Broader Benefits, Outreach Outlined with New Facility

by   |   |  
Photo of the Boost One Anti-Gravity Treadmill (Photo by Derek Eckenroth)

Annelise Few barely breaks a sweat during a 30-minute jog, seemingly floating through the demonstration on a treadmill in the Human Performance Lab of the new School of Health Professions facility.

Few, a first-year student from Easley, South Carolina, who will enter the kinesiology bachelor’s degree program at BJU in August, is aided by the effects of the anti-gravity treadmill that’s new to the Division of Exercise and Sport Science.

The apparatus, using technology developed by NASA, applies a uniform lifting force around the waist, resulting in a feeling of reduced body weight and comfortable support. Users walk and run normally while eliminating pain and protecting healing tissue and bones. Reducing gravity by up to 80% allows people to recover mobility following injury or surgery, improve wellness and enhance physical performance.

Anti-gravity treadmills have been used by NASA for astronauts returning from space with lessened muscle mass and bone density, professional sports teams and the U.S. Marine Corps in the rehabilitation of injuries sustained by soldiers in basic training.

“It’s good for rehabilitation, it’s good for training and research,” Few said. “It’s a lot easier on the joints so it can help post-surgery. And it’s a lot of fun, but kind of strange.”

The Boost One anti-gravity treadmill is part of an arsenal of equipment, which includes high-end exercise and additional assessment tools to support experiential learning in undergraduate programs, that is housed in two large and airy rooms in the School of Health Professions.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 10 to officially open the 28,000-square-foot space on the first floor of the Mack Building that co-locates the Division of Health Sciences, Division of Exercise and Sport Science and the Division of Nursing for the first time.

Research for Growing Programs

Student Annelise Few practices using the Biodex Balance System with Dr. Stephen Chen

Photo by Derek Eckenroth

This summer, Few has been among select non-faculty members to get acquainted with the instructional environs that will host classes beginning Aug. 18. Using another new piece of equipment designed to assess neuromuscular control on static or unstable surfaces, train for muscle tone and treat a variety of pathologies, Few has “been doing a lot of research on different protocols and different ways you can use this.”

The Biodex Balance System SD, which resembles a taller version of the title character from the feature film Wall-E, can be used to mitigate the risk of falls and concussion analysis, among other tests.

“I have to look at the different test results, take apart their test protocol parts that we want to keep and which ones we want to change depending on the patient or use a different thing,” she said. “We could test a group of people and do research to have it published if we come up with a good research question. All this research will further my education and get me ahead in the long run. I hope to further my degree in occupational therapy, so this is a great major for occupational therapy. I hope to specialize with kids so I’m excited for that.”

Added Dr. Stephen Chen, division chair for the Division of Exercise and Sport Science: “We hope to have research projects in the future where we can look at the effects of an exercise intervention or diet together to see the impact on balance, muscular strength, aerobic fitness or body composition and collaborate with nursing or health sciences.”

More than Free Weights

Next door to the Human Performance Lab is the Wellness Lab with equipment designed for students to learn how to meet people’s needs in health, fitness and recreation.

The Wellness Lab in the new School of Health Professions facility

Photo by Derek Eckenroth

“We hope to have a community outreach program for the elderly and professional athletes like the Greenville Triumph that they can come here, and we can provide services and consultation. Our students will have that expertise and knowledge,” Chen said.

Equipment — new and moved from the previous space in Davis Field House — in both labs will benefit students, the BJU community and the public.

“It’s like Christmas morning,” said assistant professor Vickie Britton, who has been with the program since its inception when it was called Health, Fitness and Recreation in the School of Education and considerably less comprehensive.

“It started with me scrounging through Barge (Hospital) trying to get stuff for free. Now I look at all this and I think of the verse how the Lord supplies exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think,” she said. “Just having this space, and the different work spaces, students will be able to teach classes and get in the flow of being a trainer. For our students, this gives them an edge just knowing their way around a lab and knowing how to use the equipment. It’s giving the kinesiology program a great boost from a solid foundation.

BJU Meeting the Demand

With four years at BJU in classroom and hands-on learning ahead, Few and her peers in the School of Health Professions will be prepared to not only enter the workplace but supply the need for compassionate Christian health care professionals.

The demand for qualified health professionals continues to steadily grow. An aging U.S. population requiring varying levels of care and the increasing complexity of the health care system are the main components driving health care profession opportunities. Health care occupations overall are expected to grow 19% by 2024 — outpacing all other occupations by double digits, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dr. Jessica Minor, dean of the School of Health Professions, said enrollment growth is being realized in all programs and expects increased prospective student interest with the benefits of the new facility.

“From a long-term perspective, we’ll focus on additional programs as well as focusing on community engagement,” she said.

Added Chen, a full-time faculty member at BJU in 2016: “The key thing is for the students to have the experience to come here and be able to do testing and assessment on a patient using this state-of-the-art technology equipment, so when they go out to the real world they can point to they’ve had experience with the equipment and protocols. It’s a bonus for our students to have that experience as an undergrad.”