Faculty Research


Joanne Peterson

Dr. Peterson’s research interests focus on improving student success in medical school, specifically within a gross anatomy course. Her projects look at various strategies or interventions that can be utilized to help an incoming medical student become better prepared to deal with the rigor of an anatomical sciences course.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4920-224X

Matthew C. White, Ph.D.

Dr. White’s research interests focus on the ubiquitin-proteasome system and related stress response pathways, with an emphasis on their intersection with cancer and neuroinflammation. Ongoing work includes collaborative efforts in the following specific areas:

  1. eIF2α kinase-mediated control of protein synthesis in response to proteasome inhibition in cancer
  2. novel redox regulators of ubiquitin-dependent inflammatory signaling
  3. induced pluripotent stem cells as models to predict kinase inhibitor-induced cardiotoxicity

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8274-0453

Kenneth Hensley, Ph.D.

Dr. Hensley investigates redox biological processes that contribute to neuroinflammation in the aging or damaged brain. He has identified mechanisms by which redox stress, neuroinflammatory signal transduction, and dysfunctional proteostasis can contribute to one another by creating “vicious cycles” of pathology. In recent years, Dr. Hensley discovered and characterized a glutathione-utilyzing enzyme called LanCL1 that restores activity of oxidatively inactivated deubiquitinase enzymes (DUBs). Dr. Hensley is currently characterizing the mechanism of LanCL1 with a view toward understanding how LanCL1 activity might affect diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease and Behcet’s disease.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2626-4886

Sherry Turner, DO

Dr. Sherry Turner’s research interests focus on investigating clinical medicine, trauma, disaster medicine and osteopathic principals. The current research emphasis is on understanding the effect of osteopathic manipulative therapy on COPD and Distraction for dementia patients who are hospitalized.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8594-9113

Joshua Burns, Ph.D.

Dr. Burns research interests focus on investigating protein structure/function relationships, with specific emphasis on understanding the role of bacterial protein toxins including the clostridial neurotoxin family of protein toxins and the cholesterol dependent cytolysin family of pore forming toxins. Using biophysical and biochemical approaches, model membrane systems, and comparative genetics, the lab seeks to understand the basic molecular mechanisms of these important protein toxins. The lab has a special interesting in understanding the molecular processes and structural changes required for these proteins interact with and transit membranes with the goal of understanding the mechanisms of pore formation and to extend the clinical application of pore forming proteins.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4245-5524

Naunihal Zaveri, Ph.D

Dr. Zaveri’s research interests focus on medical education projects investigating the integration of pharmacology into the preclinical and clinical curricula; utilizing various active learning modalities in teaching pharmacology; creating effective assessment strategies for pharmacology and other foundational sciences to improve student outcomes and success; bringing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into our medical school curriculum and teaching; and developing leadership and followership skills for women in academic medicine. She conducts these projects with collaborators in medical schools across the U.S., and has published her work and presents regularly at national conferences. Her current interests include creating collaborations with faculty across Arkansas health professions’ institutions, including faculty at ACHE to conduct interprofessional activities and promote DEI.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0992-1741

Caitlin Yoakum, PhD

Dr. Yoakum’s research has focused on primate anatomy, specifically that of the feeding system and its integral nervous and musculature components. She has done extensive research into the size, shape, and course of the inferior alveolar nerve – a terminal branch of CN V or trigeminal nerve – across primates. This research focuses on how much nervous tissue is necessary based on the primary diet of an individual in order to preserve and protect the teeth during chewing. This research is related to primate bite forces and subsequently muscle size in determining how primates chew in vivo and the potential bite forces they can generate. All this research helps to establish why some primates have evolved specific dietary practices that focus on single food groups while others – like modern humans – have evolved to be true generalists and omnivores. This research also helps to aid in our understanding of the masticatory system, the variation that we see in its components, and how the primate system differs from others within Mammalia.

