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Baby Steps Alumnus Peter Pidcoe is helping babies with neuromuscular disorders crawl and explore the world


Message from the Dean

AHS MAGAZINE Winter 2017 EDITOR Erika Chavez Director of Marketing and Communications

Giving back

DESIGN Kimberly Hegarty UIC Office of Publications Services

“Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” —Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder, Children’s Defense Fund.

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Sonya Booth, Jacqueline Carey, Eric Peters, Kelsey Schagemann, Dan Yopchick

Service—to one’s profession, community and country—is well exemplified by those we feature in this issue of AHS Magazine. For example, our physical therapy students joined nearly 4,000 participants around the world for PT Day of Service (p. 2) by organizing wellness activities at a senior living center. Biomedical visualization students talked with middle school and high school youth at the Science Works Career Fair hosted by the Museum of Science and Industry (p. 7). Our faculty’s dedication to service takes many forms. David Marquez, kinesiology, was named to a national committee developing recommendations on physical activity for all Americans (p. 3). Research by 2016 UIC University Scholar Joy Hammel, occupational therapy—on environmental barriers to participation in society for people with disabilities—has been used by the Department of Justice in civil rights cases (p. 4). An emphasis on social learning earned Elizabeth Peterson, occupational therapy, a UIC Award for Excellence in Teaching (p. 5). AHS alumni continue this commitment to service as they pursue their careers. Peter Pidcoe combined the knowledge he gained through degrees in physical therapy and bioengineering to create a device that gives babies with neuromuscular disorders the mobility essential to learning (p. 11). Capt. Staci Molinar, kinesiology and occupational therapy (p. 18), is chief of clinical operations for the 212th Combat Operational Stress Control Unit at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. She and her team are deploying to Kuwait, where they will staff a center for combat stress and post-traumatic stress disorder. William Frey, occupational therapy (p. 16), began his career in the Army Medical Specialist Corps, followed by civilian success in university and hospital positions. He recently established an endowment for scholarships to UIC occupational therapy students who are military veterans. “Giving back” is an important part of our mission. We’re proud of our students, alumni, faculty and staff for what they do to make the world a better place.

CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS UIC Photo Services ©2017 University of Illinois at Chicago. All rights reserved. Published by the Office of the Dean (MC 518), UIC College of Applied Health Sciences, 808 South Wood Street, 169 CMET, Chicago, Illinois 60612-7305. Telephone Fax E-mail Website

(312) 996-6695 (312) 413-0086

Views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editor, the college or university.

You might notice abbreviations throughout this issue. They correlate to academic units in the College of Applied Health Sciences. BHIS Department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences BVIS Program in Biomedical Visualization DHD Department of Disability and Human Development DS Programs in Disability Studies HI

Program in Health Informatics

HIM Program in Health Information Management KINES

Programs in Kinesiology

KN Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition

Bo Fernhall Dean, UIC College of Applied Health Sciences


Medical Laboratory Sciences


Programs in Nutrition

OT Department of Occupational Therapy PT

Department of Physical Therapy


Programs in Rehabilitation Sciences



FEATURES 11 Baby steps  Peter Pidcoe ‘97 bs pt combines physical therapy and engineering to develop technology that helps infants with disabilities explore their world.


And the awards go to ...


 Two individuals were honored in the 2016 AHS Alumni Awards Program. Several faculty, staff and community partners were also recognized in 2016.



BHIS welcomes new department head


Professor pays tribute to the “modern giants” of biomedical research in new book

9  AHS introduces a new undergraduate degree in disability and human development


All in: Highlights from alumni gatherings


On the cover: Alumnus Peter Pidcoe holds an early prototype of the Self-Initiated Prone Progression Crawler. (Photo: Karl E. Steinbrenner, Virginia Commonwealth University)


On a leading mission Anthony Faiola, a three-time Fulbright Scholar to Russia whose current research concerns biomedical informatics and human-computer interaction, was named professor and head of the Department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences, effective July 1. Faiola was founding director of the Human-Computer Interaction Program in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). At IUPUI, he held joint appointments as an associate professor in bio-health informatics, humancentered computing and engineering. He also served as executive associate dean of the School of Informatics

and Computing and as director of the school’s Media Arts and Science Program. “We are fortunate to have someone of Dr. Faiola’s background and experience to lead the department,” said Dean Bo Fernhall. In collaboration with a pediatric anesthesiologist, Faiola developed a health information application for use in hospital intensive care units, the Medical Information Visualization Assistant (MIVA). The app helps physicians analyze and track the large amount of data obtained when a patient is monitored in the ICU. “I’m on a mission—to build technologies that support the cognitive abilities of clinicians,” said Faiola. He continues to develop and test the software, which was patented in 2014.


Community through service UIC physical therapy students joined thousands all over the world in giving back to their communities on PT Day of Service Oct. 15. “A lot of what we do as physical therapists is focused on helping people in the clinic. PT Day of Service focuses on helping people in the community,” said Rich Severin, adjunct faculty member in the physical therapy department and doctoral student in rehabilitation science. The first PT Day of Service in 2015 involved more than 3,750 participants and sponsors. Since then, the national organization has grown to include chapters in 39 different countries.

Last year, UIC DPT students volunteered at the Hyde Park Food Pantry and donated over 600 bars of soap for food pantry clients from a department soapbar drive that included donations from a local soap manufacturer. PT Day of Service is a project of the nonprofit organization Move Together. The organization’s projects also include the Quique Ceron Foundation, which sends medical missions to Guatemala; StandUp Kids, which helps combat physical inactivity in children; and the Pro Bono Incubator, which helps students establish probono physical therapy clinics at their institutions.

