Hart Named Associate Chair of Health Psychology

Dr. Eric Hart, PsyD, ABPP, has been named Associate Chair of the Department of Health Psychology in the School of Health Professions. Currently Associate Clinical Professor, his new role will focus on growing clinical operations at Mizzou North, collaborations across campus, and coordinating with faculty clinicians at the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

“Dr. Hart’s leadership will be a tremendous asset as we focus on the clinical component of our department, said Department Chair Dr. SungWoo Kahng. “Under his direction we’ve already experienced significant growth, and we look forward to maintaining that momentum in to the future.”

To read more about Dr. Hart’s recent efforts in building clinical partnerships, click here to check out a recent article.

Welcome Luke Gorham, Career Services Coordinator

Luke Gorham joined SHP on June 27 as our new Career Services Coordinator. He brings strong student experience, a collaborative approach and an eye for innovation to this critical role at SHP.

Gorham will be responsible for developing programming for students, building relationships with employers, collaborating with advancement and alumni and serving as a key link between our students, faculty, staff and employers.

Previous to joining SHP, Luke was the Leadership and Educational Resources Adviser at MU Residential Life and oversaw student leadership development activities and managed large events for students and staff. Please help us welcome Luke to SHP!

MU health psychology professor leads clinic to enhance care for military survivors of traumatic brain injury

The Department of Health Psychology in the School of Health Professions has a long-standing clinical focus in adult neuropsychology. Faculty clinicians provide diagnostic neuropsychology assessments including general cognitive and personality functioning to uninsured and underserved patients.

Dr. Eric Hart, associate chair and associate clinical professor of health psychology, currently oversees the adult neuropsychology clinical operation, and has worked to strengthen interdisciplinary collaboration with Fort Leonard Wood to offer neuropsychological assessment to active duty military personnel that have incurred traumatic brain injury.

Traumatic brain injury, which is brain dysfunction caused by an outside force, usually a violent blow to the head or from shearing and stretching of tissue causing displacement of the brain due to movement, as well as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are signature injuries affiliated with the members of the military. The team hopes to learn more about co-occurring psychiatric conditions that could have impact on day-to-day social skills of military men and women.

“Research supports that early identification of a mild brain injury can drastically influence the course of recovery for a survivor,” said Dr. Hart. “By offering some level of psychoeducation early on, health professionals can begin the lengthy discussion about what the injury is, what it is not, and identify what limitations to daily functions may exist.”

When the brain is injured, there are cognitive, emotional, behavioral and physical changes that are experienced. A few of those include: struggling to remember new information, not having the same vigilance or mental energy to attend to daily activities like problem solving, and an impact on the ability to multitask.

The clinic serves soldiers suffering from a mild or even more severe traumatic brain injury during basic training; those injured after multiple deployments, but returning to service; and injured soldiers who are nearing retirement or retired.

These injuries are certainly not a new trend. However, the ability to assess and determine what causes injury or trauma and how it is affecting brain integrity is a growing area of study. Clinical researchers are looking at what repeated exposure to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), or roadside bombs, and other explosions, are having over time to the brain function of those in combat.

It is highly recommended that a survivor of a traumatic brain injury receive care from multiple providers to determine what functionalities are impacted and what symptoms have developed. This team of providers can include any combination of an occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech therapist, nurse, case manager, general psychologist, rehabilitation psychologist, or neuropsychologist.

Hart advises that this interdisciplinary system of care providers should also be communicating with each other for optimal care and to address some possible consequences of the injury.

Although there is a recent increase in the momentum of research and public awareness of military brain injuries and sports concussions, several misconceptions of neuropsychological assessments remain. A common misconception is that providers can rely on conventional neuroimaging alone to understand the brain functionality of those who have incurred traumatic brain injury.

Conventional neuroimaging components such as computerized tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans can only indicate an actual picture of the brain. There could be functional markers of brain dysfunction which cannot be identified through these images alone.

A neuropsychological assessment is a non-invasive evaluation of the brain’s function that tells what brain is capable of doing.

Coupled together, both techniques enable neuropsychologists to observe the various aspects of brain function to determine what someone’s strengths and weaknesses are, as well as provide recommendations for treatment.

