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Why ENHP?

It is becoming a tradition in the College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions (ENHP) to ask new faculty why they chose to become part of our college.  Our newest faculty member, Sandra Saavedra, answers the familiar question, "Why ENHP?"

My research agenda focuses on an overlooked population (children with moderate-to-severe motor impairment) and requires innovation and collaboration with orthotists and engineers.   It became apparent during conversations with Adam Goodworth (assistant professor) and during my on-site interview that the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at University of Hartford offers a rare opportunity to work in a small, innovative, highly collaborative environment with engineers, prosthetists/orthotists and physical therapists. This environment is ideally suited for my future translational research for children with moderate-to-severe disability. Sandra Saavedra

About Sandra Saavedra

Assistant Professor Saavedra earned her Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Oregon’s Department of Human Physiology and Institute of Neuroscience in the College of Arts and Sciences in March 2010 upon completion of her dissertation: Contribution of Spinal Segments to Trunk Control during Typical and Atypical Development. She holds a Master of Science and Certificate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California (1979) and a Bachelors Degree in Biology (1975) from the University of Oregon.

Saavedra is a pediatric researcher with more than 20 years clinical experience in pediatric physical therapy. Her clinical experience combined with strong doctoral and postdoctoral research opportunities contribute to her focus on translating clinical needs into research projects and thus improving the evidence base in pediatric physical therapy.  Saavedra’s primary course responsibilities are the Scientific Inquiry series (research based courses), Pediatric Physical Therapy Lab and Neuroscience Lab.  Her research teams are multidisciplinary including students from Physical Therapy, Prosthetics and Orthotics, and Biomedical Engineering.

Saavedra directs the Pediatric Balance Laboratory in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences. While postural control of the trunk is essential for independent sitting and creates the basis for most functional movement, little is known about how trunk control normally develops or how it is constrained in children with motor impairment. Saavedra’s goal is to understand how segmental levels of trunk control influence and interact with sensorimotor function (e.g. eye-head-hand coordination, reaching, sitting, standing, and walking) during typical and atypical development. She designs longitudinal studies involving young infants with typical development and uses the information gained to design comparable studies involving children who have cerebral palsy or other neurologic deficits.  In this manner she hopes to create theoretically sound and empirically proven treatments that will improve mobility and health in children with moderate-to-severe motor impairment.