“You find a project relevant to the community, then implement it,” said Severin, who was UIC’s ambassador in 2015 and is now co-chair of the national organization’s sponsorship committee. This year, UIC doctor of physical therapy students organized a wellness event at an Alsip senior living facility, with mobility screening, cardiovascular screening, nutrition education and group exercise sessions.




PT Day of Service participants (left to right): Evan Liu, Paul Sraders, Rich Severin, Robert Waddell, Jake Chase, Charlie Rinchiuso, Jessica Stoner and Orah Peer.


Selected for publication “Progress in Preventive Medicine,” an open access journal, is the official journal to five organizations in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Coeditor-in-chief is Dr. Michael Sagner, chairman of the European Society of Preventive Medicine. P4 medicine (preventive, predictive, personalized and participatory medicine) moves away from the traditional focus of treating diseases to predicting and preventing health problems.

Ross Arena, professor and head of the Department of Physical Therapy, is co-editor-in-chief of the first international journal dedicated to P4 medicine, an individually focused approach to health care.

Also referred to as precision medicine, “P4 medicine represents a paradigm shift in health care,” Arena said. In 2015, the White House announced the Precision Medicine Initiative with $215 million to the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration and the Office of the Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

“The journal will promote this predictive model to stop chronic diseases from developing,” Arena said. “The focus is on keeping people healthy, with high quality of life, for as long as possible. Instead of lifespan, we promote ‘healthspan.’” The journal is now accepting submissions and publishing peerreviewed articles. Online access to articles will be free and available to all. Sponsors of “Progress in Preventive Medicine” include the European Society of Preventive Medicine, European Institute for Systems Biology & Medicine, Luxembourg Center for Systems Biomedicine, Institute for Systems Biology and Shanghai Center for Systems Biomedicine at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.


Health advisor Associate professor of kinesiology David Marquez has been appointed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to serve on the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee.

trust when it comes to achieving or maintaining health through physical activity,” said Marquez. “It’s time to revisit these guidelines and compare them to latest research to ensure they are up-to-date.”

Comprised of 17 nationally recognized experts, the committee will examine current research on physical activity and health prior to publishing a second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The committee is supported by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.

Marquez is particularly interested in how the new edition may reflect improvements in technology over the last 10 years. As a researcher who has worked for years with the Latino community, he also looks forward to a discussion on guidelines for specific populations— although the goal, he said, is to provide recommendations applicable to all Americans.

“The Physical Activity Guidelines give men and women an unbiased set of recommendations they can

According to HHS, the committee will spend two years reviewing research and holding meetings— which will include opportunities for public comment online at—and

Members of the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee during its second public meeting Oct. 27-28, 2016.

then develop evidence-based recommendations. The report will be submitted to the secretary of HHS for final review before publication in late 2018. “I feel very good about the process that is ahead of us,” said Marquez, who describes the work as a “specific and systematic review” of peer-reviewed studies on the topic. “It is wonderful to be part of an initiative that gives people progressive, easy to understand, practical guidelines for living a healthy life.” WINTER 2017





University scholar Occupational therapy professor Joy Hammel views her 2016 University Scholar award as an honor—and an opportunity. The UIC University Scholars Program, now in its 32nd year, honors faculty members for superior research and teaching, along with great promise for future achievements. Hammel, who before teaching worked as an occupational therapist for 28 years, has devoted her time as an educator and researcher to the study of how people with disabilities interact with their home, community and work environments. Hammel has gained national recognition for identifying key environmental barriers to the full participation of disabled individuals in society and for creating and testing assessment tools to evaluate health and participation disparities affecting the disabled community. Notably, Hammel’s research has been used by the Department of

Justice as a tool in investigating and evaluating civil rights claims. Yolanda Suarez-Balcazar, head of the Department of Occupational Therapy, said Hammel’s work is an extraordinary model of service. “Professor Hammel has been very creative in developing synergies across her teaching, research and service activities so that students engage in learning that they can apply to everyday practice situations, be exposed to cuttingedge research and work on issues that are changing the lives of people with disabilities,” Suarez-Balcazar said. As a University Scholar, Hammel feels honored to be in the company of other researchers whose work has made a noticeable impact, and she is equally excited for the opportunity to share her research with the UIC community.

Joy Hammel: “I want to use this award as an opportunity to spread the word and transfer information about disability advocacy and equal rights to our campus and our communities.”

Award-winning faculty AHS faculty received many honors and much recognition this academic year. Here are a selected few.





Teaching excellence Elizabeth Peterson’s teaching philosophy is grounded in the concept of social learning. Peterson, recipient of a 2016 Excellence in Teaching Award, believes that context, not just content, matters. “Social learning theory suggests that people learn through observation, participation and modeling, not just study,” said Peterson, clinical professor and director of professional education in the Department of Occupational Therapy. “My experiences as an occupational therapist and educator have taught me that the best learning occurs within a social context and, as a result, role modeling and student participation are key features of the environments and experiences I create for my students.”

contributed to many of the required courses in the program, frequently drawing on her experiences as a fall prevention researcher to highlight the importance of evidence-based practice and interdisciplinary approaches to patient care. Kathy Preissner, a former student of Peterson’s, strongly supported the nomination. “Dr. Peterson knew her students personally and provided individual attention,” said Preissner, clinical associate professor in occupational therapy. “She linked the content in her courses to the curriculum as a whole, and helped students to make connections to concepts learned in other courses. UIC is a world-class university because of educators such as Dr. Peterson.”

