Mary Beth Wims got engaged in research at DMU even before she began in the doctor of physical therapy (D.P.T.) program. During her interview as a prospective student, Cynthia Utley, D.P.T., director of clinical education for the program, told her about research opportunities the University offers students.
“We talked about my experience with yoga and how it helped spur my interest in physical therapy,” says Dr. Wims, who works in outpatient orthopedics at Core Physical Therapy in West Des Moines, IA. “I was interested in research because prior to pursuing my D.P.T., I worked in oncology clinical trial administration at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center. I knew how to write consent forms, submit study protocols to the Institutional Review Board, manage data, write abstracts and create budgets. Doing research of my own was an intriguing way to put the skills I had learned in my first career to use.”
That put her on the path of investigating the ways physical therapists use yoga in their clinical practices. She began by designing a research survey, performing a literature review and tackling the logistics of how to reach study participants. She presented a poster of the pilot of her work at the DMU Research Symposium, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Dec. 5.
“The Research Symposium was really just the beginning, as I ended up working on this same project – ultimately finishing the pilot and then conducting a larger study – throughout my entire time at DMU,” she says.
Dr. Wims, who graduated from the University in 2017, eventually presented a poster of her research at the American Physical Therapy Association’s Combined Sections Meeting in Anaheim, CA, in 2016. The International Journal of Yoga Therapy published her and her colleagues’ work in its June 2017 issue. Dr. Wims was lead author of the article, titled “The Use of Yoga by Physical Therapists in the United States.” Other authors included then-classmate Shayla McIntyre, D.P.T.’17, and Laura Covill, D.P.T., P.T., OCS, professor of physical therapy, with whom Dr. Wims still gets together and considers “both a mentor and a friend.”
“The research program culminating in the Research Symposium was a big part of my DMU experience,” Dr. Wims says. “I came away with incredible respect for researchers. The process is time-consuming and required patience and tenacity. Being involved in research at DMU also pushed me to improve my writing and communication skills. Those elements are critical in the clinic, too, along with all the anatomy and physiology knowledge that medical providers need to have.”
Another bonus: In addition to treating patients using a variety of manual techniques including myofascial release, craniosacral therapy and visceral mobilization, Dr. Wims uses yoga.
“I enjoy incorporating elements from yoga, like asana – poses – and pranayama – breathing – into my physical therapy practice,” she says.