Student Ambassadors: Stephanie & Lawrence

stephanie working with a client

Stephanie Johnson, MHS, OTR/L

Degree: PhD in Applied Health Sciences
Grovetown, GA
Mentor: Charlotte Chatto,PhD


Research:  Currently, I am involved in research around Quality of Life in persons with ALS(PALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and their caregivers. Identifying joint factors that affect both the PALS and caregiver is vital in order to provide holistic care for the dyad; I also am researching how the definition of QoL changes throughout the disease process in PALS.

Why did you choose this subject for your project?

I have worked now in the ALS clinic at AU Health for 10 years. During this tenure, I have clinically observed how perceptual differences for basic daily tasks, such as spending time with family, getting dressed, socializing, or going to church changes and/or is different between the PALS and caregiver. I have witnessed the strain on both when needs are not being met. I want to address this need. I want to make sure when healthcare providers are treating persons with ALS and their caregiver, it is a “joint” approach that is meaningful and purposeful for the PALS and caregiver. I want to help them maintain or improve QoL and continue to enjoy life.

Why did you decide to pursue PhD in Allied Health Sciences program?

I enjoy research, but needed enhanced knowledge and skills to produce quality research. This program is allowing me to do just that- become an expert within the field of my choice (ALS and QoL) while learning the essentials to be a solid researcher.

Why did you pick AU as the university to pursue your graduate program?

This program allows me the flexibility to focus on my passion, while teaching me fundamental skills needed for research. I also value the interdisciplinary components within the curriculum.

Mentor’s Perspective: I feel my mentor keeps me grounded and focused. I often want to plan ten steps ahead and she keeps me in the moment! She also reminds me that “one word, one page at a time” will get me to the finish(line)!

Lawrence collaborating with fellow student

Lawrence Ramiscal PT, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT

Degree: PhD in Applied Health Sciences
Manila, Philippines
Mentor: Raymond Chong, PhD

Research: Characterization of shoulder scapular dyskinesis (abnormal movement of the shoulder blade) among healthy pain-free population.

Why did you choose this topic of research? 

I injured both of my shoulders in 2013. As a physical therapist I am embarrassed to admit that I had surgery on the right side. When it was time  to heal the other side, I decided to rehab myself. Through this process, I became intrigued with understanding the causes of shoulder impingement that were started by shoulder problems and how to conservatively treat it with physical therapy.  I discovered that scapular dyskinesis has been shown to be a risk factor yet, ironically, it is prevalent in pain-free shoulders. This made me think. What is it about scapular dyskinesis in healthy shoulders that may lead to shoulder pain?

 Why did you choose the PhD in Allied Health Sciences program?

 As a clinician first and foremost, the program allows me to continue to think like one while I start transforming of becoming a scientist for which my research will support the advancement of my profession of physical therapy.

Mentor’s Perspective: Initially, I did not entertain the world of research because I was intimidated by statistics. Dr. Raymond Chong changed that fear into curiosity for me. My new-found love for statistics gave me a totally new perspective on how to answer questions I would never have been able to answer if I stayed as a clinician.  As my Ph.D. adviser, he has helped widened my perspective in my research to include motor control, Dr. Chong’s real expertise.  I am very confident that by the time I am done with my PhD journey, I would have a richer understanding of my topic and more questions to answer with my new career in research.

Favorite AU Memory: The solar eclipse viewing in 2017.  It was a fun experience. I enjoyed how the university provided multiple events in preparation and providing the sunglasses during the eclipse itself.

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Stephanie Johnson and Lawrence Ramiscal
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