Research Advisors

Faculty in the School of Physiotherapy engage in a broad range of research crossing all areas of physiotherapy practice including:

Musculoskeletal Health

Dr. Katherine Harman

Dr. Katherine Harman

BSc (PT) (Toronto), MSc (Ottawa), PhD (Carleton)

Office: Room 406, Forrest Building
Tel: (902) 494-8820

Research interests: Dr. Harman's research interest is in the study of pain from prevention of chronicity to the management of chronic pain – a recurring research theme throughout her career. Her current focus of research is the use of psychological techniques to enhance patient outcomes. The impact of a positive health care provider / patient interaction, or therapeutic alliance has been clearly shown in recent clinical research findings. Dr. Harman is studying what makes up this alliance and how people on both sides of the relationship experience it. Through this better understanding, we can learn to optimize the professional relationship, leading to enhanced therapeutic benefit of the intervention being provided.

Examining Current Practice with Patients Experiencing Pain
Dr. Harman uses qualitative approaches to gather data on what treatment is provided and to examine practice patterns of rehabilitation specialises in the delivery of care to patients experiencing pain. With a focus on the development of the therapeutic alliance with patients, Dr. Harman is examining the use of psychological techniques, the establishment of rapport and the fostering of self-management skills in patients with painful conditions.
She is currently supervising two graduate students:
Peter Stilwell - Ph.D. (Health) cand.
Amy Fortin-Barrette – M.Sc (RR) cand.

Aboriginal Children's Hurt & Healing Initiative (ACHH)

Dr. Harman is a co-investigator (PIs:  Dr. Margot Latimer and Sharon Rudderham) with a broad partnership of Mi'kmaki community leaders, clinicians, Elders, researchers from Dalhousie University, University New Brunswick, the IWK Health Centre and others (see website for full description of initiative:

Dr. Harman is a co-investigator (PI: Dr. Sheri Price) with an interprofessional research project that is exploring early interprofessional socialization within the health professions (physiotherapy, dentistry, pharmacy, medicind and nursing) with the view of understanding how students are prepared for collaborative practice. 

Dr. Cheryl Kozey

Dr. Cheryl Kozey
Acting Dean (Research), Faculty of Health
Professor, Co –Director of the Dynamics of Human Motion Laboratory

BPE (UNB) MSc (Waterloo), PhD (Dal)

Cross-appointments: School of Biomedical Engineering (BME), School of Health and Human Performance

Nova Scotia Health Authority Affiliate Scientist, Department of Surgery

Office: Room 316B, Forrest Building
Tel: (902) 494-2635

Research interests: The Innovation in Musculoskeletal Heath and Physical activity Team (IMPACT) is multidisciplinary, including researchers from engineering, physiotherapy, kinesiology and strong clinician scientist collaborations. IMPACT is interested in promoting “Mobility for Life” through research aimed at reducing the limitations in physical function associated with the high prevalence of bone and joint disorders. Dr. Kozey is the Co-Director of the Dynamics of Human Motion laboratory with Dr. Astephen Wilson in the School of Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Kozey’s primary research interest is in understanding functional decline in those with bone and joint problems, primarily knee joint osteoarthritis and low back conditions. Her goal is to provide innovative solutions to keep people with these problems moving to maintain their joint health and subsequently overall general health through improving their physical functional. Her research is showing the importance of joint level biomechanics and specifically the role that the knee joint muscles play to maintain joint health. Indeed inappropriate joint biomechanics and muscle activity can create a negative joint environment adding to the worsening or pain and joint damage. This research is leading to identifying biomechanical targets that can form the basis for early non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical interventions.

Sample projects that graduate students have worked on include:  i) cross-sectional studies looking at how OA severity changes joint and muscle function, ii) looking at pre and post total knee arthroplasty outcomes and predicting poor outcomes, iii) examining the effects of conservative treatments such as bracing on the joint and muscles as well as on physical activity levels, iv) follow up study to determine what factors are related to increase risk of progressing to a total joint replacement surgery, v) comparing muscle activation patterns between those who do not have a low back injury to those recently recovered from a low back injury to determine who is at greater risk for re-injury, vi) determine the amount and intensity of physical activity for those with knee osteoarthritis and how does this impact pain and joint damage, vii) looking at differences in the trunk muscle activation and control in older adults and what implication that this has for increased risk of falls and viii) looking at trunk muscle control and spinal stability in those with a low back injury and the risk of re-injury.

