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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 8, 2006

Shields To Head Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation Sciences Graduate Program

Richard Shields, Ph.D., has been named director of the University of Iowa Graduate Program in Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Shields, a physical therapist and a professor in the program, has been a UI faculty member since 1993. He will take over leadership of the program from David Nielsen, Ph.D., who has served as director since 1992. Nielsen has retired from the directorship and is now a professor emeritus.

"Dr. Shields is highly regarded as an innovative scientist and an excellent teacher. His energy and national reputation will help ensure that the program maintains its consistently high national ranking," said Jean Robillard, M.D., dean of the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. "Dr. Shields' leadership will also keep our program on the cutting edge of developing and providing new therapies for individuals with disabling conditions such as spinal cord injury, and providing the next generation of physical therapists with the skill and knowledge to help people with debilitating injuries and illnesses achieve the best recovery and quality of life possible."

The UI Graduate Program in Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science is ranked fifth in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report's rankings of "America's Best Graduate Schools."

Robillard also reflected on Nielsen's leadership.

"We are extremely grateful for Dr. Nielsen's long and outstanding service as program director. He has been a driving force in establishing this program's prominent national standing," Robillard said. "His close to 15 years of leadership have seen the program consistently rank in the top five in the nation. He also has overseen the program's recent move into new facilities in the Medical Education Building and the expansion of the program's academic offerings to include a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) degree, which is a professional, clinical, entry-level degree."

Shields is the director of the neuromuscular research/motor control laboratory, and his research focuses on neuro-musculoskeletal plasticity following spinal cord injury (SCI). He is investigating the effects of disuse, resulting from SCI, on osteoporosis, muscular adaptations and reflex excitability (spasticity). He is testing a novel method, using feedback controlled muscle electrical stimulation, to prevent the bone, muscle and reflex changes that occur after SCI. In addition, Shields studies neuromuscular control strategies to prevent and/or rehabilitate sports-related injuries of the knee. His research is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Christopher Reeve Foundation and the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation.

Shields has published numerous scientific articles and received the National Research Excellence Award from the Neurology Section of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). He was recently named a Catherine Worthingham Fellow from the APTA for his significant contributions to the science, education and practice of physical therapy. Shields also received the College of Medicine's Outstanding Teaching Award (2000) and the Graduate College Distinguished Mentor Award (2005).

Shields earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C. in 1976; a physical therapy certificate from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in 1981; an advanced master's degree in physical therapy from the UI in 1985; and a doctoral degree in exercise science from the UI in 1992.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5135 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

PHOTO: For a photo of Shields, contact Jennifer Brown at

CONTACT: Jennifer Brown, 319-335-9917