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Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - 1:00pm

Mercy College congratulates Joan Toglia, Ph.D., OTR, FAOTA, dean of the School of Health and Natural Sciences, for several recent accomplishments. While overseeing the assimilation of former College of New Rochelle students, as well as the expansion of Mercy’s nursing program, Toglia continued to lead research and innovative projects in the neurological, occupational therapy, and physical medicine and rehabilitation fields.

Recently published in two journals, Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Frontiers in Neurology, Togila and her colleagues at the Weill Cornell Medicine’s physical medicine and rehabilitation program are predicting stroke patients’ rates of recovery.

The first paper titled “Subgroups Defined by the Montreal Cognitive Assessment Differ in Functional Gain During Acute Inpatient Stroke Rehabilitation,” outlines Toglia and her colleagues’ goal of analyzing how cognitive levels impact a stroke patient’s ability to make improvements during rehabilitation. According to the study findings, stroke patients that exhibited greater cognitive difficulties during admission to health care facilities were more likely to require long-term treatment and more attentive therapists.

Toglia explains that if a factor such as cognition is determined upon admission, therapists will be more adept to intervene with timely and effective rehabilitation during crucial healing times. This understanding prompted Toglia and her colleagues to develop a method for categorizing stroke patient symptoms and their rehabilitation needs at the time of admission.

The second paper titled “Participation in Younger and Older Adults Post-stroke: Frequency, Importance and Desirability of Engagement Activities,” was a continuation of the study described in the first paper. The second study followed patients six months post stroke rehabilitation to examine the question, “How are you able to participate in things that are meaningful for you?” The results of numerous patient interviews demonstrated that younger stroke patients perceived greater levels of disability than older stroke patients, despite equivalent findings on functional outcome measures.

Also, the study suggested that six months after discharge from inpatient rehabilitation, there is a need to monitor and address broader needs in engagement of meaningful activities to optimize stroke outcomes. This implies that the occurrence of stroke could be considered a “chronic” condition that requires long term monitoring and rehabilitation intervention over different points in time, rather than exclusively at “onset”.

In addition to being published, Toglia is a co-investigator on a grant from the National Institutes of Health and National Institute on Aging research, awarded to Washington University (subaward to Mercy College), for a project examining cognitive intervention foe people with Parkinson’s disease. Researchers at the university are measuring the effectiveness of a rehabilitation method developed by Togila to increase executive functioning in Parkinson’s patients. Toglia is guiding these researchers as they conduct a randomized control trial.

An ongoing project, patients using Toglia’s rehabilitation techniques, including applying cognitive strategies to everyday activities such as meal planning and scheduling, are noticing positive changes in their abilities to focus and think.

At a time when the propensity of stroke is increasing in younger populations, and when efforts to develop a cure for Parkinson’s disease have been unsuccessful, Toglia’s research is crucial to the health and wellbeing of patients in need of ongoing occupational and physical therapies.

Toglia hopes to instill her expertise in early patient intervention in her students at Mercy, as well as an understanding that as trends in population health shift, it is crucial to remain aware of contemporary methods for the best rehabilitation strategies as eventual practitioners.