Student's Contribution to Parkinson’s Disease: A Leap Forward in Mobility

Physical therapy student plays a key role in product testing, aiming to enhance walking capabilities for those afflicted with Parkinson's Disease.

| Author: Kate Hodgkins

Brooke Ray, a student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, is product testing a new device to be used therapeutically to improve walking speed and quality while under the supervision of Dr. Ksenia Ustinova, faculty of the Physical Therapy department. Since beginning her program, Ms. Ray has had a strong interest in working with individuals with neurological conditions. Given this area of interest, she has had the opportunity to work in the Motion Analysis Center on campus and began her doctoral research project which is focused on the therapeutic effectiveness of the NewGait® device in individuals with Parkinson’s Disease.

 According to the Michigan Parkinson’s Foundation, Parkinson’s Disease affects over 35,000 people in Michigan and 1.5 million people across the United States. Research like Ms. Ray and Dr. Ksenia are conducting has the potential to improve many lives if findings support therapeutic effectiveness as the findings could lead to the potential FDA approval.

 Ms. Ray is collecting the data through one-time walking sessions with participants with Parkinson’s Disease. So far, 20 participants have participated in this research with Ms. Ray. Participants first walk without the device and then with the device. Countless gait parameters are collected by the Motion Analysis software and then analyzed by Ms. Ray to evaluate the efficacy of the new device.

Walking speed and step length are documented to determine if the device is effective. At this time, Ms. Ray reports seeing some subjective success in the device, as many participants smile when walking with the device and feel like the device is effective. “Being able to participate in this research has given me an appreciation for the product development process, and the research that goes into every new medical device,” Ms. Ray stated.

 While her doctoral project is still in progress, Ms. Ray will be able to report the rest of her findings at the 7th Annual Research Symposium in The Herbert H. & Grace A Dow College of Health Professions on April 3, 2024, from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Research across the health professions will be presented by faculty, staff, and students.

 Ms. Ray is expected to graduate in May 2025. CMU looks forward to the work that she and her classmates are doing, and the impact they will make in the future of healthcare. By providing hands-on experience to students with real-life impact, students can leave the health programs much more prepared for the future. 

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