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In-Person SHRS Rehabilitation Research Retreat

In-Person SHRS Rehabilitation Research Retreat

On August 24, 2022, the expansive windows of Bridgeside Point filled classrooms with an abundance of light as School of Health and Rehabilitation Science (SHRS) researchers participated in the third annual Rehabilitation Research Retreat. It was as if the bright afternoon sun symbolized a new phase reuniting them together in person for the first time since the inaugural virtual retreat in 2020. Nearly 70 attendees from SHRS and the School of Medicine’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR) engaged in brainstorming sessions, education sessions and networking opportunities.

Beth Skidmore, associate dean for Research and professor of Occupational Therapy, organized the event with three goals in mind: to talk about the next “big ideas” in Pitt rehabilitation research; to develop new collaborations to move these ideas forward; and to share information to support investigators in best practices for conducting research. 

The schedule consisted of two breakout sessions with a total of eleven small group meetings on a variety of research topics suggested by the vice chairs of Research, research administrators and investigators. The first breakout session focused on brainstorming “big ideas.” Examples included “Commercial Technologies as Assistive Technologies for People with Disabilities,” “Innovation: Design, Testing and Transfer of New Technologies and Methods,” and “Health Services Research Data to Tackle Big Rehabilitation Problems.” The second breakout session focused on sharing important information to support investigators in successful conduct of their research. Examples included “Pre- and Post-Award Financing: What You Don’t Know (and Wish You Did)” and “Data Management and Data Sharing: Tips for Success.” The educational sessions were led by SHRS faculty and staff who provided overviews of the subjects and encouraged the investigators to ask questions and share challenges and successes, which reinforced the collaborative nature of the event. 

Tyler Fleck (Dean’s Office)

Skidmore closed the afternoon with updates on further research workshops and programs such as SHRS shared resources (Data Center, REDWine Rehabilitation Data Warehouse), Panther Rehab Rounds lecture series, the InSpIRe (Interdisciplinary Springboard for Innovative Rehabilitation) series, Training in Grantsmanship for Rehabilitation Research workshop dates, and a special announcement of the TiDe (Training in Diversity for Rehabilitation Research) program being awarded NIH funding. 

The sessions were capped off by a catered social event on the rooftop deck that took advantage of the perfect summer weather to offer spectacular views of the Monongahela River as it stretched from the city skyline to the green hills beyond. Once outside, everyone was able to remove their masks that were required indoors, and the mood lifted even further as people got to see each other in person and catch up on personal and professional news.  

Mandy Hampton Wray (CSD), Juleen Rodakowski (OT), Catherine Palmer (CSD)

Participants agreed that the afternoon was time well spent, from the topics at hand to packing such relevant information and one-on-one facetime into only four hours. Catherine Palmer, professor and interim chair, Communication Science and Disorders, found it an excellent opportunity to break down silos within SHRS and be reminded that “we’re all one school.”  

Bambang Parmanto, professor and chair, Health Information Management, agreed with the retreat’s success, adding that it was an excellent way to “realize our strengths as a school and that--unlike other universities--we can collaborate together right here.” He also added that the experience was a really good kickoff for new faculty beginning their time at SHRS. 

Bambang Parmanto (HI)

Retreat organizer Skidmore appeared ebullient from the retreat’s positive impressions. She echoed the importance of bringing people together after spending so much time apart during the pandemic on top of being spread out among the various SHRS buildings. She pointed out that the event was also important to SHRS PhD students and post-docs beginning their research careers. She summarized by saying, “I think the retreat provided an opportunity to flush out priorities within the SHRS Research Framework and to discuss strategies to be responsive to federal rehabilitation research priorities. Most importantly, I think the retreat helped establish new connections and collaborations and begin to break down silos between rehabilitation research laboratories in SHRS and PMR.” 

Skidmore and the other organizers want to keep the momentum going and are already soliciting feedback from the rehabilitation research community to integrate into the 2023 retreat. Interested in contributing to the success of your colleagues and rehabilitation science? Volunteers will convene at the beginning of the new year to plan what they hope will become an annual event. 

Charity Patterson (PT), Christine McDonough (PT), Beth Skidmore (OT), Janet Freburger (PT)



Published September 19, 2022