School of Occupational Therapy

Noah Hansen

Noah Hansen’s research interests focus on investigating aberrant pediatric behavior through the lens of skill deficit and intrinsic factor accessibility. He seeks to remedy the lack of evidence-based approaches used by adults to address pediatric mental health deficits and highlight commonly used approaches as occupational injustice. Mr. Hansen also hopes to better understand barriers to healthcare services for individuals experiencing homelessness and engage in action research to eliminate those obstacles.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1014-6874

Jennifer Moore

Dr. Jennifer Moore’s research interests focus on investigating the efficacy of occupational therapy led community-based programming aimed at providing access to and the occupational engagement in the performing arts. In particular, she strives to understand the changes in sensorimotor, cognitive, and psychosocial behavior in persons with disabilities when they engage in the performing arts. As an educator, Dr. Moore’s interests focus on the efficacy of the Context-based Teaching Method in the development of professional reasoning skills among occupational therapy students.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4654-085X

Whitney Garrison

Whitney Garrison’s research interests focus on exploring the development of executive function skills in children and youth. She is particularly interested in understanding the relationship between environmental adaptation and its impact on occupational performance within the student learner role. Recently, her work is focused on how teachers recognize and respond to behavioral disturbances in the classroom in hopes to support with a community-based program for executive function skill development in student learners Kindergarten-3rd grade. She hopes to support teachers, caregivers, and student learners with supports to improve self-efficacy, communication, and occupational performance for everyday living.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6216-3794

Nancy Damrah

Dr. Nancy Damrah’s research interests focus on Knowledge translation and implementation science in clinical and translational research to accelerate evidence-based knowledge in health care practice and create innovative measurement strategies to contribute evidence in patient-centered outcomes. Her areas of focus are neurorehabilitation, hand and upper extremity rehabilitation, occupational and social justice, leadership, the science of team science, and clinical reasoning.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6222-3080

Elizabeth LeQuieu

Dr. Elizabeth LeQuieu’s research interests focus on inquiry into student learning to both support and advance academic instruction. Particular interests include constructivist methods of teaching and adult learning, experiential education (fieldwork and capstones), and the development of professional reasoning in students. Additional topics of interest include curriculum development, universal communication/health literacy, leadership, justice, and the intersection of occupational engagement and health. Her current research emphasis is on examining the development of professional reasoning in occupational therapy students.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6966-6658

Tracey Zeiner

Dr. Zeiner’s research interests focus on animal-assisted activities, including but not limited to animal-assisted therapy with clients of all ages and abilities. She has also participated in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) in clinical anatomy and is interested in studying effective teaching and learning in anatomy, neuroanatomy, and human movement and occupational performance. She co-authored a book chapter on motor function assessment: range of motion, strength, and endurance in a widely-used occupational therapy textbook published in 2021. In addition to these interests, Dr. Zeiner is a certified aging-in-place specialist (CAPS) through the National Homebuilders Association.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4412-8343

School of Physical Therapy

Reed Handlery, PT, DPT, PhD

Dr. Reed Handlery’s research focus is on improving the health of those impacted by neurologic disability (e.g., spinal cord injury, stroke, Parkinson’s) through providing physical activity and exercise interventions that promote autonomy and facilitate long-term behavioral change. In addition, he uses accelerometer-measured physical activity data to answer questions about the relationships between physical activity (steps) and health. A secondary research focus is on exercise attitudes, beliefs and knowledge in healthcare providers.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0064-6808

Alexis Kendrick, PT, DPT

Dr. Kendrick’s research interests are primarily focused on investigating community pelvic health interventions to empower women utilizing movement-based education. She has specialized training in pelvic health physical therapy with additional education regarding women’s health, pre/post-partum rehabilitation, and trauma awareness in physical therapy. Dr. Kendrick is also involved in the investigation of low-level laser therapy for discomfort to deepen her knowledge involving the effectiveness of modalities used in physical therapy. She is completing her Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership with a dissertation topic of increasing American Indian enrollment at Arkansas Colleges of Health Education to improve diversity in higher education. Through her ongoing research endeavors she aims to educate a diverse population to enrich the lives of others.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5897-0067

Kaci Handlery, PT, DPT, NCS

Dr. Kaci Handlery’s research focuses on utilizing qualitative methodology to investigate the impact and lived experiences of physical activity and exercise interventions for people with neurologic diagnoses (spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s, and stroke). Additional research interests include investigating burnout and attrition of physical therapists and physical therapist assistants in order to understand and address the difficulties present in the field of physical therapy. Dr. Handlery was previously employed as a research physical therapist at the University of South Carolina’s Motor Behavior and Neuroimaging Laboratory investigating the effects of action-selection demands and upper extremity-task oriented training in people with stroke.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7362-5939

