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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 CUPMR.Research@ucdenver.edu. ​​

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.

2018 Awards

Principal Investigator: Michael Bade, PT, PhD Bade.Michael.jpg

Title: Multimodal Edema Management Program Post TKA

Abstract: Currently in the United States, more than 700,000 total knee arthroplasty (TKA) surgeries are performed annually with projections of 3.5 million performed annually by 2030.1,2   Postoperative knee swelling after TKA is profound and associated with decreased muscle activation, strength, range of motion, and functional performance as well as increased pain and post-surgical complications such as deep venous thrombosis (DVT).3-7  However, to date, traditional physical therapy interventions such as cryotherapy have demonstrated minimal effectiveness in reducing swelling and its associated sequelae.8  We have developed a novel multimodal edema management (MEM) program utilizing therapeutic exercise, compression garments, and self-administered lymphatic massage to decrease postoperative swelling.  This pilot cohort study will determine the variability and responsiveness of bioimpedance spectroscopy (primary outcome) in response to the MEM program in 15 participants after TKA.  Secondarily, we will determine the feasibility and patient perceptions of the MEM program after TKA by assessing: 1) adherence, 2) satisfaction, and 3) safety (secondary outcomes).  Finally, we will explore the potential mechanistic relationship between postoperative swelling levels and quadriceps muscle activation deficits, strength and functional performance (secondary outcomes).  The MEM program will be delivered in the home setting in addition to standard of care rehabilitation over three weeks.  Outcomes will be assessed preoperatively and postoperatively at day 4, day 7, week 2, and week 3. Data from this study and historical swelling data of individuals after TKA (N=40) will be utilized to guide subsequent trial planning.  This study is directly related to the departmental vision of improving the health of populations seeking care from PM&R professionals as well as providing the opportunity to collect data to leverage for future funding.  Finally, our study team consist of a diverse range of health care professionals from physical therapy, occupational therapy, chiropractic, physiatry, and orthopedics.  The investigative team possess a range of research experience which create opportunities to mentor more junior investigators and clinicians.


Principal Investigator:  Mark M. Manago, DPT, PhD Manago.Mark.jpg

Title: Instrumented motion analysis of hip and trunk movement compensations for people with multiple sclerosis

Abstract: Difficulty walking is one of the most commonly reported problems for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and is associated with compensatory movement patterns. Movement pattern compensations can be the result of muscle weakness and lead to painful and/or inefficient gait that affects daily walking. Movement pattern compensations for people with MS have been well-documented at the ankle and knee through instrumented motion analysis, however less is known about the hip and trunk. This is a crucial gap in knowledge, as our recent work has demonstrated that hip abduction and trunk muscle strength are key predictors of gait performance, yet few strengthening studies have targeted these muscles to improve gait. By developing a better understanding of hip and trunk movement pattern compensations during gait and understanding how these compensations relate to hip and trunk muscle weakness, we can design strength training interventions for the hip and trunk that are both targeted to the appropriate muscles and that can specifically address movement pattern compensations. In addition to improving intervention at the hip and trunk, identifying patients who might benefit from proximal strengthening is also an important priority, yet clinical assessments of proximal muscle function, such as the Trendelenburg test, have not been studied in people with MS. 

Therefore, the overall aim of this proposal is to improve understanding of hip and trunk movement pattern compensations in people with MS using instrumented motion analysis to 1) identify frontal plane compensations in the hip and trunk during gait and 2) validate the Trendelenburg test. A cross-sectional design consisting of one visit will be used. We hypothesize that instrumented motion analysis will 1) identify impairments in peak hip and trunk frontal plane moments and angles during gait, and 2) correlate with Trendelenburg angles as measured with goniometry during single-limb stance.

The results from this study would 1) be the final step in our development of a novel strengthening approach that incorporated hip and trunk muscles, and 2) improve clinical assessment of proximal muscle function in people with MS. This novel approach would have the potential to set a new standard for strength training and assessment in people with MS by addressing compensatory patterns, improving gait performance, and ultimately, increasing participation and quality of life.


Principal Investigator: Maryam Tahmasbi Sohi, MD MaryamTahmasbiSohi-web-profile-optimized.jpg

Title: Short term Effects of Intraarticular Triamcinolone Acetonide Injection on Serum Testosterone, LH and FSH Levels in Cohort of Male Veterans with Osteoarthritic Glenohumeral Joint: A Prospective Pilot Study 

Abstract: Musculoskeletal disorders are among the most frequently occurring chronic conditions affecting the US population. They have a substantial impact on quality of life, use of health care resources, and the nation's economy. Physiatry, among other specialties in medicine, is commonly involved in conservative management of musculoskeletal pain through therapy, activity modification, oral pain medications, and corticosteroid injections. Utilization of ultrasound guidance has improved the accuracy and efficacy for some of these injections, but there is relatively little data on their systemic effects with long-term and frequent use. Currently there have been no prior studies on the effects of localized corticosteroid injections on gonadal-pituitary axis. The overall objective of this pilot study is to determine the changes in gonadal-pituitary axis testosterone level after an ultrasound-guided injection of standard dosing of triamcinolone acetonide into the glenohumeral joint. To do this a before-after study, we will use a mixed effects model with a random intercept. Knowledge gained supports future, more rigorous trials that are focused on how modifications in frequency and dosing will influence adverse effects and efficacy of corticosteroid injections.

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2017 Awards

Principal Investigator: Dawn Magnusson, PT, PhD 

Title: Development of a novel decision aid to improve early identification and intervention for children with developmental delay​

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

Title: The feasibility and acceptability of a written exposure therapy (WET) intervention in critical care rehabilitation nurses.

Abstract: 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 weeks 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 

Title: Factors Influencing Parental Return-to-Play Decisions in Post Adolescent Sport-Related Concussions: A Mixed-Methods Exploratory Study

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.