Sarah Keller PT, DPT, NCS

Assistant Professor and Co-Director of Clinical Education

Midwestern University
College of Health Sciences
Physical Therapy Program
Alumni Hall North 340-B
555 31st St.
Downers Grove, IL 60515

Office 630-515-7206




B.S. Exercise Science Saint Louis University 2004
M.S. Physical Therapy Saint Louis University 2006
DPT Exercise Science Saint Louis University 2007

Research Summary

Scientific Field of Interest

Physical Therapy Student Preparation for and Performance in the Clinical Environment

Student Physical Therapists have to be prepared to enter the clinical setting and demonstrate adequate entry level performance in the clinical setting.  As the demands of the clinical environment grow it is important that we      look for innovative models for clinical education and to meet the needs of our students, clinical partners, patients, and payer sources.  


Patient Functional Improvement during Acute Stroke Rehabilitation and Return to Life Roles Following Stroke Rehabilitation

Patient management following stroke needs to adapt to our growing knowledge of brain plasticity and the shortened periods of rehabilitation.  Therapists must demonstrate the ability to follow evidence based practice, find safe and novel approaches to increase patient participation outside of scheduled therapy time, demonstrate objective measure improvements, and complete therapeutic interventions and education in shorter rehabilitation stays.  The focus of my research has been translational research for a large variety of patients in an acute stroke rehabilitation setting.  In addition, following stroke rehabilitation patients have the rest of their lives as stroke survivors, and I am interested in the patients' and families' ability to return to life roles and ongoing functional improvement following discharge from rehabilitation.

Research Projects

Project I- Motivation through Commercially Available Pedometers to Encourage Increased Steps per Day in Acute Stroke Rehabilitation.
There is a significant amount of evidence that supports increased intensity of physical activity and functional mobility during stroke rehabilitation is needed. The time patients spend in therapy is likely 60 to 90 minutes of physical therapy a day in acute stroke rehabilitation. Therapists must find additional ways to encourage mobility throughout the therapeutic day rather than just during physical therapy.  The aim of this study is to utilize commercially available pedometers to encourage increased steps per day with family and nursing staff outside of therapy time and to monitor gait speed improvements, Functional Independence Measure (FIM) of gait improvements, and steps per day to evaluate correlations between measures and improvements compared to previously reported average improvements during rehabilitation.  

Project II- Monitoring Community Mobility with GPS Technology after Stroke Rehabilitation.
This project is utilizing Global Positioning Systems (GPS) Technology to track participation in individuals post-stroke immediately following rehabilitation and up to one year following discharge from acute stroke rehabilitation.  The ability of individuals to access the community, including both in number of visits and means of travel in the community, is extremely important to determine the individuals' return to life roles and important locations.  The aim of this study is to evaluate the number of times a patient is in the community and amount of target locations visited in a week period at regular intervals for the first year following stroke rehabilitation utilizing GPS technology.

Project III-  AFO and FES for Foot Drop in Post-Stroke Hemiplegia: A Clinical Practice Guideline

Following stroke, foot drop is a common impairment leading to gait deficits, safety concerns, and decreased quality of life.  To improve safe and functional ambulation physical therapists often prescribe an Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO) or Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES).  The determination of the appropriate device and timing of use is dependent on multiple factors and there is a significant breadth of literature to support the use of both devices.  The development of a Clinical Practice Guideline was determined to be needed to help clinicians determine best practice in the prescription of AFO and FES for individuals following stroke who exhibit decreased foot clearance during ambulation.

Selected Publications

Pregait balance rehabilitation in acute stroke patients.
Rao N, Zielke D, Keller S, Burns M, Sharma A, Krieger R, Aruin AS.
Int J Rehabil Res. 2013 Jun;36(2):112-7 

Monitoring community mobility with global positioning system technology after a stroke: a case study.
Evans CC, Hanke TA, Zielke D, Keller S, Ruroede K.
J Neurol Phys Ther. 2012 Jun;36(2):68-78