In the realm of per­sonal health, adhering to “doctor’s orders” can make a world of dif­fer­ence — whether it means taking med­ica­tions to treat ill­nesses and ail­ments, or sticking with an exer­cise pro­gram to improve strength and car­dio­vas­cular function.

That’s why Maura Iversen, chair of the Depart­ment of Phys­ical Therapy in the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences, is focused on devising inter­ven­tions that effec­tively com­mu­ni­cate to patients the impor­tance of phys­ical activity and taking nec­es­sary medications.

My strategy with any inter­ven­tion study is to make it more patient-​​focused,” Iversen said, “I have patients help iden­tify what their goals are, and weave the edu­ca­tion around that.”

Iversen was recently selected by the Amer­ican Col­lege of Rheumatology/​Association of Rheuma­tology Health Pro­fes­sions to receive the 2011 Dis­tin­guished Scholar Award. The pres­ti­gious award is pre­sented to an indi­vidual who has demon­strated excep­tional achieve­ments in schol­arly activ­i­ties per­ti­nent to the rheumatic dis­eases — which include arthritis and other ail­ments affecting the mus­cles, joints and bones.

This award is a great honor,” she said.

Iversen’s early work involved exer­cise trials for patients with arthritis to deter­mine the impact of reg­ular exer­cise. As her career has evolved, her research has become more focused on behav­ioral coun­seling — par­tic­u­larly in pro­moting phys­ical activity.

Over the years, she says, evi­dence has piled up that correctly-​​performed exer­cise can help main­tain joint health and pro­vide ben­e­fits to the heart and lungs, while new med­ica­tions can even help reduce joint erosion.

Through one of her grants, funded by the National Insti­tutes of Health, Iversen is devel­oping phys­ical activity coun­seling for patients with arthritis. Through another research col­lab­o­ra­tion, she is exploring the use of Tai chi to pro­mote phys­ical activity and reduce symp­toms of osteoarthritis.

In addi­tion, Iversen is involved as a behav­ioral sci­en­tist in clin­ical trials at Brigham & Women’s Hos­pital in Boston, designing inter­ven­tions with var­ious inter­viewing tech­niques to help patients on Medicare adhere to their osteo­porosis med­ica­tion requirements.

It’s not that easy to change your lifestyle to be phys­i­cally active, even if there’s not a chronic ill­ness you’re dealing with,” Iversen said. “So these strate­gies are impor­tant, for exer­cise and for taking medications.”

View selected pub­li­ca­tions of Maura Iversen in IRis, Northeastern’s dig­ital archive.