“Our neuropsychological clinic will continue to offer state of the art neuropsychological assessments and make recommendations to help survivors enhance their quality of life and return to their work-related duties,” said Hart. “Also, we will continue enhancing our research relationships among other disciplines.”

Master of Occupational Therapy Student Selected for National Leadership Program

Congratulations to Gabrielle Heckman who was selected for the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Emerging Leadership Development Program (ELDP).

AOTA’s ELDP gives students and new practitioners who have demonstrated dedication and commitment through services to the profession at the start of their career, the tools and training to become strong leaders within occupational therapy. The program is highly respected and very competitive.

“I’m thrilled about this opportunity to enhance my leadership skills within my profession,” said Heckman. “I couldn’t have done it without all the support and mentorship I received from faculty and staff at the School of Health Professions.”

Heckman is a current student in the Master of Occupational Therapy program at the University of Missouri School of Health Professions.

Physical Therapy Student Handbook

2016 PT Student Handbook

Apparel Causes Additional Barriers for People Living with Disabilities

June 14, 2016

Story Contact(s):
Sheena Rice, ricesm@missouri.edu, 573-882-8353

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The U.S. clothing industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, but for the millions of Americans with disabilities and their families, a lack of options in the apparel industry presents daily challenges. Now researchers from the University of Missouri are looking at the relationship between apparel and marginalization for people with disabilities. Allison Kabel, assistant professor of health sciences in the School of Health Professions, found that the lack of adequate, accessible apparel created barriers for people with disabilities from engaging in their communities. She identified the need for innovation in design, production, distribution and sale of adaptive clothing.

“While it may be an afterthought for some, clothing and appearance are not trivial,” Kabel said. “What we wear matters in how we participate in our communities. Job interviews, court appearances, team sports and formal events are just a few examples of times when standards for appropriate dress exist. For people with disabilities, the lack of adaptive clothing is not just a burden, it is a barrier for community participation.”

Kabel and Kerri McBee-Black, instructor of textile and apparel management in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, analyzed interviews from a focus group on the topic of clothing and how clothing impacted their lives. The key findings from this study identified apparel-related barriers for people with disabilities that fall into three basic categories: mechanical and functional barriers, cultural barriers, and sensory sensitivity barriers.

The mechanical aspects of getting dressed were found to be a significant challenge for people with disabilities and their caregivers. Zippers, buttons, shoe laces and fabric texture often present challenges for those who live independently. Others reported problems when trying to find clothes that fit. In one example, a child with Down syndrome had to have her clothes attached with safety pins to prevent them from falling off, due to a mismatch between her body proportions and current clothing industry sizing.

Cultural issues present other obstacles for caregivers for people with disabilities. A female caregiver for a male stroke victim from South Asia struggled to care for him when he lost his ability to put on or take off his own shoes or socks due to nerve damage. This was due to cultural prohibitions around the touching of feet. Focus group participants also identified challenges from trying to dress children of all ages with sensory sensitivities, particularly those with disorders along the autism spectrum.

“Participants of the focus group had no shortage of examples to highlight apparel-related barriers in their day-to-day lives,” Kabel said. “In many cases, the only options are custom-made clothing, which is not accessible due to high costs. Affordable clothes that can be mass produced are necessary to address specific apparel-related barriers identified in our research.”

The study, “Apparel-Related Participation Barriers: Ability, Adaptation and Engagement,” recently was published in Disability and Rehabilitation. Jessica Dimka, research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan also contributed to the study. Kabel’s future research will be focused on the potential for universally-designed apparel and adaptive clothing.


Convocation Sponsorship Opportunities

As many of our alumni will remember, each year, SHP hosts a convocation ceremony to formally welcome students in to the professional phases of their programs. The students receive a health professions pin which is a tangible symbol and reminder of the Geneva Oath of Decorum for Health Professionals, which the students will recite at the ceremony.

A new tradition is that we ask parents, alumni and other friends of our school to sponsor the pins for each student, providing a more personal, thoughtful welcome to the program and a note of congratulations on their accomplishments so far. Please consider making a $50 gift to sponsor a pin for a student.

