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Our innovative research strives to impact the health and occupations of people and their communities KU faculty are leading efforts in community-engaged research to support full participation of individuals with diverse strengths and challenges in everyday life activities.

Learn about our interdisciplinary research efforts and the many ways our students participate in research.

Community Participation

Accessible Leisure Lab (ALL)

The major goal of ongoing research by Lisa Mische Lawson, Ph.D., CTRS, is to promote the health of individuals with disabilities and chronic illness through leisure and physical activity.

This research team investigates factors impeding or facilitating leisure participation and the effects of physically active recreation on health behaviors and body composition.

Visit the lab to learn more.

Driving Simulation

Occupational therapy faculty member Laurie Steen, OTR/L, CEAS I, provides clinical services and supports research through the Driving and Mobility Clinic in the Laboratory for Advanced Rehabilitation and Research In Simulation. Graduate students working in this program gain advanced clinical skills in conducting driving evaluations. They also support collaborative research with faculty from the Department of Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation Science, and Athletic Training.

Frailty and Fall Prevention in People Living with Chronic Diseases

Tobia Zanotto, Ph.D., conducts research focusing on minimizing frailty and fall-risk in people living with chronic diseases, with an emphasis on exercise and physical activity interventions. A leading member of the mobility core at the KU Center for Community Access, Rehabilitation Research, Education, and Service, he is also an associate member and fellow of the Landon Center on Aging at KU Medical Center.
Zanotto is also interested in identifying novel strategies to maximize quality of life and improve the health of people living with multiple sclerosis. Currently, he is researching the feasibility of multimodal exercise as a strategy to enhance physiological resilience in frail people with multiple sclerosis.

Parent and Behavioral Training

Research by Alice Zhang, Ph.D., BCBA-D, focuses on increasing evidence-based service access for families of children with autism spectrum disorder and other related disorders via technology. She is interested in developing and disseminating evidence-based practices through telehealth technology to caregivers and providers, particularly for those from rural and underserved communities. Another research area for Zhang is to examine the health care transition experiences of adolescents and young adults with autism, with the goal of creating interventions that can better support this transition.

She has long-standing research collaborations with the Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training, the Telehealth ROCKS program, and the LEND Network. She provides clinical services, including parent training and behavioral consultation, through both in-person and telehealth clinics. She is also passionate about advocating for health care access and disability rights. Graduate students working with Zhang are involved in all aspects of the research process from design to dissemination, with emphasis on grant writing and participatory action research approach.

Sensory Experiences and Participation

Investigating sensory experiences and interventions promoting participation in everyday life, particularly feeding, Lauren Foster, OTD, OTR/L, collaborates with a speech language pathologist to investigate the effects of a community-based responsive feeding therapy on tube-weaning.

Her other collaborative studies investigate the effects of sensory garments on sleep and participation among children with autism spectrum disorders. Students working with Foster gain skills in program evaluation and qualitative research. Training emphasizes data collection and management, intervention fidelity, and scholarly writing.

Educational Methodologies

Dory Sabata, OTD, OTR/L, studies teaching and learning methodology, interprofessional education and practice and community participation and health of persons with stroke.

She developed year-long service-learning opportunities for entry-level occupational therapy students and championed interprofessional education. In addition, she now leads the department to develop and implement innovative educational methodologies.

Sabata's research of educational methodologies and community participation of stroke survivors is intertwined. Students are trained to support stroke survivors to participate in community activities. Research projects investigate both the effectiveness of educational methodologies and participation outcomes.

Neurological Assessment & Neuroscience

Borrell Lab

The goal of the Borrell Lab is to assess the brain after injury and use this information to drive rehabilitation. Its recent published study examines phantom limb therapy in a targeted muscle reinnervation amputee. Learn more.

Rehabilitation of Concussion Injuries

Research by Jeff Radel, Ph.D., studies biophysical and social risk factors for concussions and other causes of traumatic brain injury. Of particular interest is the subset of patients who are slow to recover full function after brain injury and those individuals continuing to experience persistent post-concussion symptoms that often limit the return to normal activities.

An important focus is the evaluation of factors influencing the trajectory of recovery and the study of social factors influencing participation by parents, students, teachers, and school officials behaviors and activities that risk concussion injury.

Student Research

Students in the doctoral program in therapeutic science enter with research questions derived from their clinical experiences. Students will develop a plan of study with the program director to be supported by faculty within and outside the department.

View Student Projects

"I teach mindfulness and meditation, support staff directly, do research incorporating mindfulness and mediation, and work within the health care system to advance practices that support well-being. In addition to my work at Children’s Mercy Hospital, I’ve also taken the opportunity to use my skills in the community, including through Transforming Praxis, my therapy practice for individuals and families."
KU School of Health Professions

Occupational Therapy Education
KU Medical Center
3901 Rainbow Blvd  MS2003
Kansas City, KS 66160
913-588-7195 • 711 TTY