Peterson began teaching at UIC in 1993. In her 23 years with the university, she has been instrumental to the success of the occupational therapy master’s degree program, from curriculum development to accreditation and expansion of the program. Peterson has taught or

Each year, UIC honors some of its most dedicated and outstanding teachers with the Award for Excellence in Teaching. Winners are selected by past recipients of the award from nominations made by departments and colleges.

2016 UIC Researcher and Scholar of the Year Rising Star Award, Clinical Sciences

2016 UIC Researcher and Scholar of the Year Rising Star Award, Social Sciences

American Medical Informatics Association 2016 Leadership Award

Tanvi Bhatt, Physical therapy assistant professor

Susan Magasi, Occupational therapy professor

Annette Valenta, Biomedical and health information sciences professor

Elizabeth Peterson: “In a clinical or community-based setting, it’s clear how the context surrounding the patient and his or her goals influences the path and destination of therapy. The same is true of education—it’s my job as an educator to provide a structure and a process that facilitates learning.”






Both the messenger and the message

Giamila Fantuzzi addresses attendees at the “Body Messages” book launch party.

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” Isaac Newton said in 1676. In her new book, “Body Messages” (Harvard University Press, 2016), Giamila Fantuzzi pays tribute to 20 modern giants in her own field of biomedical research. “Body Messages” focuses on their quests to identify the molecular mediators that transmit information between cells, playing an important role in health and disease. “So many of these molecules have become very important in understanding how the body works,” said Fantuzzi, professor of kinesiology and nutrition. “These are now kind of famous molecules. But the story of how each was discovered has never been told in detail.” Among the researchers Fantuzzi interviewed are Joost Oppenheim,




senior investigator and head of cellular immunology at the National Cancer Institute, and Elizabeta Nemeth, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Iron Disorders at UCLA. Both survived dangerous conflict in their homelands. Oppenheim, born in the Netherlands, hid from the Nazis as a boy. Nemeth fled Belgrade as the Yugoslav wars destroyed her country. “It’s important to know the stories of the people behind the discoveries,” Fantuzzi said. “And it’s important to know how research is done—the thinking process, how they became interested in a particular topic, what kind of path they followed.” A native of Italy, Fantuzzi’s own background includes biology, neuroimmunology, endocrinology and infectious diseases. Her research concerns the molecules involved

in the regulation of obesity and inflammation, particularly in diseases like acute pancreatitis. Her cross-disciplinary focus “is not easy to classify, which I like,” she said. “Body Messages” is written for readers interested in science and its history, Fantuzzi explained. The book opens with a perspective on philosopher Marshall McLuhan, who famously said, “The medium is the message.” “McLuhan’s concepts apply to these molecules because they are both the medium and the message,” Fantuzzi said. “They are the carriers of information and the information itself.”


Visualizing career opportunities Biomedical visualization students were representing and recruiting at the 2016 Science Works Career Fair sponsored by the Museum of Science and Industry for middle school and high school students. An estimated 5,800 people attended the museum’s annual event Oct. 15. The career fair, which focused on STEM fields, showcased 41 Chicago-area organizations and institutions including Argonne and Fermi national laboratories, CBS 2, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Microsoft. It’s the fourth time BVIS students have presented at the annual event, said Kevin Brennan, BVIS faculty member who joined students at the event.

Photo credit: Christina Sidorowych

“It’s an opportunity to inspire younger kids who are interested in both science and art, but don’t know how to bring those two things together,” Brennan said. “And it’s a chance to interact with the general public and introduce them to the field of biomedical visualization, medical animation and medical illustration.” Thirteen students participated: Liz Andreas, Emma Chai, Ni-Ka Ford, Angela Gao, Katie Greenhill, Molly Huttner, Liza Knipscher, Esther Ng, Stephanie O’Neil, Adriana Orland, Christina Sidorowych, Natalie Yoshioka and Kate Zumach. The game they presented, “Organize Your Body,” was created by the UIC group Student Association of Medical Artists (SAMA). The game is a version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey where players place organs made of felt on a bodyshaped board. “I helped one group of children who asked if the heart was a muscle, or an organ. Insights like this help us realize where our communication and visualization skills are important,” said Huttner, president of the student group. The game is also popular when SAMA visits high school and community college career fairs.

Photo credit: Christina Sidorowych

“It’s always rewarding knowing some of those kids walk away realizing that biomedical visualization could be a future career for them,” said Huttner, who plans to complete her master’s in biomedical visualization this spring. When passersby stopped to view the on-screen animations and illustrations displayed at the BVIS booth, students chatted about their work and handed out business cards. “It gives them an opportunity to work on their presentation skills, their elevator speech,” Brennan said. Other UIC representatives at the Science Works Career Fair included the Department of Neurosurgery, UIC Women in Science and Engineering and the College of Pharmacy’s forensic science program.

BVIS students Stephanie O’Neil and Liz Andreas play Organize Your Body with two attendees.






From the big screen to small community living

In the documentary “Going Home,” Tamar Heller speaks in support of community living for people with developmental disabilities.

