Skip to main content
Sign In

PM&R Pilot Awards

Funding to Faculty Members

The Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation RISE (Research Innovation Services Enterprise) is pleased to provide Pilot Award funding to Faculty members through its Research Pilot Award competition. The objective of the Pilot Award competition is to enhance the value and effectiveness of pilot research conducted within the Department to accomplish three objectives:

  1. Improve the health outcomes of the rehab population
  2. Enhance the patient experience of care (including quality, access and reliability)
  3. Provide departmental researchers the opportunity to collect quality data to leverage future funding

Please direct inquiries to

Request for Proposals - Spring 2018 PM&R Pilot Awards

Download the RFP

I. Applying for the Award

Any faculty may apply for the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) Pilot Award. It is encouraged for grant applications to involve interdisciplinary research.

Current Awards as of 2018 are for in total $10,000 with an additional 25% to cover salary and benefits for PRA support. All awarded project periods will be for one year’s time indicated on the notice of grant award. The request for proposals will open March 1 and the deadline for submissions is May 31st. Awardees will be notified by the Research Oversight Committee by July 20th with expected project start dates of September 4th.

PM&R Pilot Award Research Brown Bag Slides

II. Requesting an Extension/Modification

All recipients of PM&R Pilot Awards are required to complete studies according to the award requirements outlined by the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the Call for Proposals. If they have met reporting and operating requirements and are in good standing with the University of Colorado, PIs may request a one-time no cost extension (NCE) to the project end date. Time extensions may be requested for periods up to one year. Download the extension/modification form.

A member of RISE will confirm receipt of the request with the PI and submit it to Dr. Lisa Brenner, PM&R Research Director. Dr. Brenner will review the request in concert with the Research Oversight Committee (ROC).

Awardees reporting requirements continue on a bi-annual basis. No additional funds or PRA support may be requested. Investigators will be notified of their study’s status within 10 business days.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. When are my progress reports due?
a. Progress reports for the pilot award are required bi-annually and you will be granted two weeks’ time beyond the bi-annual date to complete. For example, if your bi-annual report date is March 1st, you will have till March 15th to complete.
2. If granted a NCE, when is my progress reports due?
a. If your project receives a no cost extension, only the final progress report due date will be extended to match the new project end date.
3. May I continue to use my PRA after a NCE?
a. It depends, you are welcome to use your PRA if you have additional funds to support their salary.
4. How will my project be disseminated for the department to see?
a. All pilot award winners are featured on the PM&R webpage. You will be required to update your feature annually to include new publications, presentations, and posters.

