Margaret O'Neil, PT, PhD, MPH

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Maggie O'Neil, PT, PhD, MPH is a pediatric rehabilitation researcher with a focus on identifying objective measures of physical acitivty in ambulatory youth with cerebral palsy (CP) to examine the effectiveness of activity-based interventions to promote health, fitness and functional mobility. Dr. O'Neil was a a fulltime clinical pediatric physical therapist for nearly 12 years before she returned to school to earn her Masters in Public Health (MPH) in maternal and child health policy and her PhD in pediatric physical therapy.

In recent years, Dr. O'Neil has partnered with computer and biomedical engineers to design customized video games and virtual and augmented reality experiences to promote fitness and physical activity in youth with CP. She works closely with exercise scientists and public health researchers to establish effective and accessible home and community interventions to reduce sedentary behaviors and increase 'habitual physical activity' and active lifestyles in youth with CP. By increasing adherence to home and community exercise and activity programs, youth with CP may translate and sustain gains achieved in physical therapy. Dr. O'Neil's goals are to understand the protective and risk factors involved in health promotion and physical activity for youth with CP to optimize their health, fitness and functional mobility.

Academic Appointments

  • Professor of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine (Physical Therapy) at CUIMC

Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • BS, Biology, Providence College
  • MPH, Maternal and Child Health , University of North Carolina Gillings Global School of Public Health
  • PhD, Pediatric Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Drexel University
  • MS, Physical Therapy , Duke University Medical Center
  • 2000 Postdoc - Pediatric Outcome Measures , Boston University

Honors & Awards

  1. 2015-2020 Appointed to the Foundation for Physical Therapy Scientific Advisory Committee
  2. 02/2015-2019 Appointed to the American Academy of CP and Developmental Medicine Awards Committee
  3. 05/2015 Drexel University, Academic Innovators Award
  4. 2012-2014 Chair, Research Committee, APTA Section on Pediatrics
  5. 2010-2013 Scientific Advisory Board, President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (I Can Do It! Program)
  6. 2011- pres Nemours AI DuPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, DE – Research Associate
  7. 2010- pres Franciscan’s Children’s Hospital, Brighton, MA – Research Associate
  8. 2010- pres WCPT, IOPTP – Research Committee - PI for Survey on International Pediatric PT Research
  9. 2009 APTA, Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy, Research Award recipient
  10. 1999 Recipient of the Evelyn B. Noyovitz Award for Outstanding Graduate in the Pediatric Physical Therapy Program at MCP/Hahnemann University,
  11. 1999 Member of the Alpha Eta National Honor Society for Scholarship in Allied Health
  12. 1994 Member of the Theta Chapter of the Delta Omega Public Health National Honor Society


Pediatric rehabilitation research - fitness, physical activity, exercise and functional mobility in neurodevelopmental disabilities (e.g. cerebral palsy).


NIH 1 R21 HD 086745 [NICHD NCMRR] O’Neil ME (PI) Sept. 2016 – Aug 2018 ( NCE: Aug 2019)

Title: Machine learning algorithms to measure physical activity (PA) in children with cerebral palsy (CP)

Role: PI (20% salary support )

Drexel Areas of Research Excellence (DARE Grant) O'Neil (Co-I) 2016-2018

DARE 1: Gaming, Simulation and Society

O’Neil: Co-I (8% salary support )

Drexel - Coulter Translational Grant Program (Renewal Grant) O’Neil (Co-PI) July 2015 – December 2016 (NCE: 2017)

KOLLECT: Virtual reality rehabilitation for youth with cerebral palsy [focus on clinical feasibility]

O'Neil: Co-I (20% salary support)

Drexel - Coulter Translational Grant Program O’Neil (Co-PI) October 2014 – December 2015

KOLLECT: Virtual reality rehabilitation for youth with cerebral palsy (CP) [focus on game development and testing in youth wtih CP]

O'Neil: Co-I (20% salary support)

Pending: Columbia Biomedical Engineering Accelerator (BiomedX) O'Neil (Co-PI) Summer/Fall 2019 - 2020

Title: Virtual and Augmented Reality in Rehabilitation (VARR): Promoting Health and Mobility in People with Cerebral Palsy

Selected Publications

  1. O'Neil ME, Fragala-Pinkham M. Clinical Bottom Line (CBL): Preliminary Aquatic Core Sets for children and youth with neurological disorders: Consensus process. Pediatr Phys Ther. April, 2019; (in press).