“Going Home: A Full Life in the Community,” a documentary that advocates moving Illinois residents with developmental disabilities from state institutions to community living, features Tamar Heller, head of the Department of Disability and Human Development and the Institute on Disability and Human Development. “The research has shown overwhelmingly that the smaller, community-based settings result in a better quality of life,” says Heller, distinguished professor of disability and human development, in the documentary. The 25-minute film, streaming online at, is produced by the Going Home Coalition and The Arc of Illinois, with funding from the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. It focuses on seven people who made successful transitions to community living after living in state-run institutions. The documentary references a study by the UIC Institute on Disability and Human Development about the 2012 closing of the Jacksonville Developmental Center in downstate Illinois. The study’s conclusions “fit the pattern that we’ve seen in literature all over the country and other countries as well,” Heller says in the documentary. 8



“Families, the vast, vast majority of families, are quite satisfied and will tell you the persons are much better off. And when we interviewed the residents themselves, they also tell us about the positive experience of moving out of the institution.” The documentary includes interviews with Tony Paulauski, executive director of The Arc of Illinois, who also makes the case for community living instead of institutionalization. “Lawmakers need to look at the evidence,” Heller says in the film. “They need to look at how moving people out of state-operated developmental centers is fiscally responsible, is also ethically responsible, also progressive—and I think that’s where Illinois wants to be.”


No place like home base

“I am extremely excited to be back where my decision to become a coach was made, where I played college ball and where I earned my degree,” Curylo said. “This is home for me.” For the last six seasons, Curylo has been breaking records as head softball coach at Wright State University with 147 victories, including 77 Horizon League games (the most in Raiders’ history). Last year, Wright State won 18 conference matches and 37 total games. The team reached the Horizon League championships for each of the last two seasons, coming within one win of the NCAA Tournament. “Bringing Lynn back to UIC was a priority,” said UIC athletic director Jim Schmidt.

Curylo was head coach at Millikan High School in Long Beach, California, from 2001 to 2006, leading the team to a California Interscholastic Federation championship. She moved to collegiate coaching the following year as assistant coach at Tennessee State University, where the Tigers won 35 games for their first winning season in program history. Curylo then spent two years as assistant coach at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In her second season, Illinois won 45 games overall—16-2 in conference play—and finished second at the NCAA Columbia Regional. Curylo, born and raised a Cubs fan on Chicago’s Northwest Side, said she’s eager to continue the Flames’ success both on the field and in the classroom.

Photo credit: Steve Woltmann

Lynn Curylo’s four seasons as an outfielder for UIC Flames softball included 201 wins, three conference championships and a trip to the Women’s College World Series. Now Curylo ’98 bs kines, ’00 bs kines has returned to pile up the victories again—this time as the team’s head coach.

time UIC softball has been honored for academics by the coaches association. UIC plays its first 2017 home game March 24 against Cleveland State. The game starts at 2 p.m. at Flames Field. For more information, visit or call 312-413-8421.

Beside finishing first in the Horizon League last season, the Flames were named an All-Academic Team by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association for their team GPA of 3.280. It’s the fifth consecutive


To the nth degree A new interdisciplinary undergraduate degree program in disability and human development— the first of its kind in Illinois—will examine the social, political, historical, cultural and environmental aspects of disability. The program, leading to a bachelor’s of science degree, will be offered by the Department of Disability and Human Development, with classes beginning fall 2017. Students will take core courses focusing on disability in terms of rights, culture, health, society, policy

and law. They will gain practical experience through a capstone course that requires working with an on-campus unit or community organization. The degree requires a total of 120 credit hours with a minimum of 34 credit hours for the major. The program will prepare students for careers in government, service agencies and nonprofit organizations, as well as graduate or professional studies in education, health sciences, rehabilitation science and social work.

For more information on the new bachelor’s degree in disability and human development, contact academic coordinator Maitha Abogado,






Empowering women with disabilities Turning research into community action: that’s the story behind ScreenABLE Saturday, a wellness fair for women with disabilities organized by the department of occupational therapy Oct. 15 at Mile Square Health Center. The event focused on free accessible mammograms, as well as a health and wellness fair that included adaptive yoga and dance classes, cooking demonstrations— and even manicures. Transportation to the event and disability accommodations were provided. Women with disabilities are 22 percent less likely to get a mammogram than their peers without disabilities, said Susan Magasi, assistant professor of occupational therapy who led the event. “The essence of the ScreenABLE event is to empower women with disabilities,” she explained. “Amid numerous physical and attitudinal barriers and system shortfalls, we want women to recognize that they deserve a mammogram, that cancer screening and prevention are important. More importantly, we want to help to remove as many of those barriers as possible.” The event brought together volunteers from across the college (many of them students), including occupational therapy, physical therapy, disability studies, kinesiology and nutrition, as well as community members. “We had more than 30 enthusiastic volunteers who made the event something special,” Magasi said. ScreenABLE Saturday was a collaborative effort between the Program for Healthcare Justice for People with Disabilities and the UIC Cancer Center. The event was funded, in part, by an Acting Up Award from The Chicago Community Trust. The idea for ScreenABLE Saturday was sparked at a Community Trust “On the Table” event. The gathering, which concerned cancer health equity for people with disabilities, was hosted by Magasi and other members of the Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative. Occupational therapy students in a class Magasi teaches, “Knowledge Translation in Disability Research,” created an award-winning video that highlights attitudinal barriers to breast cancer screening for women with disabilities. Watch the video at




Baby steps [ ] Peter Pidcoe uses his dual background in physical therapy and bioengineering to help babies develop better movement skills.

few years ago in Oklahoma, a mother playing with her 8-month-old twin daughters placed a toy on the ground. One of the sisters pulled herself to the toy, while the other focused on it and moved her arms and legs, but got nowhere. The situation wasn’t surprising to the mother. She was already aware of the reason one of her daughters was unable to crawl: she had cerebral palsy.

