Two female NYIT students looking at a poster presentation.

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Future Health Professionals Search for Truth in Their Fields

May 16, 2017

In all fields, research and analyses lead to new discoveries and knowledge, and for students, research is an important step in their learning and, ultimately, future careers. Undergraduate and graduate students in NYIT School of Health Professions experienced that step first hand in early May when they presented their projects at the ALETHEIA Annual Research Symposium at NYIT-Old Westbury.

“Aletheia” is the Greek word for “truth” and can also be translated to “reality,” “factuality,” or “disclosure.” Karen Friel, professor and chair of physical therapy, who started the symposium, explained the name: “Research is the pursuit of that which is true. It just made sense to give the forum that name.” When the symposium began three years ago, only physical therapy participated; now all disciplines in the school are represented (clinical nutrition, health sciences/health and wellness, nursing, occupational therapy, and physician assistant studies).

During this year’s event, 21 groups presented new research or systematic reviews of a research question investigated by previous studies. “You need to be aware of what goes into any research so you can apply it,” said Christian Barton, a third-year physical therapy (D.P.T.) student. “You can’t take a study at face value. You need to research your research.”

The investigations also go beyond the classroom. “The majority of [D.P.T.] projects presented at ALETHEIA are disseminated nationally through either presentation or publication,” explained Friel. Research is part of the physical therapy curriculum, and D.P.T. students are required to present their work at ALETHEIA. “We feel it better prepares them to continue on a research track and takes some of the fear out of presenting at national conferences,” said Friel. Added third-year D.P.T. student Rejomon Philip, “When you do research like this, you become an expert.”

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NYIT P.A. students Adam Fenton, Sonia Nicola, Meghan Nilan, and Meredith Ugell with Assistant Professor Barbara Piccirillo, third from left.

Last year, a team made up of master’s candidates in physician assistant (P.A.) studies took their study, “How Do P.A.s Learn Ultrasound?,” to the 2016 New York State Society of Physician Assistants CME Conference. “We taught seasoned physician assistants how to use an eFAST ultrasound [extended focused assessment with sonography],” said student Sonia Nicola. “This is the first time that senior physician assistant students instructed seasoned P.A.s and educators on clinical ultrasound,” said Barbara Piccirillo, assistant professor at the School of Health Professions. According to Piccirillo, NYIT is the only school that teaches the psychomotor skills for clinical ultrasound.

“We are doing amazing work here in the School of Health Professions,” said Sheldon Fields, Ph.D., dean of the School of Health Professions. “The students’ research projects were all solidly grounded in evidence-based practice, which is very appropriate for new health care professionals entering the field.”

With the forum open to all students, participants have the opportunity to interact with their future colleagues and learn more about each other’s areas of expertise. “We felt it important for our [physical therapy] students to be exposed to the work of the other disciplines and vice-versa,” said Friel. “The students work diligently on their research projects and should all be recognized. The symposium was an easy way to have all disciplines come to appreciate the work of their eventual healthcare team members.”

According to Fields, next year’s program will include clinical partners, but the main focus will continue to be on the students. “There is so much to learn in healthcare as evidence-based professions,” said Friel. “The students are truly contributing to some worthwhile and valuable discoveries that will have a major impact in their respective fields and beyond.”