Skip to main content


Physical therapy researchers persist amid pandemic, win national award for cancer research

After an unexpected halt to their research at the beginning of the pandemic, two University of Dayton physical therapy students shifted gears to examine whether physical and occupational therapy delivered virtually could address cancer-related fatigue. Their study won a national award from the Academy of Oncologic Physical Therapy of the American Physical Therapy Association earlier this year.

Up to 90% of people who have or had cancer treatment face cancer-related fatigue, according to Mary Fisher, associate professor and physical therapy department chair. With occupational therapy students at Eastern Kentucky University, UD students Evan Bartlett and Kelsy Measles studied five people and found a 50% decrease in fatigue after eight weeks of virtual physical and occupational therapy.

"Winning an award in competition with national researchers in their field is a testament to their skills and abilities," Fisher said. "These two researchers worked very hard to deal with every challenge that came up and improve the process along the way."

To complete the study, Bartlett and Measles developed instructional videos with tailored exercises that they posted on individualized websites for the patients. They then tracked patient fatigue, exercise comprehension and completion to measure success.

"Because it had not been done before, we had to completely design the elements of the study," Bartlett said. "But it gave us tools I now feel confident using in my future practice. And when we finally started working with patients via telehealth, it was rewarding to see all of our hard work come to fruition for their care."

Now their research may help set the standard for physical and occupational therapy telehealth for cancer patients and survivors. 

"This study shines a light on how physical and occupational therapy can work together to optimize and reduce the cost of this type of care plus improve access for people who cannot easily get to in-person therapy. I envision this research will establish standards for telehealth delivery," said Mary Lou Galantino, a member of the Academy of Oncologic Physical Therapy research committee. "If we can improve on telehealth practices, what a great opportunity to impact cancer survivors, one patient at a time."


News and Communications Staff