In many cases, children with cerebral palsy and other neuromuscular disorders are challenged by lack of coordination or strength, preventing them from executing a coordinated crawling motion. Overcoming this obstacle is important because there is more happening in a crawling baby’s brain than some might think. When children first begin to scoot, pull and slide from one curiosity to the next, they are discovering and grasping for knowledge, thus

driving and promoting very critical cognitive and intellectual development during this early expression of inquisitiveness. “Kids who don’t explore and interact with their environments— who don’t go out and taste the objects and do all of the things that kids do—can have delayed cognitive development,” says Peter Pidcoe ’97 bs pt, phd, associate professor and assistant chair in the Department of Physical Therapy, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Allied Health WINTER 2017



Professions. “There are age-critical benchmarks that need to be met in order to develop normally.”

the ground and reducing motor capacity,” Pidcoe explains.

This is the reality that one of the sisters in Oklahoma faced. Despite her desire to reach the toy, her muscles would not cooperate.

Creating the SIPPC At a conference in 2004, Pidcoe connected with Thubi Kolobe, a professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Oklahoma, who worked on identifying infants who were likely to develop cerebral palsy or severe developmental delays. The earlier babies were identified, the sooner treatment could begin. Unfortunately, treatment options that encouraged movement were limited. Kolobe wanted to tap into Pidcoe’s dual background in engineering and physical therapy to find a more effective way to promote developmentally appropriate movement in these infants.

The third-generation SIPPC came in many different colors.

for a motorized skateboard-type platform that would move babies, lying on their stomachs, from point to point. The initial prototype was clunky, but it was still a strong proof of concept. Pidcoe and Kolobe were able to secure several grants to develop, revise and upgrade the platform using a uniquely designed series of studies. The device was labeled the Self-Initiated Prone Progression Crawler, or SIPPC. Each study was a chance to refine the product. “On every iteration, and based on data collected from infants, we learned better ways to do this, like making it lower to

By 2008, Pidcoe and Kolobe had arrived at the design and shape the SIPPC holds today. It has six different modes of operation depending on a baby’s needs, including mobility, force and gesture (see sidebar on page 14). When the twin in Oklahoma who struggled to crawl was placed on the SIPPC, as she had been for several previous months while participating in research for the device, she “would straighten her arms out like an airplane and bring them back in [over and over again], and finally get to the toy,” Kolobe says. The sisters—one on the SIPPC and one crawling—would even compete with each other. They were racing to the toy, their mother said. It was a competition she never thought she would see. “When I saw that, I thought, ‘This is exactly what we want the SIPPC

“I saw these children kicking and swiping their arms, but as they grew older, they were losing these movements and falling behind,” Kolobe says. “I felt like the intervention that would help these babies had to somehow harness their early continuous movement and keep it going so they didn’t lose it.” Pidcoe, who holds a Ph.D. in bioengineering and a B.S. in physical therapy from UIC, as well as a clinical doctorate in physical therapy from VCU, was the perfect person to collaborate with Kolobe. Soon after their meeting, Pidcoe began developing a prototype 12



Peter Pidcoe demonstrates an earlier iteration of the SIPPC with the help of a baby who was not involved in research for the device.

to do. To harness their movement efforts and allow the infants to get to where they want to go,’” Kolobe says. “Mobility in infants is a gateway to learning.”

department’s Harry G. Knecht Movement Science Laboratory. Pidcoe’s engineering background was a good fit for faculty members who needed assistance building equipment for their research in muscle physiology, motor control and nerve regeneration.

How it teaches This gateway to learning comes via reinforcement. The SIPPC harnesses, in various ways, a child’s movements that couldn’t normally propel them due to lack of coordination or strength. It then reinforces those movements by offering a reward in the form of advancing arbitrarily or toward a goal and eventual completion of that goal at some desired destination.

Researchers use a neural feedback net to investigate the real-time activity in babies’ brains as they navigate with the SIPPC. (Photo: University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center)

that she can use the SIPPC to attain her goals, she has successfully developed a cognitive skill.

Photo: University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

“When babies are first introduced to the SIPPC, they don’t do a whole lot—they can be surprised and even disturbed by the action,” Pidcoe says. “They have to practice, but once they do, their exploration areas get larger and the amount of time they spend moving also increases.”

Creative exploration at UIC The motorized device has sensors that respond to a baby’s kicks and weight shifts. The device rewards the baby with an extra boost.

Learning to move the SIPPC happens slowly and by accident at first, but the babies do eventually repeat, “and if they repeat their arm and leg movements they don’t lose them,” Kolobe says. “That repetition builds the repertoire of movements needed for skills such as crawling, and they get better at it.” The process is tied to cognition, motor learning and neuroplasticity. The babies must move intentionally in order to drive the SIPPC. Kolobe calls it a means to an end; if a baby can understand

In a certain sense, the roots of Pidcoe’s success with the SIPPC can be traced back to his rural childhood outside Philadelphia. He was a child who loved to take things apart and put them back together. “The activities I did as a kid would probably get me on a list somewhere today,” he laughs. “Making fireworks, building rocket launchers—that kind of thing.” Pidcoe’s natural curiosity carried through to adulthood, including during the final years of his bioengineering doctorate at UIC, when he started working with the Department of Physical Therapy. After graduation, he was brought on staff to launch the