Recurrent Low Back Injury Prediction
The goal of Dr. Cheryl Hubley-Kozey's research is to better understand recovery from a low back injury and to use this information to develop a prediction model for those who reinjure.

Read a Research Snapshot of these two projects. [PDF - 286kB]

Knee OA, biomechanics, and progression to TKA

Doomed Arthritic Knees Rotate More and Never Rest

Keeping People Moving

Physiotherapists, engineers and surgeons keep osteoarthritis patients on the move

Osteoarthritis and back pain: Innovative solutions to disabling conditions

Dr. Rebecca Moyer

Dr. Rebecca Moyer
Assistant Professor

BScH (Queen's),  BPHE(Queen's),  MPT(Western), PhD(Western)

Office: Room 316C, Forrest Building
Tel: (902) 494-2028

Research interests: Dr. Moyer’s clinical research program is focused on individuals with musculoskeletal conditions with a specialization in rehabilitative and surgical interventions for patients with osteoarthritis. Her work consists of various research designs that incorporate clinical gait biomechanics, radiographic, performance-based and patient-reported outcomes to improve mobility and activities of daily living. Dr. Moyer’s interests also include imaging outcome measures of disease progression using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – derived measures of knee and hip morphology, and their use in clinical research methods. This research aims to clarify the relationships between mechanical, biological and structural markers of osteoarthritis progression, how these markers differ across patients with osteoarthritis and how they respond to novel strategies. Visit Dr. Moyer's lab for Clinical Biomechanics and Rehabilitation.

Dr. Derek Rutherford

Dr. Derek Rutherford
Associate Professor
Interim Dean

Hon BSc (UWO), BScPT (Toronto), MSc (Rehabilitation Research) (Dal), PhD (Dal)

Office: Room 418, Forrest Building
Tel: (902) 494-2616

Research interests: Dr. Rutherford specializes in understanding how lower limb joints are affected by injury and disease to develop and evaluate conservative and surgical management and approaches. His current focus is in the areas of hip and knee injuries and osteoarthritis.

As a physical therapist, focused in Musculoskeletal Health and research in biomechanical aspects of human movement and electromyography, Dr. Rutherford provides a unique skill set to understand the implications of joint injuries and disease on human function.


Neuroscience and Neurorehabilitation

Dr. Shaun Boe

Dr. Shaun Boe
Associate Professor
Acting Associate Dean (Research), Faculty of Health
Graduate Coordinator, MScRR-PT
Faculty Coordinator, PhD in Health

Hon BPhEd (Kin) (Brock), PhD (UWO), MPT (UWO)

Office: Room 429, Forrest Building
Tel: (902) 494-6360

Research interests: The goal of Dr. Boe’s research program is to inform, develop and test interventions that aim to improve learning in health and disease. His lab approaches this goal through basic and applied research approaches. Basic research focuses on understanding the mechanisms underlying brain function and plasticity associated with learning. Applied research in the lab focuses on learning and recovery in patients post-stroke to understand the mechanisms underlying recovery, and how we can apply this understanding to improve interventions used in neurorehabilitation. In addition to neuroscience and rehabilitation, Dr. Boe’s research and teaching has an entrepreneurship and commercialization focus in the area of neurotechnology. Visit Dr. Boe's Laboratory for Brain Recovery and Function website.


Dr. Marilyn MacKay-Lyons

Dr. Marilyn MacKay-Lyons

BSc (PT) (Toronto), MScPT (USC), PhD (Dal)

Office: Room 405, Forrest Building
Tel: (902) 494-2632

Research interests: Dr. Marilyn MacKay-Lyons specializes in neurotherapeutics - the application of physiotherapy principles and techniques to improve the mobility and function of people with such neurological disorders. Dr. MacKay-Lyons runs a research laboratory at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre Site of the QEII Health Sciences Centre, where teams of investigators conduct clinical trials involving people post-stroke.

Utilization of Aerobic Exercise in Adult Neurological Rehabilitation by Physical Therapists in Canada
Much of Dr. Marilyn MacKay-Lyons research has focused on aerobic exercise (AE) and how it has been shown to improve aerobic capacity and reduce morbidity in neurological populations. The purpose of this study was to survey Canadian physical therapists practicing in adult neurorehabilitation regarding the use of AE in clinical practice.
Read the complete article: Utilization of Aerobic Exercise in Adult Neurological
Rehabilitation by Physical Therapists in Canada [PDF - 99kB].

