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A group of diverse individuals posing for a group photo

A spinoff of CORRT, the TiDe program’s first annual workshop was held in Aug. at the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Workshop attendees included the first TiDe cohort of faculty and student trainees, the TiDe Advisory Committee, the TiDe Executive Committee, TiDe staff and Evaluation Team as well as guests and partners.

The verdict is in on CORRT. And it’s no surprise. After more than 16 years, the Comprehensive Opportunities in Rehabilitation Research Training (CORRT) initiative is widely recognized as one of the most successful research career development programs for physical and occupational therapy scientists ever.

What started in 2007 as a vehicle for building research infrastructure has grown into a sustainable program that fuels scientific exploration and builds research leadership.  

SHRS Dean Anthony Delitto was chair of the Department of Physical Therapy (PT) when the idea for a collaborative training program surfaced at a National Institutes of Health (NIH) meeting. 

In 2007, University of Pittsburgh Site Principal Investigator Delitto joined with Lead Principal Investigator Michael Mueller, center, from Washington University in St. Louis, and University of Delaware Site Principal Investigator Stuart Binder-Macleod to launch CORRT.

“Our colleagues from Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Delaware were very interested in working together to apply for large grants from the NIH and other funding organizations that our individual institutions could then allocate to physical and occupational therapy faculty who wanted to expand their research,” explains Delitto. “That was the beginning of CORRT.”  

The three core institutions invited five other like-minded institutions to partner with them, including Boston University, University of Colorado Denver, Colorado State University, Emory University and the University of Iowa. Together they developed a plan to fund PhD-level faculty scholars who would become the next generation of basic and applied rehabilitation scientists.  

“The funding that came through CORRT allowed faculty protected time to get out of the classroom and participate in immersive, mentored scientific career development as well as training and research activities for a period up to five years,” says Delitto. 

To date, CORRT has funded 38 faculty scholars from 12 universities—individuals who have since contributed greatly to their respective fields. 

Elizabeth R. Skidmore, associate dean for Research, SHRS, and professor, Department of Occupational Therapy (OT), was among the first cohort of CORRT scholars.  

“CORRT was a game-changer for so many of us,” notes Skidmore. “We worked closely with mentors who nurtured us and provided us with scientific feedback as well as career advice. As a result, we were empowered to conduct meaningful research and emerge as leaders.” 

Recent scholar OT Assistant Professor Angela Caldwell says CORRT funding allowed her to partner with family members of children with Down syndrome, self-advocates and experts in health promotion to develop and pilot test an intervention known as Promoting Health through Parent Empowerment and the Activation of Routines (Pro-PEAR). 

“The CORRT program provided a natural setting for me to connect with researchers nationwide who have a passion for developing similar interventions to reduce health disparities among persons with disabilities,” states Caldwell. 

Dyad meeting with faculty trainee, student trainee and executive committee liaison at TiDe Annual Workshop. 

She adds that she has been collaborating with another OT researcher and CORRT scholar, Kerri Morgan, assistant professor, Washington University in St. Louis, to disseminate their work and advocate for improved health care for individuals with physical and developmental disabilities.  

PT Assistant Professor Allyn Bove, now in her third year as a CORRT scholar, credits this opportunity with kickstarting her research career. “Both the formal mentorship that I receive from my mentor team and the informal mentorship I’ve received from interacting with CORRT leadership and alumni have been invaluable,” she explains.  

Bove is investigating differences in use of physical therapy services and functional outcomes after knee and hip replacement surgery, based on race, sex, geography and income/insurance. “I’m gaining skills that are helping me develop into an independent researcher so that down the road, I can optimize and implement the best pathways for all patients through studies not funded by CORRT.” 

Skidmore says that CORRT has a tremendous ripple effect. “The mentoring I received as a CORRT scholar informs the way I mentor other faculty researchers today.” 

Gregory Hicks (PhD ’02), previous CORRT scholar and current CORRT program director at the University of Delaware, interacting with one of our TiDe faculty trainees.

Case in point: Assistant Professor Brooke N. Klatt, a physical therapy researcher who is currently completing a career development award funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Although she is not a CORRT scholar, Klatt is one of many faculty researchers who have benefited greatly from the structure established by CORRT. In order to fund her research related to improving activity and participation in people with vestibular disorders, Klatt sought guidance from a team that includes Skidmore.  

“Having access to Dr. Skidmore as a mentor during my grant planning and writing largely contributed to having my NIH K23 career development award funded on the first submission,” says Klatt. “Her grantsmanship insights and recommendations to thoughtfully plan and execute my research and training plan were instrumental in my success.”  

The impact of CORRT is widespread. Programs such as the Training in Diversity Education program (TiDe), as described in the Fall/Winter 2022 issue of FACETS, are spinoffs of CORRT. Through TiDe, faculty researchers are paired as mentors with graduate students from backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical scientists, thereby creating pathways that will increase the diversity of clinician scientists in rehabilitation research. 

Former CORRT scholar Caldwell is one of those mentors. Although the NIH funding of CORRT ended in Dec. 2023, its spirit remains very much alive. “CORRT has given us good momentum for training the scientists we need for the future,” states Skidmore.  

“Instead of competing with each other, leaders in our fields now collaborate with each other and mentor the next generation of scientists,” says Delitto. “The spirit of CORRT will persevere.” 


This article originally appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of Facets magazine.