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Professor with a punch

Stephanie Combs-Miller ’99, a UIndy physical therapy professor and director of research for the University’s College of Health Sciences, wants to knock the power out of Parkinson’s disease.

A two-year study by Dr. Combs-Miller—with the help of more than 12 students—produced the first scientific evidence that multifaceted boxing training is more effective than conventional exercise when it comes to helping people with Parkinson’s maintain—or even improve—their physical ability and quality of life.

Her study, which received national attention, found that boxing training has a unique combination of activities enhancing strength, agility, endurance, flexibility, and other positive effects. “I think it’s the collection of all these elements that is working for these people,” she says. “People don’t even have to put on boxing gloves.”

Dr. Combs-Miller can be found in the Krannert School of Physical Therapy’s Movement Science lab in the new UIndy Health Pavilion. The 1,650-square-foot lab is dedicated to research in biomechanics, motor control, and rehabilitation physiology.

“We have several undergraduate research fellows who assist in our labs,” she explains. “Their responsibilities include anything from helping faculty with literature searches and gathering evidence on a certain research topic to entering data, helping with data collection, and organizing lab equipment. Some faculty have funded research projects where they hire undergraduate students to assist.”

The UIndy Health Pavilion offers more than research opportunities for the students. “We are excited about the opportunity for undergraduate and graduate student interaction,” says Dr. Combs-Miller.

Dedicated faculty

“Our faculty are dedicated to our students and to the community that we serve. Bringing together multiple disciplines on research projects will lead to opportunities for students from many majors to work together.”

Dr. Combs-Miller enjoys working with students and seeing the “light bulb” moments, as she calls them. She also enjoys watching the students make the transition from entry-level to graduate student to a physical therapist professional.

“Challenge yourself to take on new and different educational experiences,” she advises. “Your extra time and effort will be well worth the reward.”