Reduced Cardiorespiratory Fitness after Stroke: Biological Consequences and Exercise-Induced Adaptations
Dr. Marilyn MacKay-Lyons was part of a team to review the evidence from several studies that consistently show decline in cardiorespiratory (CR) fitness and physical function after disabling stroke. The purpose of this brief was to describe some of what is currently known about the physiological consequences of CR fitness decline after stroke.
Read the complete article: Reduced Cardiorespiratory Fitness after Stroke: Biological Consequences and Exercise-Induced Adaptations [PDF - 581kB].

Program of Rehabilitative Exercise and Education to Avert Vascular Events after a Non-disabling stroke or Transient ischemic attack (PREVENT): A Randomized, Controlled Trial
The primary aim for Dr. Marilyn MacKay-Lyons and her team is to compare the effectiveness of a 12-week community-based program of rehabilitative exercise and education to usual care in reducing vascular risk factors in people who have had a non-disabling stroke or transient ischematic attack.
Read the complete article: Program of rehabilitative exercise and education to avert vascular events after non-disabling stroke or transient ischemic attack (PREVENT
Trial): a multi-centred, randomised controlled trial [PDF - 274kB].

Development of Aerobic Exercise Recommendations to Optimize Best Practices In Care after Stroke (AEROBICS)
An international, multidisciplinary knowledge translation project headed up by Dr. Marilyn MacKay-Lyons aims to consolidate the evidence regarding aerobic exercise training for people post-stroke into a concise and user-friendly set of recommendations for use by health care professionals.

Feasibility of An Assessment Protocol for Serial Casting Following Botox Injections to Treat Equinus Gait in Children with CP
Barbara Kelly, Dr. Marilyn MacKay-Lyons and collaborators at Dalhousie and the IWK examined the feasibility of an ICF-based assessment protocol in terms of acceptability, practicality, inter-rater reliability and responsiveness of the selected outcome measures to change over time.
Read the complete article: Assessment Protocol for Serial Casting After Botulinum Toxin A Injections to Treat Equinus Gait [PDF - 942kB].

Determining A Casting Protocol Post-Botox Injections to Treat Equinus Gait in Children with CP
A randomized controlled trial involving Barbara Kelly and her collaborators at Dalhousie and the IWK tests an ICF-based assessment protocol in the treatment of children with CP.

Ethics of Involving Children in Health-Related Research: Applying a Decision-Making Framework to a Clinical Trial
This paper by Barbara Kelly and Dr. Marilyn MacKay-Lyons explores ethical issues related to the involvement of children in health-related research through the application of a conceptual model (the Miller and Kenny framework) to a current clinical trial on casting protocols for equinus gait of children with cerebral palsy (CP).
Read the complete article that appeared in Physiotherapy Canada 2010 [410 kB].


Physical Activity, Exercise and Special Populations

Dr. Gail Dechman

Dr. Gail Dechman
Assistant Professor

BSc (PT) (Queens), PhD (McGill)

Office: Room 430, Forrest Building

Tel: (902) 494-2734


Research interests: Dr. Dechman's research focuses on using exercise to improve function in people with chronic diseases. This includes assessing the role that aerobic and resistance exercise play in enhancing functional activity in people with chronic pulmonary disease, cancer and obesity. Dr. Dechman is also involved in developing functional outcome measures to objectively assess changes in activities of daily living for community-dwelling individuals with disabilities.

Recovery of the Ability to Perform Activities of Daily Living (ADL) Following an Acute Exacerbation of COPD
Acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive lung disease (AECOPD) result in weakness and a decline in aerobic fitness. These changes make it difficult for people to manage their daily activities. The goal of Dr. Gail Dechman's research is to use an objectively scored test of activities of daily living to help us understand the course of recovery of functional abilities following hospitalization for an AECOPD. Ultimately this research will help with the development of more effective rehabilitation programs for individuals with COPD.
Read a Research Snapshot of this project. [PDF - 298kB]

Lung Function Following Weight Loss Surgery
Obesity is a complex disease that occurs as a result of interactions between genetic, biochemical, neural and psychological factors as well as environmental, social and economic influences. It is associated with many chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Dr. Gail Dechman's research involves a collaborative team from biomedical engineering, medicine and physiotherapy. The prospective study assesses lung function prior to, 5 weeks and 6 months after weight loss surgery using a sleeve gastrectomy.

