Teaching, research, private practice keep PT student on her toes

Libby Bergman stands inside her clinic, in front of a wall of PT equipment

If you’re the kind that wants to leave a lasting legacy, you might take a cue from Libby Bergman. She’s got a lot to share when it comes making lives better for individuals everywhere.  

The Texas Woman’s University PhD candidate is already a practicing physical therapist, and when she’s not studying toward that advanced degree, she’s teaching at a local university. Then there’s the research she conducts on hip pain, trying to make lives better for those who suffer from that type of chronic pain.

Oh, and in her free time she runs ultramarathons.

“I get burned out doing just one thing,” Bergman said. 

Bergman is often up at 4:30 in the morning to squeeze in a run before work. During a normal work day at her PT clinic, she tries to find a few uninterrupted hours to conduct research or complete school work. Then the priority is to get home for dinner and sports with her husband and children. Bergman’s typical day is not pretty or easy, but she enjoys it. 

“I don’t need to drink from a firehose; I just really enjoy the lifelong learning aspect of it,”  Bergman said. 

She believes that research and learning go hand in hand with being a clinician, so if maintaining a sometimes feverish pace is what it takes to combine the two, so be it. 

“I always wanted to round out my skills and abilities by doing research and education and clinical practice,” Bergman said. “They all feed off each other. It makes your research more fun when you are practicing and your practice more fun when you are researching.”

She calls herself a life-long learner who grew up in math lecture halls with a father who taught at a university for 40 years. For 10 years, she researched PhD programs far and near, trying to find the program that would fit into her busy life.  

Bergman finally decided on the Doctor of Philosophy in Physical Therapy program at the TWU Institute of Health Sciences - Houston Center.

“It is a really high-quality program,” Bergman said. “I liked the flexibility that potentially I could dive into whatever research area I was interested in. I was also looking for a program with a  stats background that would give me the skills to do research.”

portrait shot of Libby Bergman

Bergman is based in Florida and being able to work remotely was also a selling point of the program. The distance has not prevented Bergman from forging connections with other PhD students and faculty. 

Bergman teamed up with TWU Houston faculty member, Rupal M. Patel, PT, PhD, as her mentor.

“Dr. Patel has gone above and beyond to find opportunities to support me and help me grow,” Bergman said. “She has been fantastic.”

This past fall, Bergman and Patel received a grant from the TWU Experiential Student Scholar Program to research methods of diagnosing hip ailments to improve pain treatment.

Researching hip pain is one of Bergman’s main interests. 

“I find that it is probably the last area of orthopedics that is not well studied in literature,” Bergman said.

In a collaboration with orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Joel Wells, Bergman will look into standardizing ways to measure and categorize people with hip pain and gain more accurate methods to diagnose hip ailments prior to patients receiving X-rays or other imaging tests. 

In addition to the grant, Bergman was named a 2022 fellow at ReproRehab, hosted by the University of Southern California. As a fellow, Bergman is currently learning how to use R, a programming language used for statistical analysis. The research educational program is currently teaching her data science skills to assist her in analyzing large data sets. 

“Using R is going to help me track and look at electronic health records data over time,” Bergman said.

Bergman’s long-term goal is to use these new skills to contribute to Dr. Wells’ hip database, from a physical therapy perspective. Her plan is to have a pilot study to use for her qualifying exams in the fall of 2023, and then utilize her hip research for her dissertation further down the road. 

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Page last updated 1:10 PM, May 30, 2024