2017 Awards

Principal Investigator: Dawn Magnusson, PT, PhD
Project Title: Development of a novel decision aid to improve early identification and intervention for children with developmental delay
Project Abstract: In the United States (US), one in four children under the age of five years is at risk for experiencing developmental delay (DD). Early identification of DD during the well-child visit, and use of pediatric therapy services are essential for optimizing the health and well-being of children with DD. Evidence-based developmental surveillance and screening (DSS) guidelines and service recommendations are intended to support children with DD, yet such guidelines do not guarantee that children with DD will receive needed therapy services. Children from racial or ethnic minority groups, and low-income children are especially vulnerable when it comes to having their delays identified and service needs met. The mechanisms underlying these disparities are not fully understood; however, there is mounting evidence that parental health beliefs play an important role in shaping help-seeking pathways for children with DD. It may be that evidence-based guidelines and recommendations, presented during the well-child visit, use concepts and language that lack meaning among community members. The short-term objective of this project is to translate evidence-based DSS guidelines and service recommendations into a culturally- and linguistically-meaningful decision aid to help reduce racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in the early identification of children with DD and their use of pediatric therapy services. To achieve this objective, the study team will conduct in-depth interviews with key community stakeholders to assess their beliefs regarding the help-seeking pathway for children with DD, and the use of DSS guidelines and service recommendations to inform this pathway (Aim 1).
Through the process of Boot Camp Translation, the team will identify factors that promote or impede the integration of standard DSS guidelines and service recommendations with community beliefs regarding the help-seeking pathway for children with DD (Aim 2), and develop a novel DSS decision aid that integrates evidence-based guidelines and service recommendations with community beliefs regarding this help-seeking pathway (Aim 3). The long-term goal of this research is to employ community-based participatory research methods as a means of developing innovative models of care that promote shared decision-making between parents and clinicians, and that advance health equity for underserved populations of children with DD. This goal closely aligns with the mission of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in improving the health and well-being of children with DD in Colorado, enhancing clients’ experiences and shared decision-making capabilities, and increasing children’s access to services. This project builds upon Dr. Magnusson’s previous work exploring racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in the identification of children with DD, and in unmet need for pediatric therapy services. Findings from this study will be used as leverage in a Mentored Research Scientist Career Development (K01) Award through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality assessing the usability, feasibility, and potential impact of the decision aid on primary and secondary child health outcomes.
Principal Investigator: Meredith Mealer, RN, PhD
Project Title: The feasibility and acceptability of a written exposure therapy (WET) intervention in critical care rehabilitation nurses.
Project Description: Psychological distress is common in healthcare professionals, particularly in high stress areas such as the intensive care or progressive care units. This pilot study will assess the feasibility and acceptability of a 5-week written exposure therapy (WET) resiliency focused intervention for critical care rehabilitation nurses. Developed over 30 years ago, expressive writing or written exposure therapies were founded on the Principal that the suppression of traumatic events inhibits the ability to cope with traumatic experiences. Critical care nurses will be asked to write for 30 minutes about the most significant traumatic event they have experienced while working at the bedside as well as an experience that is still causes them distress. Each week will continue to build off the prior week's writing session with the ultimate goal of reframing the nurse's trauma narrative and future perspective when working in similar distressing environments. This pilot study will help refine the intervention for feasibility and acceptability, so that a larger study can be conducted to determine the efficacy of the intervention at increasing resilience and decreasing symptoms of psychological distress in critical care rehabilitation nurses.

2016 Award

Principal Investigator: Scott Laker, MD
Project Title: Factors Influencing Parental Return-to-Play Decisions in Post Adolescent Sport-Related Concussions: A Mixed-Methods Exploratory Study
Project Abstract: This is a mixed-methods exploratory study of factors influencing parental concerns regarding their children’s return to play (RTP) following a sports related-concussion (SRC). The study participants will be the parents of adolescents (age 13-18 years) that present to the Children’s’ Hospital Colorado Concussion Program with a SRC. We will recruit 100 participants (parents of adolescents with SRC) to complete a quantitative survey. Twenty of these individuals will also be asked to participate in a qualitative, telephonic interview. As part of regular clinical care, all patients and parents complete a standardized intake questionnaire that includes injury mechanism and characteristics, a symptom severity scale, data about past medical and surgical history, and additional historical information. Permissions will be obtained to use this data. As part of the proposed study protocol, one parent will complete a quantitative pen and paper survey to ascertain factors associated with their child’s current injury that they expect will influence their decision to allow their child to RTP. This survey will also be used to gather information regarding demographics including socioeconomic status, and baseline concussion knowledge. The same parent will be invited to complete a qualitative, telephonic interview, delivered by our post-doctoral team member, to increase understanding regarding factors associated with the parent’s decision making about their child’s RTP. These quantitative and qualitative data will be analyzed to highlight parental concerns in RTP decisions, and to determine if there are any observations that warrant further study.