Explaining Exercise Differences During and After Pulmonary Rehabilitation Using a Mixed-Methods Social Ecological Approach
Although pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) has been shown to be beneficial for both males and females, unfortunately, exercise levels in such programs are low. Furthermore, females with COPD have been shown to engage in less exercise than their male counterparts, which may be placing them at increased risk of mortality. Because of this, it is imperative that theoretical research be conducted to help explain the gender disparity in exercise during and after completing PR so that a gender-specific PR exercise interventions can be developed.
This project is a collaboration between Chris Blanchard, psychologist, Paul Hernandez, respirologist, and Gail Dechman at Dalhousie University and Ryan Rhodes (University of Victoria), John Spence (University of Alberta) and Kerry McGannon (University of Iowa).

Physiologic and Psychosocial Effects of Aerobic and Resistance Exercise in Men Undergoing Androgen Deprivation Therapy for Prostate Cancer
Androgen deprivation therapy, used to treat prostate cancer, is associated with a number of adverse effects including weight gain, muscle wasting, fatigue, hypertension, and osteoporosis. Dr. Gail Dechman's research used a prospective, randomized controlled trial design to assess whether a 16 week combined aerobic and resistance exercise program alleviates symptoms and improves quality of life for men receiving ADT.
Read a Research Snapshot of this project. [PDF - 298kB]

The Validity and Reliability of the Incremental Shuttle Walk Test for Predicting VO2 in Obese Individuals
Exercise is an important part of weight loss management. However, if exercise is not prescribed properly its benefits may not be realized. Dr. Gail Dechman's study intends to assess the validity and reliability of the Incremental Shuttle Walk Test to predict directly measured VO2 (Oxycon mobile) in obese individuals by comparing test results to those from a Bruce ramp protocol treadmill test.

Comparison of NORDIC WALKING (NW) during treadmill and over-ground walking
Nordic Walking (NW)is known to increase energy expenditure compared to standard walking at the same speed. NW is also proving to be a valuable tool in rehabilitation for people with neurologic and cardiovascular diseases, as well as in weight loss management.
The purpose of Dr. Gail Dechman's study was to compare the physiologic responses of NW on a specially designed treadmill and NW on a level over-ground surface.

Development of a tool to assess the skills needed to practice evidence-based decision making (EBDM)
Dr. Gail Dechman is part of an interdisciplinary team of health professionals interested in improving the use of evidence-based decision making (EBDM) in the clinical setting. The first step in this process is to develop a tool to assess baseline skills and changes that might occur as a result of an intervention. The tool will be piloted using registered nurses, physiotherapists, and respiratory therapists across the Atlantic provinces.

Dr. Marie Earl

Dr. Marie Earl
Assistant Professor

BSc (PT) (University of Western Ontario), PhD (Waterloo)

Office: Room 316C, Forrest Building
Tel: (902) 494-2633

Research interests: Much of Dr. Earl's work deals with factors that affect the balance and mobility of older adults. She places particular emphasis on sensory integration (vestibular, hearing, proprioception, and vision systems) and effective recruitment of muscles to control balance during routine standing and walking tasks. This provides the basis for developing appropriate assessments, and for learning how properly prescribed exercise can prevent the impairments and activity limitations that affect the health and independence of seniors who live in the community, in hospital, and in continuing care settings.

Care and Construction: Assessing Differences in Nursing Home Models of Care on Resident Quality of Life
Dr. Marie Earl is part of a multi-disciplinary team looking at different models of care in nursing homes and the impact on resident quality of life. Visit the Care and Construction website.
Review the complete Care and Construction overview document. [PDF - 888kB]

Prototyping Medical Devices for Hearing and Balance Research
Balance problems and falls have a substantial impact on health and function. Dr. Marie Earl’s research examines the potential of balance biofeedback to alleviate balance problems that arise due to impaired sensory function.

Dr. Scott Kehler

Dr. Scott Kehler
Assistant Professor

BPE, BKin, MSc, PhD (UofM)

Office: Room 402, Forrest Building

Tel: (902) 494-2822


Research interests: Scott’s research focuses on the clinical and epidemiological aspects of frailty and aging, with a special interest in patients living with cardiovascular disease. In particular, he studies the impact of physical activity and sedentary behaviours for the prevention and treatment of frailty.



Dr. Olga Theou

Dr. Olga Theou
Canada Research Chair
Assistant Professor

BSc (Greece) MSc (USA) PhD (UWO)

Office: Room 316A, Forrest Building

Tel: (902) 494-4248


Research interests:
  • Epidemiological and clinical aspects of frailty and aging
  • Epidemiological and clinical aspects of physical activity, sedentary behaviors, exercise, and mobility
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