CSI and LaGuardia Physical Therapy Students Gather for Annual Event

Students from CSI and LCC take time out to pose for a group shot.

For the past five years, the faculty from the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program at the College of Staten Island (CSI) and the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program at LaGuardia Community College (LCC) have collaborated to provide students with an inter-professional experience. The Level 1 DPT students from CSI and the Level 1 and 2 PTA students from LCC met for this wonderful educational event.

Background information was provided to the students, regarding similarities and differences between the Physical Therapy (PT) and PTA professions, DPT and PTA curricula, as well as how to work together in a clinical setting.  The students also engaged in an exercise requiring collaboration between the students to come up with a treatment plan for a hypothetical patient scenario. Students also took part in a role-playing exercise that depicted how a real-life scenario might enfold between a PT and a PTA in a clinical setting. The event took place at CSI in Building 5N. The location alternates each year between CSI and LCC.

“As a first-year student in the College of Staten Island’s DPT program, I have been continuously taught the importance of communication between physical therapists and other healthcare professionals while working in the field. However, it is often difficult to demonstrate this discipline in a classroom setting that only consists of other PT students. The interdisciplinary seminar with the PTA students of LCC was an amazing opportunity to practice working together as a team and to begin incorporating necessary communication skills with each other. This collaborative workshop allowed us to develop a stronger awareness of the other’s profession, learn from one another, and simulate hypothetical scenarios that we will all likely experience in the future.  I left the seminar with a sharpened perspective of the PTA profession and ultimately feel more comfortable with my communication skills going forward in my physical therapy journey,” noted Sean Dwyer, Level 1 CSI DPT student.

“I used to think that a PTA was simply a liaison between doctor and patient, but it wasn’t until this experience that I realized we are more than that; PTAs are hard-working critical thinkers and DPTs value our opinions, skills, experiences, and judgement just as much as they value their education. I left that afternoon feeling even more proud of my professors, who not only love what they do, but taught it with such passion… This was a most privileged encounter that I will never forget and can only hope to one day pay it forward to the next generation of healthcare providers,” commented LCC Level II PTA student Amy Almeida.



Zaghloul Ahmed featured in Science & Enterprise

College of Staten Island Professor Zaghloul Ahmed, PhD, and his patented spinal stimulation technology were featured in an article on Science & Enterprise online. The story, “Neuro Device Company to Begin Clinical Trials in Europe,” discusses the trials which will “test a non-invasive device that stimulates nerves and the spinal cord to treat neuromotor disorders,” according to the article.

Read the full piece on the Science & Enterprise Web site.



Zaghloul Ahmed Contributes to Award Winning Neurotechnology Company

A City University of New York (CUNY)-affiliated clinical-stage neurotechnology company has been named as the Recipient of the Universal Biotech Innovation Prize 2016 in the global competition that offers “a glimpse of the future of life sciences.” The company, PathMaker Neurosystems (“PathMaker”), has exclusively licensed intellectual property from CUNY developed by neuroscientist Zaghloul Ahmed, PhD, Professor and Chairman, Department of Physical Therapy, College of Staten Island and Professor of Neuroscience, Center for Developmental Neuroscience and CUNY Graduate Center.

As PathMaker’s scientific founder, Dr. Ahmed commented, “We are very pleased to see the international recognition that our groundbreaking technology and world-class team at PathMaker is getting. We are working to bring the novel treatments enabled by our technology to patients as rapidly as possible.”

Read the full article on the EurekAlert.com web site.



CSI’s DPT Program Celebrates 100% Success Rate

DPT Class of 2016

The College of Staten Island (CSI) is proud to announce that this year all 20 Clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) graduates passed the Physical Therapy license exam on their first attempt. This marks the first time in the history of the program, which is just under three decades old, that graduates have celebrated a 100% success rate.

“This achievement clearly reflects a team effort of having an outstanding group of dedicated, intelligent, and resourceful students, and now licensed graduates; committed and hard-working highly qualified faculty and staff; and an administratively supportive environment with adequate resources for teaching and research,” noted Dr. Jeffrey Rothman, former Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy.

“As the outgoing Founding Chair, this accomplishment is personally very gratifying. I wish the program faculty and staff, students, and graduates much continued success,” said Dr. Rothman, who stepped down as chair in July.

The Department’s new Chair, Dr. Zaghloul Ahmed, commented, “I am thrilled to lead such an impressive department and I look forward to helping to bring our next class of students to the same lofty achievements as has been accomplished by the Class of 2016.”

School of Health Sciences Dean Dr. Maureen Becker added that, “This is an incredible feat, like taking home an Olympic gold medal! Traditionally, the Physical Therapy license exam results have always been outstanding … bronze and silver medal-worthy … this year, it all came together. I am truly proud of our students, alumni, and faculty, both full-time and adjunct, whose ongoing assessment and improvement implementation has led to this phenomenal outcome.”

