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 Associate 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 and 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. She currently 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 recently 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 is leading a collaboration between Global Forum members and the International Society for the Study of Pain Education group to identify characteristics and best practices for interprofessional pain education provision. Dr Dunleavy is 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. She is also a co-investigator for a $1.25 million dollar grant from the Department of Education Training for interdisciplinary personnel preparation for early childhood interventions at the University of Florida, contributing to the interprofessional education and evaluation components. Her recent scholarship has included publications and presentations related to interprofessional peer teaching and interprofessional team experiences involving Physical Therapy, Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing and Dental students. Dr Dunleavy is a member of the Healthcare Sciences Interprofessional Committee at the University of Florida and along with representatives from this group is working on new interprofessional educational initiatives to address the opioid crisis. She has initiated and organized peer learning activities with Dentistry, Nursing and Occupational Therapy at the University of Florida and recently facilitated Physical Therapy students and faculty joining a global service trip to Mexico with medical, physician assistant and pharmacy students. Dr Dunleavy has merged her scholarship and service goals in the pursuit of enhancing professional development and instructional design for global physical therapy delivery. Her experience working in a rural South African area in Lebowa highlighted the need for training of health care providers who are able to provide care in underserved areas. She developed a training program for Physiotherapy Assistants that led to involvement in a non-profit organization Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) when she moved to the United States. 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 USAID grant review and consultation committees for future USAID grant directions. She served for 12 years on the Board of Directors of Health Volunteers Overseas, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving health through education in developing countries VO 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. Along with a focus on educational design and delivery for entry level and continuing professional education in global settings and interprofessional education, Dr Dunleavy’s scholarship has been in the areas of evaluation and treatment of musculoskeletal diagnoses. She has recently 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 a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Director of Neuromuscular Research at Brooks Rehabilitation. She is a key member of the Brooks-PHHP Research Collaboration, an established collaboration between Brooks Rehabilitation and the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions. At Brooks Rehabilitation, she also serves as the Director of the Motion Analysis Center, a clinical and research assessment facility.
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 technologies such as virtual reality and web-based communications, 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 novel therapeutic approaches such as transcutaneous electrical stimulation and acute intermittent hypoxia to enhance neuromuscular plasticity and recovery.
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 Associate Professor within the Department of Physical Therapy, and his primary teaching responsibilities are in the Basic Skills II 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
As an assistant director of clinical education, Dr. MacPherson mentors and assists students as they embark on their clinical experiences. In conjunction with his teaching responsibilities and duties within the clinical education team, he leads the student-run pro bono Equal Access Clinic (PT EAC). The EAC offers free physical therapy services to people within the Gainesville community who are unable to afford treatment elsewhere.
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 opened and directs the UF Center for Breathing Research and Therapeutics (BREATHE) and an 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. For the past three decades, Dr. Mitchell pioneered studies of neuroplasticity in the neural system controlling breathing. Areas of active investigation include: cellular and molecular mechanisms of long-lasting motor plasticity triggered by repeated exposure to low oxygen (intermittent hypoxia), the ability to harness that intermittent hypoxia-induced plasticity to treat respiratory and non-respiratory paralysis following spinal injury, mechanisms of spontaneous and induced compensation during motor neuron diseases such as 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 traumatic and neurodegenerative clinical 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 Gottingen, Germany, he moved to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he became an Assistant Professor. There, he ascended 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 BREATHE (formerly known as the Center for Respiratory Research and Rehabilitation, or CRRR). Dr. Mitchell has been recognized for both 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), and the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA).
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 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.