Linda Koehler, PhD, PT, CLT-LANA, an assistant professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School, recently earned the 2020 American Physical Therapy (APTA) Oncology Research Award, which recognizes its members annually whose work has contributed specifically to oncologic physical therapy.

Her research in this realm focuses on cancer survivorship and lymphatic disorders, specifically on axillary web syndrome, lymphedema and outcome measures following breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“My current research focus is on interventions to improve the physical and mental health, function and quality of life of cancer survivors,” Dr. Koehler said. “A high number of cancer survivors experience dysfunction and disability as a result of their cancer or cancer treatment. Unfortunately, few people receive rehabilitation services, which could potentially mitigate these issues and improve their quality of life.”

Dr. Koehler, who earned her physical therapy degree in 1995 and doctorate in rehabilitation sciences in 2013 from the Medical School, describes how COVID-19 has challenged this research and, at the same time, has inspired her to think differently about ways her research can make an impact.

“My research team and I have transitioned an in-person, specialized physical therapy intervention to telemedicine for breast cancer survivors. I am excited about this work because I envision, someday, bringing this intervention to cancer survivors living in rural regions that do not have access to specialized care,” she said.

Award winners were recognized this year during the APTA Oncology Virtual Celebration of Life during the organization’s Virtual Combined Sections Meeting.

“I am dedicated to improving the clinical care of individuals afflicted with cancer through my research to improve cancer survivor’s physical health, function and quality of life. I am truly humbled and honored to have received recognition from our professional organization,” she said. “I feel this award helps validate my work and highly motivates me to continue doing research in cancer survivorship. I’m sincerely grateful for the recognition and to my colleagues and mentors who nominated me.”