PhD student embraces interprofessional studies in her facial pain research

Emily Kahnert (pictured above), DPT, CCTT, is not a typical PhD student. She calls herself an “unusual combination of a lot of different things here at the University,” saying that she is “blazing some trails in many ways.” Those trails earned her an American Academy of Orofacial Pain Research grant to implement her dissertation research in orofacial pain and TMD.

Kahnert’s journey with the University of Minnesota began when she received her degree in physical therapy fifteen years ago, but she was drawn to dentistry even then.

“I did a clinical experience in the TMD and orofacial pain clinic that caused me to just fall in love with an area I barely knew existed.” As a physical therapist, Kahnert discovered that she could work with TMD patients to diagnose and treat jaw pain in partnership with the orofacial pain clinic.

Kahnert fell in love with this special combination of physical therapy, oral health, and research--but there was not a clear path forward, until her mentors got together and presented her with one. Paula Ludewig, PhD, PT, director of the Division of Physical Therapy at the University of Minnesota, and Donald Nixdorf, DDS, MS, director of the Division of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder and Orofacial Pain, created a PhD option for Kahnert that allowed her to study rehabilitation science, with her clinical work taking place in the TMD and Orofacial Pain Clinic. Read more about this dynamic researcher!

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