Stacy Fritz


My professional background includes working as a physical therapist in acute care, rehabilitation, outpatient, and home care settings. Trained at the University of Kentucky as a physical therapist, I began my career as a PT working for Staffing Options and Solutions as a traveling therapist. While practicing, I continually questioned the theory and research underlying many of the interventions we utilize. These questions directed me toward the literature where my readings peaked my curiosity resulting in further questions and subsequently led me to the University of Florida where I am currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Rehabilitation Science. By studying the science of rehabilitation, I am becoming more skillful in conducting research projects aimed at improving the treatment of individuals with stroke.


During my tenure at the University of Florida, I have been involved in numerous neurologically based research projects, mainly in the area of stroke. I have worked on a series of constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) studies designed to improve hand and arm function in stroke survivors. CIMT is a technique used mainly with the post-stroke population to increase the functional use of the neurologically weaker upper-extremity through training while restraining the lesser-involved upper-extremity. More than half of the 730,000 people a year who suffer from a cerebral vascular accident (CVA) have residual motor disability.1 However, as the general population continues to age over the next fifty years there are predictions that this number will double.2 The reduction of CVA related disability is essential because of the number of people who are affected by stroke. Currently, few traditional rehabilitation methods have been proven effective in the treatment of stroke victims.2


CIMT significantly improves functional use of the upper extremity in 20-25% of people with chronic stroke. However, the characteristics of this 25% are unknown. As researchers continue investigating this treatment, the link between theory and potential for clinical utilization will merge. There is limited evidence about who benefits most from this intervention. The goal of my research over the next year is to determine the greatest predictive factors of functional improvements following traditional CIMT, in other words, to determine who benefits most from CIMT.


My long-term goals are to pursue a career as a researcher, educator, and clinician in an academic setting. Primarily, I am dedicated to the field of physical therapy and promoting patient care through improved scientifically based and clinically relevant physical therapy research and education. The area of research I plan to pursue is therapeutic interventions for neurologically impaired patients.


As a novice researcher, I have had the opportunity to be involved in many ongoing research projects, grant writing, and research training. For example, locomotor training of patients with spinal cord injury, constraint-induced therapy for patients with stroke, and gait initiation studies. These experiences are providing me with a broad base upon which to build a foundation as a researcher in the rehabilitation field. I plan to continue to investigate the scientific basis of therapeutic intervention for people with stroke. Physical therapy is an integral part of health care, and in order for it to survive and prosper, it must be rooted in sound scientifically-based interventions. Therefore, clinically relevant research must progress so that we can improve patient care and enhance rehabilitation science. As a physical therapist first, my goal as a researcher will be to use my doctoral training to ask clinically relevant questions and seek scientifically based answers that are necessary to provide patients with the best possible care.


As an educator I plan to instill in my students a link between the clinical and research world, emphasizing the need for scientifically based treatment and evaluation techniques. Students must learn both the psychomotor aspects of therapeutic interventions and the fundamental theoretical models and basic science mechanisms underlying why we choose to implement different therapeutic interventions. Both of these components are essential for a complete learning experience and a well-rounded physical therapist. As a teaching assistant at the University of Florida, I have taught and assisted teaching in lectures and labs along-side master educators and clinicians. In my doctoral program teaching course, I have learned about teaching styles, alternate methods of engaging a class in discussion, and improved means by which I can utilize assistive and interactive technology to ensure the best possible learning experience for students. I plan to incorporate these teaching methods into my plan for educating future physical therapists.


Finally, because I am a physical therapist, I will always stay active in the clinic through supervising students, working directly with patients, performing in-services for clinicians, or providing specialty clinics. Involvement in the clinic will allow me to conduct clinically based, relevant, quality, scientific research in the area of movement dysfunction with the goal of improving therapeutic intervention for improved recovery of function.


I believe rehabilitation will continue to improve and advance when supported by scientifically based research. As an educator, I plan to instill this philosophy in my students; as a researcher, I plan to pursue this philosophy to progress rehabilitation science. My experience thus far as a teaching assistant, researcher, and clinician, along with my future goals, are evidence of my commitment and intent to contribute to the science and advancement or rehabilitation literature and knowledge.




1Stineman, M. G., Maislin, G., Fiedler, R. C., & Granger, C. V. (1997). A prediction model for functional recovery in stroke. Stroke, 28, 550-556.


2 Taub, E., Uswatte, G., & Pidikiti, R. (1999). Constraint-induced movement therapy: A new family of techniques with broad application to physical rehabilitation - A clinical review. Journal of Rehabilitation and Development, 36, 237-251.



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