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DPT-PhD graduate student Anna Bailes receives award at the Rehabilitation Institute Research Day

PITTSBURGH (June 5, 2019) … University of Pittsburgh graduate student Anna Bailes received the Best Rehabilitation Research award in the pre-doctoral category at the 2019 UPMC Rehabilitation Institute Research Day on May 22, 2019. 

Bailes presented her work titled “Depression and anxiety are associated with increased healthcare utilization in low back pain.” This research was performed in the lab of her co-advisor Gwendolyn Sowa, professor and chair of physical medicine and rehabilitation. Co-authors on the paper include Rohit Navlani, Stephen Koscumb, Amanda Malecky, Oscar Marroquin, Ajay Wasan, Howard Gutstein, Christina Zigler, Anthony Delitto, Nam Vo, and Gwendolyn Sowa.

Bailes is a student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy/PhD in Bioengineering (DPT-PhD) dual-degree program, a unique offering that integrates clinical and research experiences in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and the Swanson School of Engineering. She is currently a member of the Human Movement and Balance Laboratory where she works with Rakié Cham, associate professor of bioengineering, on the quantification of functional and mobility deficits in individuals with vision loss.

“My current research aims to quantify functional capabilities in individuals with macular dystrophy, with a long-term goal of creating standardized assessments to track disease progression and therapy progress,” said Bailes. “We use high-tech balance and gait assessments along with mobility and fine-motor tasks to identify areas of impairment and potential rehabilitation goals.”

Bailes also has a strong interest in the psychosocial and behavioral contributors to pain and movement impairments. Her future career goals include improving physical therapy treatment for individuals with chronic musculoskeletal pain using basic psychological principles alongside traditional rehabilitation interventions. 

“Many individuals who fear pain and have catastrophizing thoughts about it will alter movement patterns or all together avoid activities that elicit pain,” she explained. “This behavior can lead to exacerbated pain, disuse, and disability.”

One of her recent research proposals will use engineering-based methods, such as dynamic balance testing and gait analysis, to determine the extent of functional and cognitive changes associated with pain anxiety in those with chronic low back pain. 

Bailes said, “Understanding this relationship between cognition, balance, and gait will allow us to identify treatment targets for novel rehabilitation strategies integrating cognitive, balance, and psychosocial therapies.”


Contact: Leah Russell