“People used to joke about us being able to build something from nothing because we were on a shoestring budget,” Pidcoe notes. “When we couldn’t go out and buy the $20,000 device, we’d build our own for $3,000.” While Pidcoe enjoyed the work, he tended to get antsy when he stayed in any job for too long. He started making plans to apply to medical school, thinking it would be helpful to diversify his bioengineering training with clinical studies. But fate intervened in the form of Jules Rothstein, then-chair of the Department of Physical Therapy, who convinced Pidcoe that he could pursue all the clinical courses he needed right there at UIC. Pidcoe’s days soon centered on collaborative research in the Knecht lab, classes in the PT program and hands-on clinical work. Most students did three rotations of clinical work, but Pidcoe managed to do six. “The PT staff was really great at accommodating my requests,” Pidcoe recalls. “I know it wasn’t easy to find all these different clinics to place me in.” Pidcoe had taken many courses in anatomy, biology and kinesiology by that point, but the clinical rotations brought the textbook diagrams and classroom lectures to life. His stint at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago WINTER 2017



was particularly inspiring for the way it illuminated the intersections between bioengineering and rehabilitative physical therapy, paving the way for his current passion.

Making Moves Depending on a particular baby’s needs, the SIPPC employs six different modes to encourage movement. “We can invoke any of these six or a combination to teach babies that movement is important and that it gets them where they want to go,” Pidcoe says. • M  obility mode: If the SIPPC detects any motion in any direction, it will continue to move in that direction for three seconds, providing motivation for the baby to make the SIPPC move again. • F  orce (Kinetic) mode: A force plate on the SIPPC, which the baby lies on, measures shifts in weight, determines which direction the baby wants to move and moves in that direction. • S  ensor mode: Sensors mounted on a onesie-type suit that the child wears detect movement in the arms and legs, determine which way the baby wants to move and move the SIPPC in predetermined directions.

Today, he thinks of his overlapping interests as a giant 3-D Venn diagram. “I have information clouds in engineering, clinical medicine and physical therapy, and life experience,” Pidcoe explains. “Where the clouds intersect, that’s where you get the innovation and creativity.”

The SIPPC’s future Those intersections also incorporate evolving technology. The SIPPC is now on its fourth iteration, and the design is “smaller, lighter and more useful,” Pidcoe says, in part due to technological innovations of the past few years. Pidcoe uses a laser cutter and 3-D printer to make each component. “Not only does it cost less to make, but it has become really hightech,” Pidcoe notes. He explains that the controller running the different modes can determine which system is working best for the child. “That’s useful data. It tells

“In addition to cross-training yourself and understanding the language of multiple fields, [key to invention] is also about collaborating with people ...”

us how kids are evolving and which system they’re actually relying on.” For example, if a physical therapist wants a child to work on a certain type of leg movement, the SIPPC can be programmed so it won’t move unless that movement is made. Pidcoe receives calls every week from parents eager to purchase the SIPPC, and while it’s not available just yet, he’s optimistic about its commercial viability. “The goal is that it will not only allow kids to get better on it, but also, that researchers will be able to do more work with it,” Pidcoe says. “We’re getting close.” This article was adapted and edited with permission from Virginia Commonwealth University Public Affairs.

• G  esture mode: A sensor under the child’s chin indicates when the child raises his or her head. When the child’s head reaches a certain height, the SIPPC moves in the direction of the child’s gaze. • i Phone mode: A parent or researcher with an iPhone can control the direction of the SIPPC or select the current mode of operation. • P  assive mode: The SIPPC motor disengages, and the device allows the infant to transition to selfpropulsion.




Peter Pidcoe gives a TEDxRVA talk in Richmond, Virginia, last year. Watch the entire talk at




2016 AHS ALUMNI AWARDS In 2016 the College of Applied Health Sciences proudly honored two alumni who stand out in their professions and in their commitment to the AHS community. The 2016 award recipients accepted their awards at AHS CELEBRATES on Oct. 20 (see page 24). The college is proud to honor these outstanding alumni for their accomplishments.


AHS Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

“Those two years in Chicago were very intense,” he says. “When you left, you felt you were equipped to go out and do something.”

Since the day he left his hometown of Manteno, William Frey ’71 bs ot has been on a path to greater learning, responsibility and service to others. His journey led to full-time faculty positions at five universities, four degrees, two hospital leadership positions, the national presidency of Alpha Eta honor society—and an endowment for scholarships to UIC occupational therapy students. It all started at the University of Illinois. “It was the only school I applied to. I was accepted and BAM! my horizons expanded,” he recalls. He chose occupational therapy “because I knew I wanted to be in health care, but I wasn’t certain I wanted to pursue more than a bachelor’s degree.” At that time, OT studies began with three years on the Urbana-Champaign campus, followed by two years on the Chicago campus. Besides a degree, he gained a life companion—classmate Carol 16



completed his service with the rank of captain and an Army Commendation Medal. From his experience, he learned he liked to lead. “That sparked my interest in pursuing hospital administration,” he says.

Jackson, “a brilliant clinician,” he says. Frey joined the Army Medical Specialist Corps and the couple moved to Fort Benning, Georgia. “The Vietnam War was going on, and I needed to do my part.” At Fort Benning, Frey developed new occupational therapy programs, including cardiac rehabilitation. He earned a master’s of education at Georgia State University and

He completed a master’s in health administration at Washington University. The residency required for his degree turned into a job as vice president of the 644-bed Toledo Hospital in Ohio. He oversaw almost every aspect of hospital operations, handling situations that included a major fire and the hospitalization of a Romani prince. “You learn from everything,” he says. Through his work at the hospital, he became involved in child abuse prevention. He served as chair of

“Most of our graduate students were health care providers going back to school while working,” he says. “I held classes around my kitchen table at night to make sure they could get their coursework.”