Choose the department or program you wish to support below:

Athletic Training 

Communication Science and Disorders

Clinical Laboratory Science

Diagnostic Medical Ultrasound

Nuclear Medicine

Occupational Therapy

Physical Therapy

Radiologic Science

Respiratory Therapy


Autism Care Improved, Diagnosis Time Shortened by New MU Program

Sheena Rice, Health News Strategist

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Waitlists for a specialist to confirm an autism diagnosis can be agonizing and last months. As the prevalence of autism and autism spectrum disorders increase, so does the demand for a health care system that is fully equipped to respond to the complex needs associated with autism. Now, Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) Autism, a new program from the University of Missouri, is training primary care providers in best-practice care for autism spectrum disorders. Initial results of the pilot program found significant improvements in primary care provider confidence in screening and management of autism and in utilization of specific tools and resources.

“We are very excited about the initial results from the ECHO Autism model,” said Kristin Sohl, associate professor of child health and the director of ECHO Autism. “Children with autism can show symptoms as early as 12 months; however, in too many cases children may not receive a diagnosis until they are 5 years old. Early diagnosis is critical for children with autism, and primary care providers play an important role in that initial process.”

The ECHO model connects primary care providers to academic medical centers using videoconferencing technology. This allows one-on-one training in diagnosis, screenings, treatment protocols and care management. The ECHO model was created by Sanjeev Arora, MD, from the University of New Mexico and first demonstrated effectiveness in improving outcomes for hepatitis C and has expanded to address other complex medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and addiction. Now, MU researchers have developed the first ECHO model to be applied to the care of children with autism in an effort to reduce disparities for underserved and rural children and their families.

“Currently there are not enough specialists to manage the number of children with autism who need health care,” said Micah Mazurek, assistant professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions and lead author of the study. “A real need exists to assist community-based health care providers as they help families get the answers they need without traveling or waiting to see a specialist. Preliminary data from the pilot program suggests ECHO Autism can help with that issue.”

ECHO Autism clinics are conducted using high-quality secure video conferencing technology to connect participating primary care clinics to a panel of experts based at the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. The panel includes a pediatrician specializing in ASD, a clinical psychologist, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a dietician, a social worker, and a parent of a child with autism. The primary care providers maintain responsibility for care of their patients using the expert panel to build skills and discuss issues.

In testing the pilot, researchers found that participating primary care providers demonstrated significant improvements in confidence across all domains of health care for children with autism—screening and identification, assessment and treatment of medical and psychiatric conditions, and knowledge of and referral to available resources. Future research on ECHO Autism is being conducted through the Autism Intervention Research Network for Physical Health and will expand the reach of the program to 10 additional academic centers connecting with primary care providers across the US and Canada.

ECHO Autism is a partnership between the MU Thompson Center for Autism, MU Health and the Missouri Telehealth Network Show-Me ECHO program. The study, “ECHO Autism: A New Model for Training Primary Care Providers in Best-Practice Care for Children with Autism,” was published in Clinical Pediatrics. The program received financial support from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, the Leda J. Sears Charitable Trust and the WellCare Innovation Institute.


Health Sciences Emphasis Areas

The Health Science program offers four emphasis areas. Please click the area that interests you for the the advising worksheets for that emphasis area:

Health and Wellness Services

Leadership and Policy


Rehabilitation Science

Communication Science and Disorders posters earn top awards at 2016 Sharing Days

Sharing Days poster blog
Pictured (left to right):
Photo 1: Denisha Campbell, Dr. Janet Farmer, Mili Kuruvilla-Dugdale
Photo 2: Katherine Nielson, Dr. Janet Farmer, Abby Isabelle and Mili Kuruvilla-Dugdale

Congratulations to Communication Science and Disorders faculty and students who received awards at the 2016 MU Health Innovation and Improvement Sharing Days awards ceremony on May 6.

Only 16 posters were named winners out of 283 total submissions and both CSD posters were awarded the SHP Dean’s Award for the MU Health Innovation and Improvement Sharing Days.

The two submissions were:

  • An Articulatory Kinematic Study of Loud Speech in ALS – Katherine Nielson, Abby Isabelle and Mili Kuruvilla-Dugdale
  • Dual Tasking while Speaking: To Do or Not to Do? – Denisha Campbell and Mili Kuruvilla-Dugdale

To view the posters, click here.

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