Faculty Research Nets Funds


ST. LOUIS – A Maryville University faculty member has received a grant from the Greater St. Louis Health Foundation that will allow her to conduct research that will help stroke patients regain the use of their hands. With the $12,788 Foundation grant, coupled with a previously received $5,000 grant from the Missouri chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association, Joni Barry, DPT, assistant professor of physical therapy at Maryville University, will begin her two-year study of 20 stroke patients in January 2008.

Barry, who has worked with stroke patients for 15 years at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center’s physical therapy clinic, said her study is important because it will help determine realistic timetables for recovery rates for stroke patients. “In working with patients through the years, I, and the patients, always feel like they have more potential than they were able to show,” she said. “Many times, patients will try to use their hand to grab something and won’t be able to; they get discouraged and stop trying to use it.”

The research will divide 20 stroke patients who are experiencing weakness in one side of their body into two groups of 10. Both groups will receive physical therapy twice a week at St. John’s Mercy. One group will wear the SaeboFlex®, an arm brace that stimulates and supports the hand muscles, during the therapy. The other group will not. Barry’s research team, which includes co-investigators Sandy Ross, DPT, assistant professor of physical therapy at Maryville University; and Judy Woehrle, DPT, assistant professor of physical therapy and Maryville’s PT program director. will measure the difference in effective use of the hand between patients in the two groups.

Barry said her research is a continuation of a pilot study involving four stroke patients that she and Maryville PT students conducted last year. They presented those findings at the APTA convention in Boston in February and at the state chapter meeting in Jefferson City in April. Barry currently is finalizing the study’s logistics, which includes the recruiting of student researchers and stroke patients to participate in the study.

The grants from the Greater St. Louis Health Foundation and the APTA’s Missouri chapter, Barry remarked, will make it possible for participants who use the arm brace during the study to keep the brace after the study is completed. Funds also will be used to, among other things, pay student researchers. she said. Barry noted this is the first time she applied for funding from the Health Foundation, which awards grants up to $100,000 to not-for-profit organizations which sponsor projects that promote health and prevent illness.

Barry was assisted in securing her grants by Larry Grieshaber, Ph.D., professor of health care management at Maryville, and special assistant to the dean of the University’s School of Health Professions for research and development.

Maryville University, founded in 1872, is a private, coeducational institution offering approximately 50 undergraduate, seven master’s and two doctoral degree programs to 3,300 students. Ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s Best Colleges in the Midwest, Maryville University prepares its students for successful and meaningful careers by offering programs that integrate liberal arts with professional studies.

Among Maryville’s most recent graduates, 94 percent are employed or attending graduate school. Approximately 15,000 alumni work and live in the St. Louis region.