UC Irvine's Optional Modules: Robots that Run with Humans and Harnessing School-Based Health and Fitness Testing

UCI Optional Functions (2019-2024): 1) Robots that Run with Humans; 2) Harnessing School Based Physical Fitness Data

The field of robotic rehabilitation technology (RRT) is at a crossroads. People in need of rehabilitation therapies suffer from an enormous range of conditions, including spinal cord injury, stroke, muscle degenerative diseases, and early-life neuromotor injury. RRT holds the promise of effective and accessible therapies in ways previously unimaginable. The gaps between the technology advances and the needs of patients loom as a classic roadblock in the translation to widespread RRT clinical benefit, continuous improvement, and discovery. Our goal is to apply principles of the science of translation to RRT by investigating each step of the translational process. Building on the UCI ICTS’s unique strengths in RRT discovery, clinical application, and team science, we will address three key RRT translation challenges: 1) assembling multidisciplinary teams of key stakeholders (engineers, clinicians, patients), 2) introducing, testing, and implementing new RRTs in the clinical setting, and 3) developing new translational models to accelerate the process of discovery. A multidisciplinary team will draft a roadmap for RRT Translation. The team will also stimulate patient-centered methodology for evaluating RRT by supporting a team from the CTSA Network to compete in the second Cybathlon competition in Zurich, Switzerland, in 2020. Cybathlon is an international competition among teams of researchers and people with disabilities to promote research, development, and implementation of assistive technologies. The driving concept of the competition arose from the disappointment in the translation of robotic technologies to clinical application, which resulted from the gap between new technologies and the actual needs of people with disabilities. Using promising newly developed RRTs, we will examine their introduction in the clinic and identify the determinants of success in their application. We will explore new ways to study RRT and accelerate their translation using pilot studies focused on innovative animal models, which can enhance the discovery process by uncovering the biological mechanisms responsible for RRT clinical benefit. Through this unique mix of innovative translational science approaches, this Optional Function will have advanced rehabilitation therapies using RRT and identified critical factors for successful implementation of RRT in the clinical setting.

School-based physical fitness testing (S-BPFT) is mandated for many American public-school children. Typically performed in the 5th, 7th, and 9th grades, S-BPFT interrogates physical fitness during the pubertal transition, a critical period of growth and development. The possible health benefits of the data collected are enormous, both in terms of impact on individual students and on assessing health risks across the lifespan. Unfortunately, the potential of S-BPFT has not been realized. The goal of this Optional Function is to build a national team of clinicians, researchers, and key stakeholders (the working group) to begin to address the roadblocks preventing the transformation of S-BPFT into an effective biomarker of health for both individual children and as a public health tool. Absent common approaches to testing procedures and harmonized data dictionaries, it has proven difficult to conduct effective studies that target the optimal role of physical activity and exercise testing to optimize health across the lifespan. First, we will engage students, parents, school officials, and healthcare providers, who are key stakeholders and play critical roles in S-BPFT implementation, interpretation, and dissemination. Using the NIH Community Engagement Studio (CES) model, we will identify the essential terms and concepts relevant to S-BPFT. Next, working with the international standards organization, HL7, we will create a formal domain analysis model (DAM). The DAM will be published and serve as a pathway to incorporating S-BPFT data into the EHR. In parallel, we will use the CES to identify opportunities and topics for training and outreach to each of the S-BPFT key stakeholders. In almost every case, perhaps most egregiously among healthcare providers, basic knowledge of the meaning and interpretation of S-BPFT results is lacking, as are skills in recommending action plans to improve fitness. In sum, this Optional Function will enable S-BPFT to become a powerful biomarker to advance health across the lifespan, and a possible indicator of student well-being and health.