  2. Landis, C, Finnegan A, O'Neil ME, Shewokis PA. Calculating Heart Rate Variability from ECG Data from Youth with Cerebral Palsy during Active Video Game Sessions. Journal of Visualized Experiments (JOVE) 2019 (in press).

  3. Liljenquist K, O'Neil ME, Bjornson K. Utilization of Physical Therapy Services during Transition for Young People with Cerebral Palsy: A Call for Improved Care into Adulthood. PTJ. 2018; 98(9):796-803.

  4. Gannotti M, Bailes AF, Bjornson K, O'Neil ME, Grant-Buettler M, Dusing S. Pediatric rehabilitation services for children with cerebral palsy: what can existing data sources tell us? Pediatr Phys Ther. 2017;29:179-186.

  5. Christy JB, Lobo MA, Bjornson KB, Dusing SC, Field-Fote E, Gannotti M, Heathcock J, O'Neil ME, Rimmer J. Technology for Children with Brain Injury and Motor Disability: Executive Summary from Research Summit IV. Pediatr Phys Ther. 2016; 28: 483-489.

  6. O'Neil ME, Ideishi RI, Benedetto M, Ideishi SK, Fragala-Pinkham M. A yoga program for preschool children in Head Start and Early Intervention: A feasibility study. J Yoga Phys Ther. 2016; 6:238. doi:10.4172/2157-7595. 1000238

  7. Trost SG, Fragala-Pinkham M, Lennon N, O'Neil ME. Decision trees for detection of activity intensity in youth with cerebral palsy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016; 48 (5): 958-966.

  8. Gannotti ME, Bailes A, O'Neil ME, Williams U, DiRezze B, Law M. Comparative effectiveness research and children with cerebral palsy: identifying a conceptual framework and specifying measures. Pediatri Phys Ther.2016:28;58-69.

  9. O'Neil ME, Fragala-Pinkham M, Lennon N, George A, Forman J, Trost SG. Reliability and validity of objective measures of physical activity in youth with cerebral palsy who are ambulatory. Phys Ther.2016; 96:37-45.

  10. Lennon N, Thorpe D, Dallmeijer AJ, Balemans ACJ, Fragala-Pinkham MA, O'Neil ME, Bjornson K, Clanchy K, Boyd RN. A Systematic Review of the Clinimetric Properties of Measures of Aerobic and Anaerobic Fitness in Adolescents and Adults with Cerebral Palsy. Res in Dev Disabilities.2015:45- 46:316-328.

  11. Fragala-Pinkham M, O'Neil ME, Lennon N, Forman J, Trost SG. Validity of the OMNI rating of perceived exertion for children and adolescents with cerebral palsy. Dev Med Child Neurol.2015;57(8):748-53.

  12. Rowland JL, Fragala-Pinkham M, Miles C, O'Neil ME. The Scope of Pediatric Physical Therapy Practice in Health Promotion and Fitness for Youth with Disabilities. Pediatr Phys Ther.2015;27: 2-15.

  13. O'Neil M, Fragala-Pinkham M, Forman J, Trost S. Measuring reliability and validity of the ActiGraph GT3X accelerometer for children with cerebral palsy: A feasibility study. J Pediatr Rehabil Med.2014; 7:233-240.

  14. Abeysekara P, Turchi R, O'Neil ME. Obesity and Children with Special Health Care Needs: Special Considerations for a Special Population. Current Opinions in Pediatrics. 2014; 26(4): 508-515.

  15. Aaron CA, Chiarello LA, Palisano RJ, Gracely E O'Neil ME, Kolobe T. Relationships among Family Participation, Team Support and Intensity of Early Intervention Services. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics. March 25, 2014.

  16. Kolobe THA, Christy JB, Gannotti ME, Heathcock JC, Damiano DL, Taub E, Majsak MJ, Gordon AM, Fuchs RK, O'Neil ME, Caiozzo VJ. Research Summitt III proceedings on dosing in children with an injured brain or cerebral palsy. Phys Ther. 2014: July; 94(7):907-920.