2014 Awards:

Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Hebert, PT, PhD, MSCS
Project Title: Associations between persistent symptoms and balance dysfunction in Veterans with chronic mild traumatic brain injury
Project Abstract: Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is a growing concern for many military Veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Postconcussive symptoms (PCS) including dizziness, fatigue and impaired balance are common manifestations of mTBI. Moreover, these PCS symptoms have been found to persist well beyond the onset of mTBI. What is not well understood at this time is how these PCS-related factors correlate, and if they are influenced by other mTBI-related problems including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Additionally, why PCS-related symptoms persist in a portion of Veterans with prior mTBI, but not all, also remains elusive. The primary objective of the study is to investigate the potential associations between dizziness, fatigue, dynamic standing balance and mobility-based balance in Veterans with chronic mTBI. The study will also test the relationship between these factors and mental health conditions including PTSD and depression. The specific aims of the proposed study are to determine: 1) if self-reported levels of dizziness and fatigue are related to dynamic standing balance and mobility-based balance in participants with > 6 months post-mTBI; 2) the relationship between self-reported levels of dizziness and fatigue, and the relationship between dynamic standing balance and mobility-based balance, in participants with > 6 months post-mTBI; and 3) the relationship between self-reported levels of PTSD symptoms and depression with dizziness, fatigue, dynamic standing balance and mobility-based balance in participants with > 6 months post-mTBI. The aims of the proposed study will be accomplished by implementing a crosssectional observational trial. The study is designed to recruit military Veterans with at least a 6-month history of mTBI, with a goal of enrolling and testing 35 participants. Participants will be asked to complete a battery of questionnaires measuring different perceived levels of PCS symptoms including fatigue, dizziness, posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, and depression. Additionally, participants will perform tests of balance. Dynamic standing balance during multiple sensory input challenges will be measured using the SMART Balance Master®, a computerized dynamic posturography test/sensory organization test (SOT). Mobility-based balance, walking while performing multiple higher level balance-challenging tasks, will be measured using the Community Balance and Mobility (CB&M) scale, a 13-item test that challenges balance and mobility tasks based on speed, precision, accuracy, multi-tasking and sequencing necessary for function and participation in the community. The ability to define what manifestations of mTBI are most likely to explain the reasons for the persistent balance and symptom-related PCS in certain Veterans with mTBI could lead to more focused treatment decisions and research aims. The results of this study will provide data for larger grant submissions to test: 1) how levels of PTSD and depression influence the relationships between dizziness, fatigue and balance; 2) the effectiveness of an exercise-based treatment aimed at improving balance and related PCS symptoms of dizziness and fatigue for Veterans with chronic mTBI.
Principal Investigator: Cory Christiansen, PT, PhD
Project Title: Movement Strategies and Physical Activity after Dysvascular Amputation
Project Abstract: Over 1 million Americans currently live with lower-limb amputation and the number is expected to more than double by 2050. More than 80% of all lower-limb amputations result from vascular complications due to diseases such as severe diabetes mellitus and/or severe peripheral artery disease, known as dysvascular amputation. Patients with dysvascular amputation have difficulty achieving and sustaining independent ambulation with a prosthesis and have low levels of physical activity. Such poor ambulation and physical activity outcomes are likely linked to the compensatory movement patterns that patients adopt following dysvascular amputation. Therefore, the overall aim of this investigation is to improve our understanding of the compensatory movement patterns adopted by patients with unilateral transtibial amputation to achieve independent ambulation and assess how the movement compensations relate to overall physical activity and disability. To identify compensatory movement strategies after dysvascular amputation, a group of participants with diabetes and unilateral transtibial amputation (EXP group) will be compared to a group of participants with diabetes and no major lower limb amputation (CTL group) using measurements of whole-body and body-segment angular momentum. Whole-body and body-segment angular momentum will be measured using 3-dimensional instrumented motion analysis while participants perform level-ground walking (primary functional task), as well as 90 degree turns and stepping up/down onto stair steps. We expect that the EXP group will have 1) higher variability in movement patterns, 2) higher peak to-peak ranges in whole-body angular momentum and larger segmental momentum contributions to whole-body angular momentum, and 3) higher segmental contributions to whole-body angular momentum from the torso/pelvis and contralateral limb compared to the CTL group. Identifying specific compensatory movement pattern characteristics following unilateral transtibial amputation (dysvascular) will provide a basis for developing targeted rehabilitation assessment tools and intervention strategies. In addition, we will examine the correlations that compensatory movement strategies have with gait speed, overall physical activity, and participant-reported disability.