There is a very interesting story on the main WFU web site about a study being conducted by our Clinical Research Center. The gist of it is that strength training in older adults with knee osteoarthritis could help them avoid surgery (full story here).
This research study in and of itself is impressive. It is part of a long series of important research projects from our Health and Exercise Science (HES) faculty, sometimes done in conjunction with the WFU School of Medicine. The list of current research projects is online as well, and the breadth and depth of the studies shows that our faculty could have some very significant impacts on how we understand health and the treatment of diseases.
What is more remarkable perhaps is how involved our students can be in these research projects. The knee research story features Sara Commander (’14), a rising senior biology major. Sara is one of many students, both undergraduate and graduate, who work with the Health and Exercise Science department.
The Clinical Research Center is home to cardiac rehab patients, who come to walk and exercise several mornings a week (and a couple of afternoons). At the center are students – mostly graduate HES students – who are there to help monitor the walkers, provide encouragement and advice, and take vitals at regular intervals. There is always a doctor present in case of emergencies, but our students are getting the chance to have real-world, hands-on work.
The HES department runs a number of programs on campus for faculty and staff, including the HELPS programs (Healthy Exercise and Lifestyle Programs), which is a wellness program that is about weight loss, exercise, and healthy living. Many members of our campus community have gone through the HELPS program (myself included!) and have seen huge benefits to their health. The HELPS program also has assistance from students who monitor and measure the participants’ progress. The faculty and staff in HES are fantastic people and as employees we’re lucky to be able to have the benefit of their programs on our campus.
Before I worked at Wake Forest, I did not appreciate how rare it is for undergraduates to have access to senior faculty, much less be able to participate in faculty research. At many other R1 universities (the highest category of research university), the faculty in those departments would be accessible primarily to MA and PhD level students, and classes might be taught by teaching assistants, not professors. Here, our students can dig in to research and real life projects with the faculty. You don’t have to be a graduate student or even a major in that department – if you want to work on research and there is a project that needs help, you can get involved as a Wake Forest student.
Yet another great collaboration between faculty and students. And another reason Wake Forest is so unique and special.