PhD '18 Alumni

What year did you start the program? 2015

Tamra is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

What are your prior degrees and at which institutions?
BS, Exercise Science, Saint Louis University, 2009
DPT, Saint Louis University, 2011

What was your research setting(s), mentor’s name and name of lab? 
Mentor: Alan Jette, PT, PhD, MPH, FAPTA, Director, and Diane Jette, PT, DSc, FAPTA
Lab: Health and Disability Research Institute at Boston University

What was your research focused on?
My dissertation work uses a national data set and focuses on functional outcomes in late life for persons with cardiovascular disease.  I am using a variety of methods to investigate how function changes over time, the impact of function and frailty on hospital readmissions, and the role of social factors on function in late life.  

What publications or external presentations have you produced since the start of your PhD program?

Keeney T & Jette AM, (August 2018): "Individual and Environmental Determinants of Late-Life Community Disability for Persons Aging with Cardiovascular Disease." American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.

Keeney T, Slavin M, Kisala P, Pengsheng N, Heinemann AW, Charlifue S, Fyffe DC, Marino RJ, Morse LR, Worobey LA, Tate D, Rosenblum D, Zafonte DO, Tulsky D & Jette AM. (March 2018).  "Sensitivity of the SCI-FI/AT in Individuals With Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury." Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Keeney TJette A, Freedman V & Cabral H. (November 2017).  "Racial Differences in Patterns of Use of Rehabilitation Services for Adults Aged 65 and Older." Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Keeney T., Jette AM., Freedman VA. and Cabral H. Racial Differences in Patterns of Use of Rehabilitation Services for Adults Aged 65 and Older. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2017;65:2707–2712. doi:10.1111/jgs.15136

Joseph SM., Manghelli JL., Vader JM., Keeney T., Novak EL., Felius J., Martinez SC., Nassif ME., Lima B., Silvestry SC., Rich MW. Prospective Assessment of Frailty Using the Fried Criteria in Patients Undergoing Left Ventricular Assist Device Therapy. Am J Cardiol. 2017;120(8):1349-1354. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2017.01.074

Levenhagen KM., Keeney T. Achieving a National Patient Safety Goal: Reducing the Risk of Health Care – Associated Therapy Practice. Journal of Acute Care Physical Therapy. 2015;6(3), 79-86. doi:10.1097/JAT.0000000000000020

Publications under Review

Keeney T., Slavin M., Kisala P., Ni P., Heinemann AW., Charlifue S., Fyffe DC., Marino RJ., Morse LR., Worobey LA., Tate D., Rosenblum D., Zafonte R., Tulsky D., Jette AM. Sensitivity of the SCI-FI/AT in Individuals with Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Kisala P., Tate D., Heinemann AW., Charlifue S., Fyffe DC., Felix ER., Cohen ML., Boulton AJ., Ni P., Keeney T., Slavin MD., Jette AM., Tulsky DS. Spinal Cord Injury-Functional Index (SCI-FI): Responsiveness to Change over Time. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Keeney T., Fox AB., Jette DU., Jette AM. Functional Trajectories for Individuals with Cardiovascular Disease in Late Life.

Poster Presentations

Keeney T., Jette A. (2017). Racial Differences in Patterns of Use of Rehabilitation Services among Adults 65 and Older. Poster Presentation 17358: Academy Health 2017 Annual Research Meeting. New Orleans, LA.

Keeney T., Jette A., Freedman VA., Cabral H. Racial Differences in Patterns of Use of Rehabilitation Services among Adults 65 and Older. Poster Presentation: COHSTAR Summer Institute on Health Services Research. Boston, MA.

Schmidt CT., Keeney T., Ward R., Suri P., Kiely D., Bean JF. Symptomatic Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: Measuring Health, Impairment, Mobility and Disability. Poster Presentation: APTA Combined Sections Meeting. doi:10.2519/jospt.2017.47.1.A58. San Antonio, TX.

Podium Presentations

Keeney T., Jette A., Freedman V. (2017). Use of Physical Rehabilitation Services in the U.S. in Later Life: A National Profile. Oral Presentation 2583603: 21st IAGG World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics.

Keeney T., Slavin M.D., et al. (2016) Spinal Cord Injury Functional Index: Ability to Detect Change. Oral Presentation 669: American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine Progress in Rehabilitation Research Conference. DOI:


What was your dissertation topic?
"Late Life Function for Individuals with Cardiovascular Disease"

What are the benefits of being in a program in which your peers come from other disciplines??
Being in an interdisciplinary program has helped me to apply concepts learned in methods and statistics coursework broadly across different areas of research.  More specifically, being introduced to researchers from different clinical backgrounds and varying interests has improved my flexibility in how I approach questions as a researcher and has helped me to consider other aspects of the patient experience in my work.     

Why did you choose to come to this program rather than a doctoral research program in your specific profession?
I chose this program because of its interdisciplinary focus and the flexibility to choose a non-traditional dissertation project. Many physical therapists who obtain a PhD do so in the areas of orthopedics, biomechanics, or neuromuscular conditions. As a cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapist who practices clinically in an acute-care setting, I had a difficult time finding a PhD program that would allow me to become trained in the type of health services and measurement research that I would like to conduct. The PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences wa the perfect solution for my educational needs.

Has your research interest changed or become more narrowly focused since you began the program?
When I first came to the program, I knew that I was broadly interested in functional measurement for individuals with cardiovascular disease, particularly in the acute-care setting.  However, I was unsure of how to put together a good dissertation project to complete a PhD in my area of interest. Through the coursework I have taken and collaboration with my mentors, I have broadened my research interests and improved my approach to developing focused and answerable research questions.  The time I have spent with my mentors has been invaluable and has ultimately improved my skills as a researcher.  

How has the IHP's connection with Partners affiliates and/or other area hospitals and research centers benefited your studies?
My mentor was the director of a research lab at Boston University, and I was fortunate to work as a research assistant in his lab.  Through working in the lab, I applied concepts that I learned in my coursework to actual projects, participated in research seminars, and presented a variety of projects.  These experiences furthered my passion to pursue an academic research career.