Dawn Kelly James, PT, DPT, DSc

Dr. Dawn Kelly James’ research interests focus on practice issues in school-based and early intervention physical therapy; pediatric and adapted sports; and the scholarship of teaching and learning in entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy education. Active research activities in which she is the Primary Investigator include: exploring dosing in school-based physical therapy; examining the use of modified ride on toys to facilitate early mobility for children with disabilities; and exploring the intersection of imposter phenomenon, burnout and compassion in physical therapy education and practice. She is also a co-investigator in research exploring the value of balance as a predictor for concussions in youth athletes.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3262-6625

Dana Kahl, PT, DPT, NCS

Dr. Kahl’s research interest focuses on student and clinician mental health and wellness including burnout and imposter syndrome. As a Neurological Clinical Specialist, her interest also focuses on fitness and physical activity in populations who are at risk of low levels of physical activity including individuals with neurological disorders as well as individuals from rural and underserved areas. Dr. Kahl is a certified Parkinson Wellness Recovery Clinician and is passionate about exercise as medicine delivered in community-based fitness classes.

ORCID ID: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-2420-2171

Allison Young

Dr. Allison Young’s research interests focus on practice issues in pediatric school-based physical therapy; pediatric interventions; and the scholarship of teaching and learning in entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy education. Active research activities include: examining the use of modified ride on toys to facilitate early mobility for children with disabilities; exploring the intersection of imposter phenomenon, burnout and compassion in physical therapy education and practice; and exploring the value of balance as a predictor for concussions in youth athletes.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2622-5991

LaVona Traywick, PhD

Dr. LaVona Traywick’s research is in “healthy aging,” encompassing many areas including quality of life, physical activity, social participation, and cognitive and/or physical disabilities. Her research involves pediatrics through senior-adulthood because in order to have a healthy senior adult tomorrow, the mental, physical, and social health behaviors need to be in place today.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9506-0705

Antonio J Varela, DPT, PhD

Research topics of interests include the benefits of personal therapeutic exercise, functional activity, and mindfulness training. The specific populations of focus include chronic pain, mental health (depression & PTSD), substance abuse (related to chronic pain), and cancer. The outcome measures for interests and populations include behavioral change, stress management, self & emotional regulation, pain & coping self-efficacy, quality of life, functional improvements, and decreases in disability indices. The specific topic of mental health expands in scope to encompass theoretical constructs that help explain pathways for change specific to depression symptoms that overlap with neuroscience education principles.

ORCID ID: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5637-4974

Alex Habegger, PT, DPT, OCS

Alex has been involved in researching low level laser and its effect on pain. He is preparing to gather data on Y-Balance Test, investigating if an athlete’s score on the Y-Balance is predictive of concussion in their respective sport. Also being investigated along side this project is the impact of visual perturbations on Y-balance scores in athletes.

Non-Programmatic Specific Faculty

Melissa Efurd, EdD

Dr. Melissa Efurd’s research interests focus on student success, competency based dental hygiene education, interprofessional education, and the oral systemic link. She is involved in student advising for licensure exams in osteopathic education. Her current role includes institutional and programmatic accreditation.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5795-1304

Ashley Gerhardson, PhD

Dr. Ashley Gerhardson’s research interests focus on investigating instructional practices in education. Using evaluation and assessment measures, she strives to better understand students’ progressions in becoming experts in their chosen career field. Her current research emphasis is on understanding the impact authentic feedback may have in the progression from novice to expert learner and how to develop the skills necessary to prepare students for their chosen career paths.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5111-5498

Sonya Lemke, MLS

ORCID ID: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-2208-7034

Connie Manning, MLS

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6138-5678

Zahra Kamarei, MLS

Zary has diverse experiences in the science scholarly communication, teaching, and management of science libraries. Currently she focuses on driving change in the future of libraries, building inclusive and equitable library environments for diverse people, scholarly and digital communication in resource-constrained contexts, leadership in libraries, and the career advancement and professionalism of librarians.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2785-9304

LaTisha Standokes

Ms. LaTisha Standokes’ research interests focus on recruiting, enrolling, and mentoring adult learners from underrepresented populations who are interested in changing their lives and the lives of others through medical/health education and training. Ms. Standokes is also a certified Strengths Coach and is dedicated to helping individuals identify, understand, and apply their strengths in environments where they live, work, and play.

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4030-583X