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Students/Faculty News Kevin Storr February 17, 2020

Stephanie Silveira, a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Exercise Neuroscience Research Lab, receives a National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Individual National Research Service Award. The award, known as an NIH F32, is given to postdoc candidates “who have the potential to become productive, independent investigators in scientific health-related research fields.”

The NIH F32 provides support for a specific research project developing an exercise training program for people with MS who are wheelchair users. The exercise programs itself is developed using a community-engaged approach wherein wheelchair users are involved in creating and modifying the intervention with Silveira. Such a program is necessary as wheelchair users experience significant barriers to being physically active that are not addressed in typical health promotion interventions.

“I am focused on providing resources for people with MS with more severe mobility disability who use wheelchairs as a primary mobility device,” said Silveira. “The goal of my F32 study is to create a program that will be ready for feasibility testing as I move toward independence in an academic appointment, and to ensure I have proper training to flourish in an independent role.”

The NIH F32 fully funds Silveira’s salary and coursework for the grant period. It further supports training activities such as coursework in statistics, professional development in teaching, and attendance at journal clubs and seminars.

Specifically, the grant itself was developed based on pilot work funded by a National MS Society Postdoctoral Fellowship from her primary mentor, Robert Motl, Ph.D., director, UAB Exercise Neuroscience Research Lab. The work further benefits from members of a mentorship team, including James Rimmer, Ph.D., director, UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative, and Katherine Froehlich-Grobe, Ph.D., associate director of research, Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation.

Silveira is excited to have such a strong team to address the issues of a group of individuals that is underserved in MS research.

“I want to highlight how unique the environment is at UAB – this work and my position here would not have been possible without Professor Motl's National MS Society Postdoctoral Fellowship,” said Silveira. “UAB is a great place to be and provides an ideal environment for training that helps graduate students and postdocs secure these awards.”

In addition to her work on the NIH F32 project, Silveira is actively engaged in data collections for other projects in the UAB Exercise Neuroscience Research Lab and serves as a behavioral coach for a physical activity intervention. She also has an interest in program evaluation including treatment response heterogeneity and intervention fidelity metrics.

“I am devoting my career to identifying the best practices for promoting health among diverse populations and collaborating with communities to identify innovative strategies to initiate and maintain healthy behavior changes,” said Silveira.

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