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Faculty Profile: Rosemary Gallagher

When Associate Professor Rosemary Gallagher, Ph.D., D.P.T., isn’t in the classroom, you can find her on hiking trails assisting people with Parkinson’s disease or on the slopes, teaching people with disabilities how to ski. May 28, 2024

Associate Professor Rosemary Gallagher, Ph.D., D.P.T, first began working with people with Parkinson’s disease while pursuing her Ph.D. at Rutgers. She was already teaching at New York Tech, and by tapping into the large population of people associated with its Parkinson’s program, she was able to conduct research on using stationary cycling as a rehabilitation strategy in a virtual environment. “I did my dissertation on people with Parkinson’s, and I have since grown to love working with this population.”

Gallagher continues her research on the effect of cueing and feedback on exercise intensity using a virtual environment to this day. “The premise behind the work is that we can embed elements, or ‘cues’ in the virtual environment that will influence how the participant reacts to the environment with the goal that they ride faster and thus exercise harder,” she says. “In our virtual bicycling environment, these cues can be auditory like birds singing or wind blowing. We also used visual cues, such as intentional spacing of the white lines on the road. Also, increasing the field of view allows you to incorporate visual cues in the periphery, thus improving the perception of self-motion and immersion into the environment.”

Her work with people with Parkinson’s disease not only shapes her professional and academic career but also drives her free time. When not teaching or working in admissions—Gallagher is also the director of admissions for the physical therapy program in the School of Health Professions—she can be found engaging in multiple volunteer positions related to physical therapy and improving the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s and other disabilities.

Gallagher became involved with PasstoPass through Adena Leder, D.O., director of New York Tech’s Parkinson’s program and associate professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine. PasstoPass is a national organization that plans backpacking trips for people with Parkinson’s designed and led by people with the disease or those with close connections to it. The routes, trails, and distances are selected with the physical challenges of participants in mind. Already an avid hiker, when Gallagher learned about the program, she was enthralled. “It was right in my wheelhouse!”

Her first trip was to Mt. Ranier National Forest in Washington in the summer of 2021. For six days and five nights she attended as a support hiker for one of the boxers in New York Tech’s Rock Steady Boxing program. “It was an unforgettable experience,” she says, and it inspired her to become more involved. “Since 2021, I have advised the board of PasstoPass on improving their intake sheets for hikers and designed an online evaluation process that helps to make better decisions on which hikers to accept. She has gone on to serve as an assistant trip leader, and in 2023, along with healthcare colleagues from Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, Gallagher began the east coast chapter of the PasstoPass organization. “As the hike leader for the Long Island chapter, I plan day hikes once a month for people with Parkinson’s and their friends and loved ones,” she says. “The healing effects of nature, socializing, and having an activity they can do with their families are priceless. I’m a very big proponent of empowering people with Parkinson’s to do things they thought they couldn’t do. With a little help, they can do it!”

In addition to her work with PasstoPass and Rock Steady Boxing, she serves as a board member for her local Civic Association as chair of the communications committee. She also teaches skiing at the Adaptive Sports Foundation at Windham Mountain in New York, working with children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. For the past three years, she has also volunteered at the Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. “It’s the least I can do for people who have put their lives on the line and have paid the price for it to keep us safe.”