Home College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Where theory meets practice

Where theory meets practice

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The Ellis Disease Prevention Laboratory opened last summer in the
College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences with the promise of expanding
research opportunities and preparing Health Sciences students for a wide
range of careers.

In the year since, students and faculty have demonstrated that the lab will have no trouble living up to its full potential.

“To be an undergraduate and have the ability to work with the
equipment is unique,” says Rhonda Beemer, assistant professor and
director of Health Sciences Experiential Education. “When students go on
to their professional studies they will already have an introduction to
this type of equipment. They will have a step-up on other students.”

One such student is Brittany Perkins. As a junior health sciences
major and aspiring physical therapist, Perkins partnered with Drake
University women’s softball players to test rotator cuff strength
between infielders and outfielders. The theory was that outfielders
would produce different forces during various contractions compared to
infielders—a hypothesis that could have implications for the way
infielders and outfielders train.

Though she concluded that a larger test sample would have been
necessary for a definitive result, Perkins says the research process and
the opportunity to present the results at a professional orthopedic
conference were extremely valuable.

“I learned to develop a research question, find background research,
develop a methodology, and follow the process all the way through to
application and analysis,” Perkins says. “It’s really beneficial, as a
student, to have that base of knowledge going into graduate school and
the professional world.”

Many students in the Health Sciences program pursue additional
training in the health professions such as medicine, physician
assistant, physical therapy, or public health. The lab equipment also
benefits students potentially interested in studying sports medicine.

Many of the health-related fitness assessment tests needed for
certification by the American College of Sports Medicine can be
practiced in the Ellis Disease Prevention Lab. Although the lab does not
offer certification, it does provide students with opportunities to
familiarize themselves with the equipment and testing protocols.

“It is great for students to get hands-on experience with state of
the art equipment,” says Kim Huey, associate professor of Health
Sciences. “The experience students get with equipment such as metabolic
systems looks great on a resume as they continue their education or
professional training.”

In addition to creating professional opportunities and providing experiential learning

for students, studies in the laboratory have provided valuable results with immediate

real-world applications.

A student recently used the laboratory to test the muscle function of
a student-athlete who was recovering from an injury. The results of the
test were sent to the orthopedic physician. Rather than relying on how
the muscles in question felt, this testing provided real data to assist
the physician with return-to-play decisions and preventing the
possibility of exacerbating the injury.

“Results of such research could help in the creation of training
regimens based on these findings,” says Beemer. “The potential is
definitely there.”

In the Medical Physiology Lab class that Huey teaches, students
conduct health-related assessments and run experiments that reinforce
traditional classroom learning with hands-on experience.

Last spring semester, students measured energy utilization during
cycling exercise with and without consuming a carbohydrate beverage such
as Powerade or Gatorade. They found that consuming carbohydrates during
exercise changes fuel utilization by the body.  This provided students
with the opportunity to observe what they had already learned in lecture
or read in a textbook or research article.

“The students have told us that [these experiences] reinforce what
they’ve learned in class,” says Huey. “This is active learning and it’s
more effective than simply taking notes and assimilating information
from a lecture.”


Creation of The Ellis Disease Prevention Laboratory was made
possible by a generous gift from Jack Ellis, PH’57, a grant from Grow
Iowa Values, the CPHS Harris endowment, CPHS technology fees, and a
federal appropriation directed at purchasing equipment.