Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science Showcases New Cutting-Edge Facility

By Juliana Bunim

A person uses an anti-gravity treadmill at UCSF Mission Bay.

An anti-gravity treadmill “unweights” up to 80 percent of a patient’s body weight offering faster recovery from injury or surgery without the pain and risk associated with full-weight impact on joints, bones, tendons and muscles. 

More than 100 faculty members, students and staff celebrated the UCSF Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science’s new home on the Mission Bay campus on March 15 as part of an open house to highlight the innovative services available in the cutting-edge facility.

Located just upstairs from the UCSF Orthopaedic Institute at 1500 Owens Street, the new space offers several advancements in treatment and patient care. Physical therapists can now treat patients almost immediately following orthopedic surgery, a welcomed change from when the program was previously housed across town at the Mount Zion campus.

“Before we were split at Mount Zion across Divisadero Street,” said Kimberly Topp, PT, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science. “With this new space it’s so much easier to take care of problems and be creative.”

Additionally, the UCSF Physical Therapy Health and Wellness Center – where patients receive individualized exercise instruction designed by physical therapists - is also located at Mission Bay, further shrinking the distance and increasing continuity of care. 

“The patient can now go from the operating room downstairs to rehab in our new physical therapy facility upstairs and then to the Health and Wellness Center across the street to get up and running in no time,” said Topp. “It’s also the first time we’ve had contiguous academic and clinical space.”

The new facility consists of a large main room, dubbed “the gym,” which is lined with physical therapy tools such as an anti-gravity treadmill that “unweights” up to 80 percent of the user’s body weight, offering personalized precision benefits to those recovering from injury or surgery without the pain and risk associated with full-weight impact on joints, bones, tendons and muscles. Cameras attached to the ceiling work in conjunction with a force plate in the floor to conduct running and gate analysis, measuring how much force is exerted through the foot and whether the patient is off balance.

Three personalized treatment rooms with doors are available off the gym to treat patients who may be hard of hearing, need telephonic interpreters or simply need more privacy. Three other rooms are partitioned by curtains.

The department’s new center also enhances education for students in the physical therapy program, one of the country’s most prestigious graduate programs in Physical Therapy, administered in conjunction with San Francisco State University.

“We didn’t have any big space prior to this, so there was no consistent access to the equipment,” said Emily Hellmuth, a third-year graduate student in physical therapy. “And here students can interact much more with faculty, which is a great thing.”

The Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science also is collaborating with the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Campus Life Services to offer the Run Center at UCSF to provide runners of all levels a comprehensive program that includes expert advice in running assessment, rehabilitation and training. In addition, the UCSF Run Center hosts a weekly group social run and a monthly lecture series. For more information about this program, contact UCSF PhysFit at 415/514-4816 or [email protected]

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