The graduates mean scale score was more than 35 points above the mean national scale score (717 to 683) and the passing rate was seven percentage points above the national percentage. The exam was administered nationally on July 19 and the official results were reported by the Federation for State Board Physical Therapy Examiners.

The Clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) program prepares students to become clinician-scientists who can competently apply research to clinical practice, perform all aspects of physical therapy practice, and perform clinical research. It will prepare graduates to examine, evaluate, diagnose, and intervene in the management of impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities of the cardiopulmonary, musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, and integumentary systems.

The program meets the changing national standards as well as community needs for physical therapists working in a multitude of settings. The DPT program is in accordance with the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) recommendation that physical therapists be doctorally credentialed. The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Graduates will be eligible for the National Physical Therapy Examination.

Understanding the Electrical Pathways of the Nervous System via Trans-Spinal Stimulation Clinical Trials


Dr. Knikou (top-center) and her DPT students work collaboratively towards a better understanding of human movement in health and disease.

Dr. Maria Knikou was recently awarded a $400,000 grant by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation to develop strategies in treating people who suffer from serious spinal cord injuries, and bringing sensation and mobility back into their lives.

“People with spinal cord injuries have motor dysfunction that results in substantial social, personal, and economic costs,” said Dr. Knikou, a neurophysiologist and Professor of the Clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) program with the School of Health Sciences, explaining the impetus for her research. “This uncontrolled muscle spasticity and motor dysfunction can result in disabilities that significantly reduce quality of life.”

This grant will enable Dr. Knikou and her researchers to develop a stimulation protocol in order to, Dr. Knikou explains, “induce functional recovery” in people who are attempting to recover from moderate to serious spinal injury.

Research in action: non invasive transcranial magnetic stimulation assesses connections between the brain and leg muscles.

Dr. Knikou’s research on spinal cord injuries focuses on utilizing non-invasive trans-spinal stimulation of the spinal cord with constant or direct electrical current to strengthen the connections between the brain and spinal cord, thereby improving movement.

The two-year grant was awarded for Dr. Knikou’s project, titled, “Trans-spinal Stimulation to Increase Neuroplasticity and Recovery after SCI,” which seeks to test a new intervention to treat motor dysfunction of people suffering from spinal cord injuries.

Her lab uses Trans-Spinal Constant or Direct-Current Stimulation to alter the signals between the nerves and muscles in people suffering from spasticity due to injuries. According to Dr. Knikou, this spasticity causes stiffness of the muscles affected by the nerve damage caused by spinal injuries. This stiffness can cause patients suffering from these injuries to have difficulty moving and going about their daily lives. Dr. Knikou’s project aims to not only treat subjects who are undergoing the clinical trials but also to research more effective strategies in order to provide long-term treatment.

The treatments are non-invasive and require the subjects to receive 40-minute non-invasive Trans-Spinal Stimulations daily for three weeks. One of the machines used is called Trans-Cranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which both acts as treatment for the subjects during the clinical trials as well as helps the researchers study the action potential of the stimulation being provided.

Dr. Knikou celebrates victory on understanding the function of the human nervous system via non-invasive electrophysiological methods.

Dr. Knikou elaborated on the methodology that her lab uses, saying “People with motor incomplete spinal cord injury will be randomized to receive trans-spinal stimulation with direct or constant current.” The researchers, many of whom are post-graduates working on their DPT degrees as well as CSI postdoctoral research fellows, also use an EEG machine to map the areas of the brain that are being stimulated in order to better understand which placement and intensity of the electrodes works best with each subject. “Results from the proposed project will provide for the first time evidence on a novel neuromodulation method that has the advantages of being noninvasive, cost-effective, and can be used in different clinical settings to improve motor function and decrease spasticity after spinal cord injury in humans,” Dr. Knikou concluded.

While the overall goal of these clinical trials is to provide relief to people currently suffering, it will also build novel and effective rehabilitation strategies.

Dr. Knikou remains passionate about training the next wave of physical therapy researchers, and she demonstrates this by tasking her lab’s doctoral and undergraduate students with assisting with the clinical trials in a very hands-on manner.

Speaking of her philosophy behind her delegation of her student’s responsibilities, Dr. Knikou says.  “I want them to not only be consumers but also creators of research.”

For more information about the Trans-Spinal Stimulation clinical trials, visit www.csi.cuny.edu/schoolofhealthsciences.

