Department of Physical Therapy Education hosts visiting scholar From Oxford University, England

Neja Uhan, a podiatrist from Oxford, will be working with the Department of Physical Therapy Education for the next nine months, collaborating with biomechanical and clinical foot research for runners.

The Department of Physical Therapy Education is hosting visiting scholar Jerneja “Neja” Uhan for the next nine months.

​Uhan has a degree in podiatry and is a doctor of philosophy candidate at Oxford University in England, studying foot posture during running gait. She is collaborating with Shefali Christopher, assistant professor of physical therapy education, and the ElonRUNS program to develop a better understanding of arch height and foot posture with running. Her data will be collected in the Elon biomechanics lab using the 3D motion capture system and via ground force plates to analyze kinematics (joint motion) and kinetics (joint force) at the feet when running.  

During her time at Elon, she will be collaborating with a variety of faculty and students on projects and mentoring current students during their research curriculum.

The research coordinator for Department of Physical Therapy Education, Associate Professor Srikant Vallabhajosula, has been her host at Elon and notes, “Having Neja here is both exciting and mutually beneficial.  Not only does she bring her knowledge and expertise in podiatry to apply to  on-going research here at Elon, but she also brings rich research skills that are unique to doctoral training at a non-US institution.”

Christopher’s doctoral research on runners who are postpartum dovetails nicely with Uhan’s research. Pregnant women often have changes in foot posture and arch due to increased laxity and weight gain during that time.

“We are excited to have Ms. Uhan explore foot posture during running gait in postpartum women,” Christopher said. “This will be an important variable to measure in postpartum runners as foot posture can affect knee and hip mechanics. This will be a unique and much-needed clinically applicable feature to the extant running literature.”

Important partnerships at Elon have supported this research collaboration with Oxford University. “We are so grateful to Dean Ann Bullock of the School of Education who helped us create this connection and who is hosting Neja in her home,” said School of Health Sciences Dean Becky Neiduski. 

Furthermore, Uhan’s work at the Francis Center provides great opportunities for cultural exchange with Elon DPT students, faculty and staff.  “Learning and working with professionals from different backgrounds allows for organic sharing of cultural differences and aides in the development of cultural sensitivity and humility.  The development of these skills are critical for healthcare providers,” said Paula DiBiasio, global learning opportunities chair at the School of Health Sciences,.

Uhan said she chose Elon to host her data collection because of its excellent reputation in the field of running.  “For high-quality research, expertise from both the research and clinical aspects is essential,” she said. “The multidisciplinary team here at Elon is flourishing with their expertise in both fields from their highly established community running clinic, the ElonRUNS club, and their state of the art running lab. I am looking forward to being a part of this amazing team, albeit my stay is for a short period of time.”