Frey during his time as a student at UIC.

the Lucas County, Ohio, Child Abuse Prevention Center, receiving the Mary E. Liles Award for his work. He and Carol also became foster parents to two siblings. After five years, Frey felt it was time for his next step: a Ph.D. As he earned his doctorate in medical sociology at Ohio State University, he was the university’s assistant director of allied medical professions, shepherding programs through accreditation. He missed health care practice, though, and left to become CEO of the Rehab Hospital of York, a new for-profit medical rehabilitation hospital in Pennsylvania. “It was very, very different,” he says. “Before that, I had worked for government or not-for-profit organizations. In a for-profit enterprise, how do you provide quality care and earn a profit? How do you track that? I got involved in developing quality assessment and setting up quality assurance programs in Pennsylvania and throughout the multi-hospital system.” He planned to complete his dissertation at the same time—an unrealistic proposition, it turned out. He returned to academia and joined the faculty at Slippery Rock University, where he completed his research and developed undergraduate and graduate programs in health services administration.

Frey took his enthusiasm for teaching nontraditional students to the University of St. Francis in Joliet, then St. Mary’s College in San Francisco, both pioneers in distance education and adult learning. During his time in the Bay Area, he was chair of the Arts and Culture Commission of Contra Costa County.

But his main avocation is the theater. Wherever he’s lived, he’s performed in regional and professional productions, including “My Fair Lady,” “Damn Yankees” and “Annie Get Your Gun,” opposite former Miss America, Kellye Cash. His home stage now is Cumberland County Playhouse, where he will appear in four plays this year, including “Beauty and the Beast” and “Sister Act.” “It adds a lot to my life,” he says.

“I would not be where I am now, I would not have had these experiences, without my University of Illinois degree,” he says. “It’s time to think about the next generation.”

Then family ties took him east to Memphis, where he became dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences at University of Tennessee. In one of his proudest moments, he was the first allied health dean to speak at commencement for University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center. When Carol became seriously ill, however, he retired and they moved to their dream home on the Cumberland Plateau near Knoxville. “We had a great year together,” he says. They were married 42 years until her death from pancreatic cancer in 2013. These days, Frey volunteers with an adult literacy program and the Friends of the Library. He likes to travel — he made his first trip to India in November.

Frey in India.

In establishing the endowment for the Jackson-Frey Scholarship, Frey remembered his own background as the son of a homemaker and a factory worker, first in his family to attend college. The scholarships, which begin in four years, will be awarded to occupational therapy students who are military veterans, preferably first-year students in OT. “I want to help UIC be seen as a welcoming institution for veterans,” he says.





AHS New Alum Award It’s hard to greet the dawn with a fivemile run and a 50-pound backpack. But as Capt. Staci Molinar sets out on her morning ruck march, she thinks about her patients—soldiers grievously injured in mind and body, who face enormous challenges but persevere. “Seeing folks who are dealing with that kind of situation— the rest of us have no excuse,” she says.

Capt. Staci Molinar

Molinar ’10 bs kines, ’12 ms ot is chief of clinical operations for the 212th Combat Operational Stress Control Unit at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, which includes coordinating behavioral health services for the 86th Combat Support Hospital. She leads a 28-member team: soldiers trained as occupational therapy assistants and behavioral health technicians, a social worker, psychologist, chaplain and psychiatric nurse.

region. She is one of only five Army occupational therapists training a team for duty in an active war zone.

Molinar considered joining the military after high school, but her parents insisted on college.

“One of the big things about the military is that they hand you a ton of responsibility,” says Molinar, who is also staff occupational therapist in orthopedics at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital. “Being in charge at first seems overwhelming, but it is super motivating. It drives you to push forward.”

When a recruiter told her about the opportunities available to Army occupational therapists, her path became clear.

Molinar and her team help prepare soldiers before deployment and assist them after they return. Besides occupational therapy, the services they provide include neuropsychological triage, psychoeducational classes, resiliency training and prolonged exposure therapy. In the hospital or outpatient clinic, they see patients who have behavioral illnesses like PTSD or traumatic injury, including loss of limbs. Molinar’s 18-hour days start at 4:30 a.m., when she heads to her office to catch up with paperwork. From 6 to 7:30 a.m., there’s physical training. The rest of the day might include team training, hospital rounds and “lots of meetings.” “But every day is different,” Molinar says. “A lot of the work I do is fun, honestly. You get to do things you would never do—learning to navigate through the forest, firing weapons. It makes the days go by quickly.”

At AHS, “I had mentors who helped me figure out where I wanted to go and develop the best plan to get there,” she says, mentioning Gail Fisher in occupational therapy and Karrie Hamstra-Wright in kinesiology.

The application process took about two years; Molinar worked as a school occupational therapist until she began officer training in 2013. She was commissioned a first lieutenant and assigned to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where her clinical rotations included orthopedics, traumatic brain injury, behavioral health and burn and amputee rehabilitation. While there, she completed a DSc. in occupational therapy through a joint program between the Army and Baylor University.

Ten have already deployed to Afghanistan. Molinar and the others will go to Kuwait this fall. They will staff a center for combat stress and post-traumatic stress disorder, treating soldiers stationed in the 18



Staci Molinar, center, with classmates at an annual AOTA conference.

