AUGUSTA, Ga. - Dr. Abiodun Akinwuntan, an Associate Professor of Physical Therapy, Neurology, Ophthalmology, and Graduate Studies at Georgia Regents University, has been named a Fulbright Foreign Scholar to improve physiotherapy education and research and the rehabilitation of neurologically impaired patients in Nigeria.
Akinwuntan, Director of the GRU Driving Simulation Laboratory and Interim Associate Dean of Research for the College of Allied Health Sciences, will spend 10 months in Nigeria, teaching and conducting research in the College of Medicine at the University of Lagos.
He considers the award a rare opportunity to give back to his home country.
"There are many Nigerians abroad in academia and research who do fantastic work but aren't able to return to help improve health care delivery," said Akinwuntan, a naturalized U.S. citizen. "This will enable me to use the knowledge and expertise I have developed in my academic pursuits outside Nigeria to contribute to improving the country's quality of physical therapy education and clinical rehabilitation. On a personal level, at this point in my career, I welcome the opportunity to give back to my country of origin."
The Fulbright Program, administered by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, matches countries looking for expertise in certain areas with U.S. faculty and professionals who can provide it. Akinwuntan's award is the first granted to further physical therapy education and research in Nigeria.
Nigeria, with a population of 162 million, is Africa's most populous country, but has limited access to state-of-the-art scientific discoveries, said Akinwuntan. He hopes to bring effective teaching and research methods that could ultimately lead to significant quality improvement in the country's health care services.
Akinwuntan will teach five courses in neurology and research to instructors and students, incorporating the latest technologies and concepts in evidence-based rehabilitation, preferred research design and methodologies, technology-enhanced presentation skills, and statistics.
"The beauty of programs like this is that you can develop them in a way that is sustainable," Akinwuntan said. "The benefits continue to self-propagate."
Akinwuntan's research component will compare virtual reality-based rehabilitation with conventional strengthening and reaching exercises, aiming to optimize treatment of the upper limb after stroke. Nigerian professors and students will participate in the project.
"Medicine is a hands-on profession," Akinwuntan said. "This study will compare the treatment modality currently practiced in Nigeria with new techniques, then objectively look at the results and see which yields a better outcome for the patient."
The study also will compare results of the Nigerian research with U.S. studies to determine if data are consistent across populations, Akinwuntan said, noting a dearth of objective data from Africa.
At GRU, Akinwuntan teaches neurophysiology, neurology, and research and is a frequent mentor for student researchers. He has received numerous grants to investigate driving simulation and virtual technologies to improve function in patients with stroke, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders.
Akinwuntan received doctoral and master's degrees in neuromotor rehabilitation from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Catholic University of Leuven) in Belgium, a master's degree in public health from Georgia Regents University, and a bachelor of science degree in physical therapy from the University of Lagos in Nigeria.
College of Allied Health Sciences
Georgia Regents University