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Renovated lab open for collaboration on health and wellness

A ribbon cutting heralded the official opening of a newly renovated health and wellness clinical research lab open to collaborators across UNMC colleges and institutes. From left: Russell McCulloh, MD, Jennifer Larsen, MD, Kenneth Bayles, PhD, Kyle Meyer, PhD, Laura Bilek, PhD, Yvonne Golightly, PhD, and Betsy Becker, DPT, PhD

A ribbon cutting heralded the official opening of a newly renovated health and wellness clinical research lab open to collaborators across UNMC colleges and institutes. From left: Russell McCulloh, MD, Jennifer Larsen, MD, Kenneth Bayles, PhD, Kyle Meyer, PhD, Laura Bilek, PhD, Yvonne Golightly, PhD, and Betsy Becker, DPT, PhD

UNMC cut a ribbon June 12 to celebrate the opening of a renovated clinical research laboratory to provide researchers across the campus a facility for use in a broad spectrum of clinical research.

The UNMC College of Allied Health Professions, with support of the Office of the Chancellor and in collaboration with the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and stakeholders across the campus, recognized that more faculty were investigating behavior-related interventions using nutrition, physical activity and innovative therapies.

Lab pivotal in allied health history

The newly renovated allied health clinical research laboratory is the latest iteration of this laboratory site, which has proven pivotal in the history of the UNMC College of Allied Health Professions.

It debuted in 1996 as the Clinical Movement Science Laboratory (CMSL), thanks to 94 donors and the Nebraska Foundation for Physical Therapy. Pat Hageman, PhD, was physical therapy program director and ushered in the vision. Greg Karst, PhD, retired executive dean of the CAHP, was one of the driving forces behind creating a new laboratory dedicated to research.

“I think that was a transitional moment,” said Laura Bilek, PhD, associate dean for research. That new emphasis on research, she said, helped lay the groundwork for allied health eventually becoming its own college.

The lab later became the PT Clinical Movement Analysis Lab (C-MOVA). It underwent a new grand opening and was directed by Joseph Siu, PhD, followed by Elizabeth Wellsandt, DPT, PhD.

“The lab has transitioned to become more expansive than just movement analysis,” Dr. Bilek said. There has been a growth in faculty that use the facility. Joseph Norman, PhD, retired director of physical therapy, had a long history of cardiovascular assessment in the lab. The updated lab offers additional state-of-the-art equipment. Also, the peripheral CT and DXA scanners are added with the availability of expanded space with the remodel.

Now, the lab makes yet another transition, to welcome faculty from across UNMC.

In the spirit of sharing resources and interdisciplinary collaboration, allied health, the chancellor and the vice chancellor for research set about renovating, redesigning and expanding the former Physical Therapy Clinical Movement Analysis Lab (C-MOVA).

The 3,000-square-feet remodeled laboratory is located on the lower level of the Student Life Center and will be open for use to researchers from colleges and institutes across UNMC.

A permanent name for the renovated lab has not yet been determined, but for now it is referred to as the health and wellness clinical research lab.

“The vision for the lab emerged from collaborative conversations with researchers in the CAHP, as well as with colleagues across campus who do similar research,” said Laura Bilek, PhD, associate dean for research at the UNMC College of Allied Health Professions. “Our goal was to design and develop the infrastructure needed to support clinical research related to health and wellness.”

The new lab includes resources for bone imaging, biomechanics and both metabolic and nutritional assessments, which will allow researchers to conduct innovative, team-based clinical research aimed at the primary prevention of chronic diseases, as well as secondary prevention to improve the quality of life in the managing these diseases.

Highlights include:

  • State of the art biomechanical equipment for the assessment of human movement;
  • Imaging assessment of bone and body composition (DXA/peripheral CT scanner);
  • Metabolic and cardiovascular fitness assessment (treadmill with metabolic cart to measure oxygen consumption);
  • Biospecimen collection (dedicated space to draw blood and process biospecimens);
  • Functional assessment (gym area with space to conduct tests such as walking speed or athletic agility); and
  • Physical activity monitoring – (accelerometers and faculty expertise in activity assessment).

Rather than creating separate clinical research labs for individual faculty, the new lab offers shared resources – and opportunities for collaboration.

“The lab’s current design and planned use reflects contemporary research and funding – the sharing of ideas, equipment and resources across multiple disciplines working as teams to solve complex problems,” Dr. Bilek said.

Dr. Bilek credited the UNMC Department of Facilities Management and Planning for its expertise, labor and support.

She also acknowledged the retired, inaugural CAHP assistant dean for research, Pat Leuschen, PhD, for laying the foundation for the college’s research enterprise.

“I applaud the vision and work of all involved in bringing this amazing resource to fruition,” said Kyle Meyer, PhD, dean of the UNMC College of Allied Health Professions. “I am sure the lab will serve as a catalyst for the continued growth of health and wellness clinical research at UNMC.”

“The UNMC College of Allied Health Professions has had this vision for a decade,” said Jennifer Larsen, MD, former vice chancellor for research. “I think this is a landmark moment to see all of that work come to fruition and continue to grow.”