Alumni Spotlight – Kristin Vamvas Day, PhD, MPT, NCS

Day,KIn May 2010, I graduated from the RSD program, where I studied walking recovery after spinal cord injury and neuromuscular plasticity with Dr. Andrea Behrman. Currently, I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute in Philadelphia. My primary mentor is John Whyte, MD, PhD, a leader in Disorders of Consciousness (DoC) research, and I receive technical training in event-related potentials from David Wolk, MD, at the University of Pennsylvania. Recently, I transitioned to this position after two years in Lexington, KY, where I was a Research Scientist and developed/directed an inpatient program for persons with DoC (i.e. vegetative or minimally conscious state) at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital. In addition to my post-doc, I also maintain a role as Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Rehabilitation Sciences PhD program at University of Kentucky.

Earlier this year, Dr. Whyte and I acquired funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Health for my post-doc research, “Electrophysiologic and behavioral evidence of consciousness: a longitudinal analysis.” This will connect my latest training in cognitive electrophysiology with my background in motor control. In the last year, I presented the keynote addresses for the University of Kentucky DPT program’s Annual Research Day as well as the Annual Meeting of the Commonwealth Chapter of Rehabilitation Nurses. I also was honored to receive a poster presentation award at the Center for Clinical and Translational Science Appalachian Health Summit/Spring Neuroscience Day for my work, “Pursuing treatments for Disorders of Consciousness: theories of common neural mechanisms underlying consciousness and locomotor activity.”

The RSD program, combined with the T32 pre-doctoral program, instilled in me the intellectual confidence and essential background in interdisciplinary neuroplasticity research to venture into the field of DoC. This area was a clinical passion of mine but virtually untouched by physical therapist researchers. Although my doctoral work and publications focused on walking recovery after spinal cord injury, the fundamentals of that work fostered a perspective on possible recovery mechanisms enabled by physical rehabilitation that could be applied to any injured nervous system.