The long-term goal of my research is to understand the influence of psychosocial factors on patient engagement during rehabilitation and on rehabilitation outcomes. As an occupational therapist, I have worked in physical rehabilitation settings where I have treated people with various musculoskeletal and orthopedic conditions, such as low back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and rotator cuff tears. My clinical experience has driven me to pursue development of better assessments and treatments for people with reduced upper extremity function. For the last ten years, I have taught occupational therapy students in the area of physical rehabilitation. My doctoral education in rehabilitation science, with an emphasis on movement dysfunction, gives me a strong background to conduct research relating to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems.
My research focuses on pursuing theoretically rigorous exploration of approaches for improving upper extremity rehabilitation in two related areas: rehabilitation assessments and rehabilitation outcomes. Within the broad framework of rehabilitation assessments, my research has focused on 1) sincerity of effort testing, 2) self-report assessments of upper extremity function, and 3) pain assessment. I have conducted studies to determine differences between maximal and submaximal grip efforts using force-time curves and surface electromyographic signal among healthy people as well as people with musculoskeletal disorders and injuries, including traumatic musculoskeletal injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, and fibromyalgia. Surprisingly, these conditions affect different force parameters. Recently, we found that fear-avoidance beliefs related to pain result in poorer rehabilitation outcomes in two out of eight groups of musculoskeletal disorders of the shoulder, with one group including people with rotator cuff tears.