acute care and therapeutic exercise content for the University of Florida Physical Therapy entry level doctoral curriculum. In her role on the clinical education team she enjoys providing mentorship and assistance to students as they navigate their transition into their clinical experiences, clinical curriculum and throughout the four curricular clinical experiences. Her current research interests are in the area of community wellness for those with neurologic diagnoses and clinical reasoning in entry-level physical therapy students.