No Heavy Lift: Four Major Grants Strengthen Spinal Cord Injury Research

Dr. Zaghloul Ahmed

The past academic year has been exceptionally rewarding for Dr. Zaghloul Ahmed, who has earned four major grants for his work in treating mobility complications due to serious spinal cord injuries.

The grants, two awarded by the New York State Department of Health, one by PSC CUNY, and one by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) total nearly $850,000 toward Dr. Ahmed and his collaborator’s spinal cord injury research.

Dr. Ahmed’s research on spinal cord injuries focuses on using Trans-Spinal Direct Current Stimulation to alter the muscle tone in mice suffering from spasticity due to these injuries. According to Dr. Ahmed, the spasticity causes stiffness of the muscles affected by the nerve damage caused by spinal injuries. This stiffness can cause patients suffering from these injuries to have difficulty moving and going about their daily lives.

Dr. Ahmed’s project aims to discover what types of treatment can lead to long term relief in people who have suffered from spinal cord injuries or even from strokes.

The experiment tasks the researchers to run a very weak direct current through a mouse’s spinal cord suffering from spasticity in order to stimulate the corresponding nerve. What they have found is that depending on several factors such as current duration, intensity, direction and location, there is a significant decrease in muscle tone abnormality which results in an increase in motor movement.

Dr. Ahmed, an Associate Professor with the Department of Physical Therapy (DPT) with the School of Health Sciences at the College of Staten Island, commented “I am very happy and grateful that the government has given us this grant. We can now expand our work and get ready for the next application.”

The next step in the research, Dr. Ahmed hopes, will move the work from mice to clinical trials in humans though there are still a few factors that need to be clarified.

“We still need to investigate how long the treatment will be effective, what dosage, and how much current, exactly we need to pass through,” said Dr. Ahmed on the work that his lab is conducting.

“We always have one or two groups working on different levels of this project,” commented Dr. Ahmed on the fluidity of the program, adding that the physical therapy department currently has a system where each of the faculty gets a small group of students to work on their clinical research. There is currently one group of students working on mice and another group working on the human element of the project studying reflexes which will one day apply to Dr. Ahmed’s project once it enters clinical trials in people.

“Our physical therapy students [at CSI] are working very hard,” noted Dr. Ahmed, adding he has also engaged a group of high school students to work on the behavioral aspects of the project.

These grants awarded for Dr. Ahmed’s project, along with his research team’s dedication and hard work, will one day benefit those who have suffered spinal cord injuries and help them once again lead normal lives.

Dr. Zaghloul Ahmed was awarded the 2011 NYC BioAccelerate Prize For a Neural Stimulation System.

DPT Student Takes Women’s Health Issues into Her Own Hands


Ann Mackey, a doctoral student in Physical Therapy at CSI.

Ann Mackey, a doctoral student in the College of Staten Island’s Department of Physical Therapy program, was recently elected to serve on the Board of Directors as one of two Northeast Regional Representatives of the Section on Women’s Health (SoWH) Student Special Interest Group.

Mackey,  a 2012 graduate from the Verrazano School Honors Program at CSI, recently attended the Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association in her first official capacity as a board member, believes that not enough people are aware that women’s health issues are being addressed within the physical therapy field.

“A lot of women have serious issues and don’t know how to treat them,” notes Mackey, and as a physical therapist and SoWH board member, she wants to change that misconception.

“We really want to start strengthening our networking power,” she says.  To that end, Mackey is in the process of updating the information for all other schools in the northeast, as well as building awareness for other students who may be interested in women’s health issues.

Mackey begun studying physical therapy “later in life.”

As a former ballet dancer, Mackey dealt with many injuries and she knew that “dancing wasn’t going to last forever.” When she decided to attend CSI she knew that she “wanted to help dancers in the same way I was helped by physical therapists when I danced.”

During the recent National Student Conclave, a once-a-year meeting for DPT students, Mackey saw a booth dedicated to the SoWH and completed an application and a written statement of interest when she returned to New York.

Mackey, who is graduating next spring and plans on taking board exams in July 2015, wants to make an impact as a physical therapist immediately and plans on incorporating her women’s health specialty into her methodology.

“I am going to go out there and start working,” she said of her plans after school and she intends on incorporating yoga and Pilates into physical therapy sessions.

Dr. Jeffery Rothman, a chair of the Department of Physical Therapy at CSI, emphasized what Ann’s board membership means for the CSI DPT program as a whole.

“Ann’s leadership position on the Board of Directors in a national office will provide national exposure of the College of Staten Island, CUNY, and the college’s Department of Physical Therapy,” says Rothman.  “She will be an outstanding contact person for students and practicing clinicians interested in the important area of women’s health.”

“Women’s health is an issue that is very underrepresented,” Mackey adds, “not enough people know to get involved.” Due to her leadership and contributions however, that may very well change.