Physical Therapist and Atlanta resident, Dr. Steve Wolf, has spent the last 35 years of his career researching ways to treat patients who have sustained a stroke.
It was his first clinical PT job working in the Boston US Public Health Service Hospital that inspired him to better understand the techniques and treatment options he was using on his patients – further driving his determination to focus on stroke rehabilitation efforts.
Over the years he has led many federally funded stroke rehabilitation studies.
From 2000-2006 he served as the principal investigator for the Extremity Constraint Induced Therapy Evaluation (EXCITE) trial – the first multi-site National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical trial for upper extremity treatment in patients with sub-acute stroke. Throughout his career, Dr. Wolf has worked with multiple physicians in the Atlanta area on furthering stroke rehabilitation techniques and procedures.
Most recently, he delivered the Anne Shumway-Cook lecture, “My Wonderful Neurorehabiliation Journey: Where I’ve Been and Where We Could Go,” to hundreds of fellow PTs at the American Physical Therapy Association’s Combined Sections Meeting in Las Vegas.
Dr. Wolf continues to use his experience, knowledge and passion to research and develop stroke recovery.
“A lot of what happens in recovery happens in the first 48 hours,” says Dr. Wolf. “Those of us who are interested in quality of life, mobility, movement and function have a major responsibility for those patients.”
Stroke is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 130,000 Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And while strokes account for a significant number of deaths in the US, research efforts are complicated.
Early last year, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) decided to change the way they fund clinical studies after seeing that many projects funded at the national level were failing, unable to secure patients for the studies. In response, NINDS created StrokeNet – a five-year program dedicated to facilitating the implementation and completion of randomized clinical trials in acute stroke.
Dr. Wolf was appointed co-chair of the Neuro Recovery and Rehabilitation component of NINDS StrokeNet, and alongside Dr. David Wright, MD, will serve as co-principal investigator representing the Emory University School of Medicine. Michael Frankel, MD, Professor of Neurology and Director of the Marcus Stroke Center at Grady Memorial Hospital is the lead investigator for the Emory/Atlanta site.
Dr. Wolf’s team was selected among 120 applicants to work alongside 25 regional coordinating centers across the country to complete national clinical trials that the NINDS seeks to accomplish. Selected applicants for StrokeNet will lead research teams focused in three different contact areas – immediate intervention after stroke, prevention of secondary stroke, and recovery (rehabilitation).
Introducing the rehabilitation component of StrokeNet marks the first time that NINDS has acknowledged physical therapy as an important part of recovery.
“Neurointerventionists and many neurologists don’t think much about what happens after the first few days following stroke,” says Dr. Wolf. “Recovery – and the role physical therapy plays – is an incredibly important part of the overall rehabilitation effort.”
The Emory stroke team will serve as the only site in Georgia to participate in the program, and one of only five other sites in the South – responsible for recruiting patients in the Georgia area to participate in clinical trials.
Dr. Wolf and his team will enlist the knowledge base and involvement of PTs in the state, and visit area hospitals to encourage patients to participate in the hope of providing learning opportunities for those affected by stroke.
“We are not trying to take patients away from anyone,” says Dr. Wolf. “Instead, we are trying to provide additional opportunities for research at no cost to them.”
Currently, most insurance carriers will only cover the first month post-stroke rehabilitation efforts, leaving many patients without the resources to continue and truly benefit from the recovery process.
Dr. Wolf hopes that that the Georgia StrokeNet team will provide additional research options for patients as well as provide a unique informational basis for PTs interested in stroke.
“We want to engage and encourage physical therapists to not only become potential referrals, but to also provide them with opportunities to benefit from this project,” says Dr. Wolf. “This is an incredible opportunity to utilize our experience and expertise to provide a unique information basis for those interested in stroke recovery.”
Are you a Georgia PT interested in learning more about the Georgia StrokeNet? Please contact Amy Reiss at 404-712-8685 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information on how you can help.