Columbia Alumni Siyun Chen

Students posing for a photo with a faculty member.
Siyun Chen, Dr. Clare Bassile, & Anita Lee



          The Programs in Physical Therapy just celebrated its Commencement for the Class of 2022. It was our first in-person graduation since the Covid-19 Pandemic began. We, often think about this class being the most altered by the pandemic, but students like Siyun Chen, who graduated in 2020 were also heavily affected. Although the pandemic arrived toward the end of her academic journey at Columbia, it still had an adverse ramification on her life. Graduates of our program typically end up with multiple job offers frequently from the facilities where they participated in full-time clinical education experiences. Siyun, however had a difficult time finding a job post-graduation in 2020, because everything was shut down. Siyun tried to figure out what her next move would be. She decided to take it slow, and spend some time gathering her thoughts.

            Siyun had a clear understanding of why she was not being hired. It was not due to her lack of knowledge or skills, but it was the fact that we were now living in a new, strange world. This realization helped motivate her to do what she did next. While hiking with her husband, Siyun spoke to him about her DPT 3 masterclass that she completed with her classmate Anita Lee. She reflected on how enjoyable and memorable the experience was. Her husband, who is also a biostatistician at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) became the catalyst in suggesting she take it one step further and have it published.

            Siyun, along with the co-authors, including our very own faculty member Dr. Clare Bassile, collaborated in submitting the manuscript. The title of the work is, “Effectiveness and Success Factors of Bilateral Arm Training After Stroke: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”. Bilateral arm training (BAT) has been presented as a promising approach in upper extremity rehab after a stroke. Siyun noted during our conversation the effectiveness of BAT is inconclusive, and no systematic review and meta-analyses have investigated the impact of different factors on the outcomes of BAT. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to (1) compare the effects of bilateral arm training (BAT) with unilateral arm training (UAT) and conventional therapy (CT) on the upper limb (UL) motor impairments and functional performance post-stroke, and (2) investigate the different contributing factors that may influence the success of BAT. Several randomized control trials (RCTs) met the inclusion criteria and were selected and assessed for methodological qualities. The manuscript can be downloaded below.

            Our conversation with Siyun gave us a reminder of why our students and faculty are so special at Columbia. Success at publishing a manuscript is an incredible accomplishment, but having the determination to carry out that goal while the entire world is going through a pandemic makes this achievement that much better. During our talk Siyun referred to Dr. Bassile as “the brain” behind this publication, Dr. Bassile offered help to her and Anita with structuring the paper, and providing ideas about the approach that they should have with presenting the data. When you graduate from Columbia, you do not leave us. You go out into the world with the skills that you will continue to fine tune. Our faculty remains available to hear you and help with ideas that you might have or goals that you need help accomplishing. Dr. Bassile provided the aforementioned help to Siyun and Anita. During the editing stages, Dr. Bassile offered guidance answering the review questions. Siyun often smiled when she spoke about Dr. Bassile and all the support that she offered. Siyun mentioned times of adversity when a reviewer would not have positive things to say about the publication. Dr. Bassile was always there to offer words of encouragement and keep the entire team moving forward.

            Since the manuscript has been published, Siyun is extremely happy. She has learned an insurmountable amount during this process. Siyun reflects on how difficult the process was, but also how much she enjoyed collaborating with the different authors on this publication. She wanted to encourage present and future students of our program who are interested in research, or are working on a project that they care very deeply about to turn it into a publication. The journey will not be an easy one, but it will be very fulfilling when it happens. Siyun is currently working on another research project and has already begun thinking about her next publication.