The Monday Memo
January 11, 2016 PITT DPT STUDENTS
A Conversation with Dr. Susan Whitney
The University of Pittsburgh and the greater Pittsburgh area have long been the source of groundbreaking healthcare research and medical advancement for numerous fields of practice. We are lucky enough, here in the Department of Physical Therapy, to have the opportunity to learn from some of the pioneers leading this research. Recently, we had the chance to speak with Dr. Susan Whitney, DPT, PhD, NCS, ATC, FAPTA, and faculty here at Pitt who instructs courses on balance disorders, and recently returned from an international guest lectureship across New Zealand and Australia. When Dr. Whitney wasn’t lecturing at the University of Otago to the PhD students, the entry level students, their neuroscience institute, and other public lectures, she was hard at work writing some of her upcoming research manuscripts. She also began a collaborative research project with one of their PhD students concerning patients with cerebellar disorders and Multiple Sclerosis, and is already planning to publish the third paper from his dissertation. Together they are also working to validate the Mini-Best test for people with vestibular disorders, as well as to see how its metrics to compare to other commonly used tests for balance disorders.
Within the last year, Dr. Whitney has published ten articles that can now be found on PubMed. Recently she has submitted a paper to the American Journal of Sports Medicine regarding the VHIT measure (Vestibular Head Impulse Test); the study looked at children and adults post-concussion to see if they had an obvious vestibular disorder. Only a few days later she submitted a case report about a rarely diagnosed vestibular disorder that was seen here in Pittsburgh called “Light Cupula,” which often resembles BPPV. Currently, Dr. Whitney is working with Greg Marchetti in using a data pool of roughly 800 patients to compare differences in treatment and outcomes between patients treated by a PT versus patients treated by a specialist PT (OCS, SCS, etc.), and then attempt to identify what those differences are and what indicators identified a better prognosis. Another project she is working on is an NIH project looking at vibro-tactile feedback in treating individuals with vestibular disorders and improving their postural control. All in keeping herself busy, Dr. Susan Whitney is involved projects in the areas of orthopedics, home care, stroke, balance and postural control, and cerebellar disorders. Dr. Whitney also plays a large role with the international Masters of Physical Therapy program maintained here at the University of Pittsburgh. Coming up this year, Dr. Whitney and her family will be hosting one of the visiting faculty from Otago, as they often do, while the two collaborate and finalize the data collection methods for an upcoming joint study.
When asked what advice she might have for students entering the field, she remarked that there is infinite value in keeping one’s self constantly curious and to always keep reading. Try to learn something new every day; never stop learning.
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