Phys­ical therapy chair Maura Iversen gamely climbs onto the seat of a sta­tionary exer­cise bicycle in a Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences lab, as she dis­cusses her research into the ben­e­fits of exer­cise on patients with arthritis.

The spe­cialist in rheuma­tology is excited by the oppor­tu­nity to lead Northeastern’s renowned phys­ical therapy depart­ment, which is any­thing but sta­tionary in the race to develop healing reg­i­mens offered by proper exercise.

Northeastern’s phys­ical therapy pro­gram is well posi­tioned to take the lead in edu­ca­tion,” she says, noting that the co-​​op pro­gram, which has placed stu­dents in exciting inter­na­tional jobs in Costa Rica, Peru and else­where, is another dimen­sion to a pro­gram set­ting the pace for others to follow.

Iversen’s career has been in turbo drive. She holds a doctor of sci­ence in behav­ioral sci­ence and clin­ical epi­demi­ology from Har­vard Uni­ver­sity, and a doctor in phys­ical therapy from MGH Insti­tute of Health Pro­fes­sions, and is a very active researcher.

She is cur­rently exam­ining the way patients uti­lize phys­ical therapy, and also, the way physi­cians view pre­scribing exer­cise as com­pared with how they view pre­scribing medications.

In one research project, I’m exam­ining how doc­tors explain exer­cise to patients, and whether they pre­scribe it as readily as they do med­ica­tions,” Iversen says. “Exer­cise rep­re­sents a treat­ment mile­stone in the man­age­ment of rheuma­toid arthritis, and other forms of autoim­mune dis­ease, and is also very ben­e­fi­cial to patients with accel­er­ated heart dis­ease and car­dio­vas­cular risks.”

In another cur­rent project, Iversen is focusing on the best methods to ensure a patient adheres to a phys­ical therapy pre­scrip­tion, whether it involves an exer­cise pro­gram, taking med­ica­tions, or both.

Her recent studies include inves­ti­ga­tions of the effi­cacy of non-​​pharmacologic inter­ven­tions in patients with arthritis, and of behav­ioral and social fac­tors influ­encing patients to follow their programs.

Iversen is using a large Medicare data­base to iden­tify patients and to test the use of inter­viewing tech­niques to pro­mote med­ica­tion adher­ence in per­sons with osteoporosis.

Her other pas­sion is advo­cacy. To address the shortage of pedi­atric rheuma­tol­o­gists for the 300,000 chil­dren in the United States with arthritis, she has lob­bied on behalf of the fed­eral Arthritis Pre­ven­tion, Con­trol, and Cure Act of 2009. The orga­ni­za­tion aims, among other things, to increase patient aware­ness about arthritis and its treat­ments and to increase funding for pedi­atric rheuma­tol­o­gist training, thereby increasing access to care.

Iversen has received numerous honors in recog­ni­tion of her work, including the 2006 Asso­ci­a­tion of Rheuma­tology Health Pro­fes­sionals Pres­i­den­tial Award, and the 2008 ARHP (Asso­ci­a­tion of Rheuma­tology Health Pro­fes­sionals) Ann Kunkel Advo­cacy Award.

To learn more about Northeastern’s phys­ical therapy pro­gram, please visit http://​www​.north​eastern​.edu/​b​o​u​v​e​/​p​r​o​g​r​a​m​s​/​d​p​t​u​n​d​e​r​g​r​a​d​.​h​tml