A Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute faculty member and a Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine student have finished their second week in Hue, Vietnam, training Vietnamese therapists in Pediatric Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy (P-CIMT) to help children with cerebral palsy.
Miranda Gerrard, a first-year VTCSOM student, and Stephanie DeLuca, research assistant professor and director of the VTCRI Neuromotor Research Clinic, taught the first session of P-CIMT alongside Patty Coker-Bolt, a professor in the Division of Occupational Therapy at the Medical University of South Carolina, and MUSC students.
The therapy is based on studies of the effects of prolonged disuse by parts of the brain that may occur as a result of cerebral palsy or after stroke. Such disuse can lead to limited connectivity of the synaptic networks in the affected area of the brain and result in disabilities.
Neurorehabilitation researchers have discovered, however, that with intensive therapy and the use of a lightweight constraint, the less-impaired limb promotes the use to the more impaired limb and helps children with cerebral palsy improve their limb function and increased daily living skills.
The therapy for children with cerebral palsy was pioneered by DeLuca and Sharon Landesman Ramey, a research professor and distinguished research scholar at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.
After traveling more than 40 hours overseas, Coker-Bolt and DeLuca sought to integrate evidenced‐based treatments, such as P-CIMT, into clinical practice. The need to improve worldwide health and functional outcomes for individuals with disabilities is increasingly urgent, according to DeLuca.
Gerrard, who is from Riner, Virginia, and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia, became involved through VTCSOM’s intensive research curriculum, which calls for all students to participate in research from their first year onward.
The work embraces the university’s heritage of service and community and its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). Looking ahead, the U.S. researchers hope to follow both therapists and children as they try to implement a Vietnamese version of P-CIMT.