Alumni Highlights

Kathleen SlukaKathleen Sluka, PT, PhD, FAPTA
Department of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Science
Director, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy
The University of Iowa

The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) is pleased to highlight alumna Kathleen Sluka, PT, PhD, FAPTA. Dr. Sluka earned her doctoral degree in anatomy at UTMB in 1993 under the mentorship of Dr. Karin Westlund-High and received postdoctoral training under Dr. Bill Willis in the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology from 1993 to 1995. In 1996, Dr. Sluka was recruited to the University of Iowa as an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science. She became an associate professor in 2001 and was promoted to professor in 2005.

Dr. Sluka’s research focuses on the neurobiology of musculoskeletal pain, the transition from acute to chronic pain, and the mechanisms and effectiveness of non-pharmacological pain treatments with an emphasis on TENS and exercise. Her laboratory is translational - exploring mechanisms in animal models of pain and analgesia, translating these mechanisms to clinical trials, and implementing effective, non-pharmacological clinical treatment. Her long-term goal is to improve the management of individuals with chronic pain through the development of new pharmacological targets and to improve usage of safe and effective non-pharmacological pain treatments.

Dr. Sluka has made extensive contributions to the field of pain research, publishing 220 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 2 books, 22 book chapters, and 260 published abstracts. Her work has been continuously funded throughout her academic career, and she currently holds an R01 and UM1 NIH awards and grants from the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Sluka has received many national awards during her career including an NIH K02 grant, the Distinguished Service Award, and the F.W.L. Kerr Basic Science Research Award from the American Pain Society. She serves in leadership positions for national and international scientific organizations and editorial boards and also participates on numerous NIH, national, and international committees. She served as an Elected Councilor of the International Association for the Study of Pain from 2005-2011, a member of the National Pain Research Strategy’s Working Groups on Chronic Pain and Transition from Acute to Chronic Pain from 2016-2017, and is currently a Section Editor for PAIN. Over the years, Dr. Sluka has emerged as the nation’s most prominent pain researcher in the field of physical therapy. Congratulations to Dr. Sluka as the GSBS 50th Anniversary August alumna!

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