Indiana State University Newsroom

New faculty member lines up int'l partnerships for physical therapy program

October 21, 2011

In preparing to launch a doctor of physical therapy program at Indiana State University, Lori Walton has done much more than dot the i's and cross the t's on mountains of paperwork. She's working to make the new program "world-class" from the start.

In between preparing accreditation documents, building faculty and clinical resources and developing assessment tools, Walton has also lined up international partnerships so students can learn first-hand from top experts in the field and conduct research alongside those experts.

Walton, who joined the College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services last November, is counted among those experts. She spoke as a keynote speaker during a World Physical Therapy Day program this year at the Center for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed in Savar, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Her 45-minute address to an audience of about 800 health professions faculty and students from universities throughout Bangladesh was the subject of reports by four separate newspapers and several television stations.

"This was a great opportunity for Indiana State University to have a more global face in the subcontinent region," said the associate professor of applied medicine and rehabilitation and director of the doctor of physical therapy program.

Consistent with Indiana State's commitment to inter-professional education and practice, Walton's address focused on collaboration among health care providers.

"My presentation was about providing a collaborative approach so that the patient doesn't lose out," she said. "That's part of patient-centered therapy - maintaining your economy enough so that you can promote what you're there for and have the knowledge to prescribe for that patient."

In Bangladesh, physiotherapists - as they are called in virtually every nation of the world outside the United States - are permitted to give corticosteroid injections, prescribe limited medications, direct patient care through direct access, and provide referrals for lab work and special tests, Walton noted. Such a wide scope of practice is similar to physical therapists in the American military but civilian practice is still limited in some U.S. states, including Indiana.

"In many ways, they have a lot more freedom to do things than we do," she said. "At Physical Therapy Day, we were trying to promote physiotherapy in a way that provides autonomy for the practitioners and that advances the profession, which is in line with the World Confederation on Physical Therapy's goals for nations all over the world."

Tragedy lies behind Bangladesh's emergence as a center for physical therapy. More than two-thirds of Bangladeshi citizens live below the poverty level and some children are often forced to work instead of attend school. In one job for children, they climb mango trees, which can reach 90 feet tall, to pick the fruit. Children who fall from those trees often suffer spinal cord injuries.

Walton, who came to Indiana State from Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., where she served as chair of the physical therapist assistant program for six years, has made regular visits to Bangladesh for the past four years. She routinely volunteers to help treat children and other patients at the Center for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed and the Bangladeshi Health Professions Institution, both affiliated with the University of Dhaka. She also helps with curriculum development and teaching on a volunteer basis.

In addition to physical therapy, Walton's areas of expertise include pediatrics, neurological disorders and women's issues.

She is involved in several research projects in conjunction with colleagues in Bangladesh. Topics include the study of risk factors associated with caesarean section compared with normal delivery among Bangladeshi women, pre-natal problems and the risk of cerebral palsy, and outcomes for spinal cord patients following community-based rehabilitation. She is also working with a professor from Western Michigan University on a study comparing clinical reasoning by health care providers in the U.S. and Bangladesh.

Students at Walton's previous college spent up to six weeks in Bangladesh to complete clinical training and she already has clinical contracts lined up for Indiana State students to do the same - and participate in research. While at the University of Dhaka for World Physical Therapy Day, she also met with the dean of the School of Medicine and several other officials at the university concerning additional partnerships.

"It was a good, fruitful trip," she said. "I see endless benefits for ISU students."

Walton holds a doctor of physical therapy degree from Creighton University as well as bachelor's and master's degrees from Andrews University. She is completing a Ph.D. in physical therapy from Nova Southeastern University.

Indiana State's doctor of physical therapy program is among seven new programs the College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services has developed in recent years to address a shortage of health care providers - especially in underserved areas such as rural Indiana. The program is on track to welcome its first students in May, Walton said. Following a positive report from an on-site reviewer, accreditation is pending by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy education.

Photos: - Dr. Jalal Uddin Shoaib (right), medical director at Chittagong Mother's and Children's Hospital in Bangladesh, presents flowers to Lori Walton, associate professor of applied medicine and rehabilitation at Indiana State University, in recognition of her help in developing a physiotherapy program for the region's impoverished mothers and children. - Mishti Islam, a physical therapist and professor at the Center for Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed works with "Sohail," a Bangladeshi boy with a spinal injury.

Contact: Lori Walton, associate professor of applied medicine and rehabilitation and director, doctor of physical therapy program, College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services, Indiana State University,

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or


Story Highlights

In between mountains of paperwork required to start a new academic program, Lori Walton, associate professor of applied medicine and rehabilitation, has secured international partnerships for students to take advantage of when the program starts.

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