Clinical, Applicable, and Fascial: Experiences in BPK Anatomy Research

"Some of the best experiences of my Directed Studies project were the opportunities to share my work with other academics and professionals."

Name: Garrett Hughes

Year of Study: 4th

Supervisor: Dr. Leanne Ramer

Lab: Anatomy Teaching Lab

Research Experience:

        In the early years of my undergraduate degree, I gained research experience by working as a Research Assistant for three years at Arthritis Research Canada (ARC). Working toward a career goal of physiotherapy, as I sought out more clinical experience, I realized the potential of a career that supplemented clinical practice with research. While enrolled in BPK 326 (Functional Anatomy) in Spring 2018, I approached Dr. Ramer regarding a potential literature-based Directed Studies project (BPK 496). Anatomy had quickly become my favourite course in BPK, which cemented my desire to pursue a career in physiotherapy.

        We discussed several potential project ideas, and ultimately decided to conduct a systematic review to examine what duration of foam rolling/roller massaging best promotes optimal improvements in recovery, range of motion, and athletic performance. This idea emerged from a lecture Leanne gave in 326 on the topic of fascia, highlighting the uncertainty in the literature, and how those studying fascia have yet to come to a consensus on its mechanical properties and clinical considerations. This research aligns with my goal of supplementing clinical practice with applicable, tangible research that can help guide client prescription.

        My experience in BPK 496 involved weekly meetings with Leanne to review my work and to help guide the direction I was heading with the project. After two-and-a-half months of work, I had a completed systematic review ready to be prepared for publication; after a few weeks of formatting and revisions, I submitted my first lead-author research article to a peerreviewed physiotherapy journal. I also created a poster for presentation at the SFU Undergraduate Research Journal (SURJ) 2018 poster competition, where I gave two ten minute presentations on my work to SFU Science Faculty.

Unique and/or challenging experiences in research
        The most significant challenge I faced was becoming stuck in a rut while reading and writing. I spent so many hours on the same topic, reading the same papers and writing in the same word document, that I sometimes lost sight of both the project’s bigger picture, and the flexibility to adapt as the scope of the project evolved. From my perspective, I had started with one topic and one goal, so every ounce of work I put in had to be in alignment with that initial topic or plan. It wasn’t until I asked an external physiotherapist to read a draft of my article that I was made aware of how stuck in the same lane I had become. For example, as my initial project included analyzing effects on athletic performance, I was determined to keep that aspect in my discussion and as a line in my conclusion. However, as the project evolved, it became clear that the data were insufficient to provide proper scientific commentary on the subject. This example was one of multiple that made the revision process take significantly longer than I initially estimated. Nonetheless, it emphasized to me the importance of collaboration throughout a project, not simply towards the end.

Most memorable highlights:
        Some of the best experiences of my Directed Studies project were the opportunities to share my work with other academics and professionals. I was not giving a presentation to fellow classmates, who were mainly listening because it was part of their course grade; rather, I was sharing my work to experts who were listening out of genuine interest. Unlike being a student discussing my coursework with a professor, I was treated as an academic colleague, by people asking questions from a place of curiosity. The people I shared my work with were excited about it, demonstrating their shared interest in improving existing bodies of evidence, no matter the topic. These experiences with research, and many others not included here, have solidified my goal of a multifaceted career in physiotherapy practice and research.

Keywords: Exercise, anatomy, fascia, mobility, recovery, physiotherapy