“The military is good about providing you with opportunities to learn and grow,” says Molinar, who has been awarded the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement Medal. “Professional development is really important.” Molinar’s long-term career goal is research and teaching; her dream assignment is the

Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. For now, she looks forward to her deployment to Kuwait. “It’s the best opportunity for me and my soldiers to do our true jobs, to use the skills we’ve been working on for the past couple of years,” she says. “It’s what we train every day for.” During a training exercise, Molinar (front left) and team members carry a patient from a helicopter to a field hospital.


Nominate yourself or a classmate today! Find criteria and forms at

2015 AHS COLLEGE AWARDS The following AHS faculty and staff were recognized during the college’s fall 2016 meeting on Nov. 20. MONICA RASSOUL, Information services supervisor, bhis HUMANITARIAN OF THE YEAR AWARD CAROL BRAUNSCHWEIG, Professor, kn OUTSTANDING ACADEMIC LEADERSHIP AWARD SANDRA MAGAÑA, Professor, dhd RESEARCHER OF THE YEAR AWARD GAIL FISHER, Clinical associate professor, ot ERIC SWIRSKY, Clinical assistant professor, bhis EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD YOLANDA SUAREZ-BALCAZAR, Department head and professor, ot PROFESSOR OF THE YEAR AWARD WINTER 2017



AHS ALUMNI AWARDS PROGRAM William Frey ’71 bs ot 2016 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

Recognizing alumni with three awards: • AHS Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award • AHS Loyalty Award • AHS New Alum Award

Nominate yourself or a classmate for a 2017 alumni award today!

Find criteria, nomination forms and details of past recipients: AHS MAGAZINE WINTER 2016 SUMMER 2015 AHS MAGAZINE



AHS Connection


The latter half of 2016 brought the college’s signature event and other opportunities for alumni to celebrate and connect. BVIS dinner at AMI

July 21 Atlanta

There was much to celebrate at a dinner for BVIS alumni, students and friends hosted by the program in biomedical visualization during the 2016 Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI) Conference. BHIS clinical assistant professor Christine Young was presented with the association’s 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award (above left). BVIS students Kate Yorst received the Award of Excellence in the Student Editorial Category, Molly Hutner the Award of Merit in the Student Advertising and Promotional category, and Tiffany Raber the Award of Excellence in the Student Editorial category. New alumni were recognized for work submitted as BVIS students. BHIS visiting clinical assistant professor Sam Bond ’16 ms bvis won an Award of Merit in the Student Interactive category and Wai Man Chan ’16 ms bvis won an Award of Merit in the Student Editorial category.

HIM In-Service October 14 Chicago The HIM Class of 2017 hosted nearly 140 AHS alumni and professionals from throughout the Chicagoland area for a day of learning and professional development. The in-service with the theme “Innovations in Health Information Management,” provided attendees with up to four continuing education credits. Each year, HIM graduating students organize an in-service from concept to execution. WINTER 2017



People AHS reception at AHIMA

October 17 Baltimore AHS alumni, students and friends connected at a reception hosted by HI during the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) 2016 Convention and Exhibit. Attendees also toasted the UIC student team’s win against Ohio State in the AHIMA Jeopardy contest the previous day. The team, Carmel Esmailzadegan, Raziel Rivera, Joshua Aguiar and Yash Chaudhari (above left), received a prize of $2,000. Also pictured are HIM program director Karen Patena ’74 bs mra and BHIS clinical assistant professor Theresa Jorwic ’79 bs mra.

2016 Frank Armitage Lecture

November 6 & 7 Chicago Embracing the theme “A Life Willfully Forged: embracing risk, courage, and perseverance,” the 2016 Frank Armitage lecture series was both a celebration of Armitage’s life in the year of his passing and an exploration of these qualities which also describe the professional life of the artist and scientist. Family members Nicole Armitage, Karen Armitage, Natalie Doolittle ’13 ms bvis and Michelle Armitage (left), and colleagues such as Bob Weis, president of Walt Disney Imagineering (above) provided remembrances. The two-day event culminated with the unveiling and dedication of the Frank Armitage Gallery, which is housed in BHIS. 22



AHS CELEBRATES: Recognizing alumni achievement and fueling success

October 20 Chicago “AHS CELEBRATES,” the college’s signature event of the year, was everything its name promised. This year the event was held at Venue One in the vibrant West Loop neighborhood. The evening began with a reception during which attendees networked over cocktails and Dean Bo Fernhall presented the AHS Alumni Awards. An insightful talk on the science of nutrition by Drew Ramsey followed the reception. Ramsey signed copies of his latest book, “Eat Complete.”





UIC Advance Health Sciences in Naperville November 11 Naperville UIC hosted health sciences alumni at a reception and panel discussion on the future of healthcare in America. Hosted by Robert Barish, UIC vice chancellor for health affairs, the panel was composed of health sciences college deans, including Dean Bo Fernhall.

Connectivity matters Join the official LinkedIn network of AHS alumni at AHS graduates work in every corner of the allied health arena in all 50 states and some 23 international locations. Tap into one of your strongest professional resources and connect today.





MS in health informatics graduates! Wondering what’s next after your master’s degree in health informatics? Consider applying for a Ph.D. in biomedical and health informatics. The Ph.D. in biomedical and health informatics prepares future academicians and healthcare industry leaders to advance the discovery and application of new ideas that enable complex

decision-making and promote the introduction of health information technology. Up to 32 credits of your MS health informatics course work are transferrable into the Ph.D. program, shortening your completion to degree by as much as one year.

For more information, visit



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AHS Magazine - Winter 2017  

The publication for alumni and friends of the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago

AHS Magazine - Winter 2017  

The publication for alumni and friends of the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago