Professor studying walking rehabilitation for stroke victims

Dr.+Hyngstrom+studies+ways+for+patients+to+move+better.+Photo+by+Yue+Yin+%2Fyue.yin%40marquette.edu

Dr. Hyngstrom studies ways for patients to move better. Photo by Yue Yin /[email protected]

Maredithe Meyer, Health Reporter

Allison Hyngstrom knew she wanted to help people move when she was working on a physical therapy degree at Washington University. She decided to dig deeper when she discovered her passion for working with stroke survivors and teaching a basic human action: walking.

“After I graduated, I worked at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and my favorite part of the day was when I led a walking class,” said Hyngstrom, an assistant professor in the College of Health Sciences. “I really enjoyed helping people walk again.”

Her passion led her to earn a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Northwestern University before coming to Marquette in 2007 for a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Hyngstrom has taught at Marquette since 2008.

Hyngstrom teaches an advanced neuroscience elective, a graduate neurology course and conducts research in the physical therapy lab on post-stroke rehabilitation.

The physical therapy lab often collaborates with the biomedical engineering department to develop the effective rehabilitation methods and technology.

“We make measurements of how strong they (patients) are, what the blood flow is like to their legs and the ability of their nervous system to activate different muscles,” Hyngstrom said.

The study’s subjects are primarily baby boomers, and some have suffered strokes. Certain patients have come to the lab since Hyngstrom started working at Marquette so she has developed close relationships with them.

“I could not do my work without their help and their dedication,” Hyngstrom said about the volunteer subjects.

She works with physical therapy students to design and run the studies and record measurements for research. These students have various majors and levels within the College of Health Sciences.

“From a clinical perspective, working in the laboratory for the past three plus years has given me experience with working hands-on with patients post-stroke, which I could draw from when learning about stroke in the classroom,” Meghan Kirking, a third year student in the physical therapy program, said in an email.

Hyngstrom said she recognizes the advantage undergraduate students gain when they conduct research in a lab. She said students often do not fully realize this advantage until they are out of school.

“I put a lot of responsibility on my students, and I have high expectations and the result is that they are highly productive and they perform really well and they are ready to achieve what they want to achieve,” Hyngstrom said.

A split-belt treadmill and a muscle activity amplifier are among the advanced equipment that the College of Health Sciences has provided for Hynstrom’s studies.

“Dr. Hyngstrom’s research is very important in order to learn more about how a stroke can impact someone’s ability to perform everyday movements, and will ultimately contribute to developing new rehabilitation methods to help people who will suffer a stroke,” Katie Bathon, a graduate assistant researcher, said in an email.

Hyngstrom is part of a multi-faceted health committee that plans to create a stroke center at Froedtert Hospital in the next five years. She said she hopes to use the stroke rehabilitation research she has conducted at Marquette at this new center.

“The hope is that my research can somehow help people live even longer, be more independent or help their caregivers take care of them,” Hyngstrom said.