When asked how he found his way to OSU as the newest faculty member at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Services, Stephen Page, PhD, MS, MOT, quotes John Lennon, saying, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” In Page’s case, those plans included becoming a college swim coach after graduating from the College of Wooster with a communications degree.
It seemed natural that he would then pursue a masters degree at Ball State University to study exercise science and apply it to athletes. During this time, though, Page began performing research with Paralympians. It was this experience that fundamentally reshaped his path, as the feats pf these elite athletes inspired him. In particular, he began to become interested in how he, as a researcher, could reduce the impact of their impairments.
With that question as a guiding light, Stephen studied motor learning and control – how people learn and control skilled movements - and then continued his studies as a post doctoral fellow at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in New Jersey. At the Kessler Institute – the country’s #2-ranked rehabilitation hospital, Page’s focus narrowed even more, and he gravitated toward stroke rehabilitation, and also began to consider a career in occupational therapy. He notes, “I loved occupational therapy because it encompasses psychology, development, mental health, physical impairment, technology, health promotion, and the context in which all of these things can conspire to alleviate disability. It’s a sensible approach to considering how the whole individual responds to a disease or disabling condition. .”
The Rehab Lab
Dr. Page joined Ohio State in August 2011 as an associate professor in the Division of Occupational Therapy. In August, 2012, he completed his occupational therapy studies. He currently runs the Neuromotor Recovery and Rehabilitation Laboratory – the “Rehab Lab” – at OSU, teaches in the School, performs service to his profession, the community, and the patients and clinicians that he works with. Patients at the Rehab Lab have experienced strokes, spinal cord injuries or incurred other neurologic diseases. Unlike many labs that focus solely on research, Page is passionate about assuring that the lab maintains a balanced focus on education, service, and research. From an educational and service standpoint, the lab has long been an information source to clinicians, patients, and their families. In fact, the lab won a Healthcare Hero Award from the Cincinnati Business Courier for its work and innovations with the poor and uninsured a few years ago, and other awards from the Ohio Occupational therapy Association and the American Heart Association for such work. Moreover, this summer, the lab will host a national education conference for stroke rehabilitation clinicians called “I-Treat” – the third time it has held this particular conference and the 6th time it has hosted a national conference. Additionally Page regularly presents at stroke support groups as well as providing free “lunch and learns” to local stroke clinicians. “We have a responsibility as both researchers and state employees to regularly and plainly communicate our findings and knowledge to the patients we serve. Too often someone doesn’t qualify for a clinical trial or a clinical pathway and that is the end of the story…if one is willing to take the time, such patient encounters can instead be teachable moments.” The lab also takes on the traditional – and much needed - function of providing instruction to students of all levels. Notes Page, “Stroke remains the leading cause of disability and yet efforts continue to focus on prevention and acute care. While important, patients spend a few days in the hospital and the rest of their lives trying to remediate their movement and language deficits. Our students, our clinicians, and our clinical pathways need to recognize this reality, and to consider how we are going to address the needs of this rapidly growing population…working with students to develop and disseminate the best, most effective therapies is one way to begin to address this need.”
John Lightner was forced into retirement from farming in October 2009 after suffering a stroke. The first year of his rehabilitation efforts focused on getting him out of the wheelchair he suddenly needed post-stroke, but did little to help him gain back the use of his right arm and hand. He tried acupuncture with mixed results and, through the power of Google, found out about Dr. Page’s efforts at the Rehab Lab.
On July 9, 2012, John began his rehabilitation work at the Rehab Lab. He rehabbed for one hour, three times a week, for ten weeks. A major component of John’s rehabilitation was what Dr. Page refers to as “mental practice.” Quite simply, the theory behind mental practice is that patients who physically rehab and mentally envision their rehabilitation efforts have a better chance at recovering lost functions. Among other “firsts” at the Rehab Lab, they were the first to test this therapy in any neuro-rehabilitative population almost 12 years ago. Currently the work is being funded by the National Institute of Health during a 5 year, two center trial that Page is leading (and of which John is a part). The upside of mental practice – aside from the hope that it may enhance patient rehabilitation – is that it is non-invasive, cost-effective and a change of pace from other drug-or device-centric therapies that may or may not reduce the effects of John’s disability on daily life. Other “firsts” and examples of this patient-focused work at the RehabLab include portable robotics, non-invasive brain stimulation, modified constraint-induced therapy (an approach that page’s team pioneered and that is now used around the world) and others.
The Rehab Lab is yet another shining example of the forward-leaning research and people working at OSU. Dr. Page’s research does not exist in a vacuum; it has spirit and resonates beyond academia, to people like John Lightner. As John submits, “Dr. Page and his study were a light in an awfully dark world for a stroke victim. I have a renewed purpose in working on the recovery and a light on the horizon to work towards. The optimism which Dr. Page re-ignited in me through his caring and expertise is immeasurable.”