A passion for health care research
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson March 25, 2020
UD’s Greg Hicks appointed associate vice president for clinical and translational research
Gregory Hicks, professor of physical therapy at the University of Delaware, said he vividly remembers patients he treated as a newly minted physical therapist almost 25 years ago. In particular, he remembers the older patients who had endured chronic back pain from decades of life’s stresses and strains, yet they never failed to show humor and grace during their physical therapy appointments. Their wit and energy reminded him of his beloved grandmother.
Hicks was determined to figure out treatments to alleviate their pain. So, when the opportunity arose to pursue his doctorate and work on a research project focusing on spinal pain, a passion he never had before emerged and continues to drive him today.
“I really love being a clinical researcher and helping people — and helping to start other people’s research careers, just as my mentors inspired me,” said Hicks, who currently is deputy dean of UD’s College of Health Sciences and former chair of its physical therapy program, ranked number-one in the nation. “The better we all are at doing that, at helping others to find their passion and succeed as translational researchers, the more positive change we can make for patients within the health care system.”
Soon, Hicks will have the opportunity to spark such positive change on an even broader scale, with his appointment as the University’s associate vice president for clinical and translational research and principal investigator of the Delaware Center for Translational Research ACCEL program, the latter following final approval by the National Institutes of Health. Funded by NIH, ACCEL supports translational research statewide through mentoring, education and infrastructure improvements with the aim to improve health outcomes for all Delawareans. ChristianaCare, Nemours and Delaware State University are all partners, along with the Medical University of South Carolina.
Hicks will take the reins from Stuart Binder-Mcleod, Edward L. Ratledge Professor of Physical Therapy, who is retiring from UD after a distinguished career spanning more than three decades. Hicks will transition to the new roles later this spring.
“Dr. Hicks is the ideal choice to lead our clinical and translational research programs at this time, and I am delighted to join with him in the work ahead,” said Charles G. Riordan, vice president for research, scholarship and innovation. “We are deeply grateful to Stuart Binder-Mcleod, the inaugural holder of these roles, for laying the tremendous foundation we will build on. Greg brings the knowledge, experience and passion that will continue our mission and momentum in support of public health.”
Hicks brings a unique combination of leadership and professional experience to the position.
Among the highlights, after joining the UD faculty in 2007, Hicks was promoted to associate professor and then began taking on key administrative leadership positions, including department chair, then deputy dean and director of Advancing Diversity in Physical Therapy (ADaPT), UD’s program to increase diversity in the physical therapy workforce so as to maximize health outcomes for all Americans.
He also has led a series of major research projects, including a current $4.3 million study funded by the NIH National Institute on Aging, relating to chronic low back pain in older adults.
Hicks has served extensively at the national level, including as past chair of NIH’s National Advisory Board on Medical Rehabilitation Research, as a standing member of the Neurologic, Aging and Musculoskeletal Epidemiology study section for NIH and as a member of the board of directors of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). In 2018, APTA named him a Catherine Worthingham Fellow, their highest membership category, for demonstrating unwavering efforts to advance the physical therapy profession through leadership, influence and achievement.
Hicks said he wouldn’t have known back when he was a student at UD, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in biological sciences and in English and a master’s degree in physical therapy, that he could do what he’s doing now had it not been for his role models and mentors: Stuart Binder-MacLeod; Lynn Snyder-Mackler, Alumni Distinguished Professor; and Paul Mettler, associate professor emeritus.
He said he will always be indebted to them for their guidance and support. And as he considers his new roles, and ways to efficiently and effectively streamline research processes, he knows that his first patients won’t be far from his thoughts.
“I’m really excited about this,” Hicks said. “I love to help people. This is the stuff I think I’m made for.”