"My book provides a non-technical perspective that gives the reader a gut feeling of what good research is and the problems one encounters doing it."
Like many people who go into physical therapy, Mitchell Batavia was initially drawn to the field when a member of his family needed rehabilitation. To explore the field further, he began to assist physical therapists as a volunteer. “Volunteering was a great way for me to understand, early on, what physical therapists did on a day to day basis. I liked biology and I liked working with people, and I began to see physical therapy as a way for me to marry the two.” He realized this vision by getting his BS in Physical Therapy in 1981 and followed up in 1986 with an MA from Columbia in Motor Learning.
About that time he worked in a wheelchair clinic to evaluate and prescribe seating systems for children and adults with developmental disabilities. “My hospital would get referrals from therapists at other hospitals who didn’t know a lot about how to prescribe wheelchairs. I recognized the need for a basic nuts and bolts book that would be a kind of survival manual for clinicians dealing with wheelchairs.” This resulted in Batavia’s first book, The Wheelchair Evaluation: A Practical Guide.
After receiving his PhD in Physical Therapy from NYU in 1997, Batavia took a position as a fellow that included working at John Gianutsos Motor Performance and Behavior Laboratory at the Rusk Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine in New York City. There, ideas for his own research soon surfaced including the use of information from the sensesto improve motor performance.
Batavia followed up his wheelchair book with Clinical Research for Health Professionals: A User-Friendly Guide. “It provides a non-technical, non-jargon ridden perspective that gives the reader a gut feeling of what good research is and the problems one encounters doing it.” Because the book answers frequently asked questions about research in rehabilitation - questions that Batavia himself asked as a grad student - he says that his students find it extremely helpful.
Another of Batavia's books, Contradictions in Physical Rehabilitation: Doing No Harm, is a survey of almost every treatment provided in physical therapy and the precautions one must take when administering these therapies. “The book includes a brief chapter on each treatment, the agreements among experts in that treatment area, the most commonly cited concerns about such treatments and the evidence that supports or debunks those concerns.”
Concurrent with his writing, Batavia is researching Parkinson’s disease with John Gianutsos, whose lab has been a home to Batavia since his post-doctoral work. “Dr. Gianutsos and I are looking at how to measure Parkinson’s patients who become stiffer as the disease progresses. They can’t rotate as easily as they used to, and walking, getting out of bed and driving (backing up) become harder.” To measure the extent of a person’s trunk rotation in order to better chart the toll that Parkinson’s takes, Batavia and Gianutsos developed the Functional Rotation Test Device. “The device gives clinicians an objective way of documenting if patients are getting better or worse during treatment.”