  17. Trost SG and O'Neil ME. Clinical use of objective measures of physical activity. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2014;48 3: 178-181

  18. Fragala-Pinkham M, Smith HJ, Lombard KA, Barlow C, O'Neil ME. Aquatic aerobic exercise for children with cerebral palsy: A Pilot Study. Physiother Theory Pract, 2014; 30(2): 69-78

  19. Almasri N, O'Neil ME, Palisano RJ. Predictors of need for families of children with cerebral palsy. Disabil Rehabil. April 2013. 1-10.

  20. Dumas HM, Fragala-Pinkham MA, Rosen EL, Klar D, Lombard K, Smith H, Shewokis PA, O'Neil ME. Cardiorespiratory response during physical therapist intervention for infants and young children with chronic respiratory insufficiency. Pediatri Phys Ther.2013; 25 (2): 178-185.

  21. Balemans ACJ, Fragala-Pinkham MA, Lennon N, Thorpe D, Boyd RN, O'Neil ME, Bjornson K, Becher JG, Dallmeijer AJ. A Systematic Review of the Clinimetric Properties of Laboratory and Field based Measures of Aerobic & Anaerobic Fitness in Children with Cerebral Palsy. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2013; 94:287-301

  22. Feehan KA, O'Neil ME, Abdalla D, Fragala-Pinkham M, Kondrad M, Berhane Z, Turchi R. Factors influencing physical activity in children and youth with special health care needs: A pilot study.International Journal of Pediatrics. vol. 2012.

  23. Almasri, N., Palisano, R. J., Dunst, C., Chiarello, L. A., O'Neil, ME, & Polansky, M. Profiles of family needs of children and youth with cerebral palsy. Child: Care, Health and Development. 2012; 38(6): 798-806.

  24. Fragala-Pinkham M, Haley SM, O'Neil ME. Group swimming and aquatic exercise programme for children with autism spectrum disorders: A pilot study. Developmental Neurorehab, 2011; 14(4):230-241.

  25. Sullivan KJ, Wallace J, O'Neil ME, Musolina, G, Mandich M, Studer MT, Bottomly JM. A Vision for 2050: Physical Therapy as Partners in the National Health Agenda.Phys Ther. 2011;91(11):1-9.

For a complete list of publications, please visit:

Book Chapters

  1. Miller F, Bachrach S, Lennon N, O'Neil ME (eds). Cerebral Palsy. 2nd ed; Springer Books, NY, NY. 2019. (in press).
  2. Gilbertson T, Hsu LY, McCoy SW, O'Neil ME. Gaming Technologies for Children and Youth with Cerebral Palsy. In: Cerebral Palsy, 2nd Edition. Eds: Miller F, Bacarach S, O'Neil ME, Lennon M. Springer Publishers, NY, NY. 2019 (in press).
  3. O'Neil ME and Lennon N. Executive Summary: Therapy Management of the Child with Cerebral Palsy. In: Cerebral Palsy, 2nd Edition. Miller F, Bachrach S, O'Neil ME, Lennon M. (eds). Springer Publishers, NY, NY. 2019 (in press).
  4. O'Neil ME, Fragala-Pinkham MA. Physical Therapy for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Promoting Health, Function, and Community Participation. In: Integrated healthcare for people with autism spectrum disorders: interdisciplinary planning and delivery of care. Eds: Giarellli E, Fisher K. Charles C. Thomas Publishers, Springfield, IL. 2015
  5. Tieman BL, Palisano RJ, Gracely EJ, Rosenbaum PL, Chiarello LA, O'Neil ME. Changes in Mobility of Children with Cerebral Palsy over Time and Across Environmental Settings. In: Movement Sciences: Transfer of Knowledge Into Pediatric Physical Therapy. Ed: Robert J. Palisano. Taylor & Francis Group, Routledge, NY. 2004 (e Book: 2012).

Invited Publications: Commentaries & Recommendations

  1. O'Neil, ME. Healthy News Works. School and Community News. Tips for Staying Active and Fit in Winter! January, 2016;
  2. O'Neil ME, Fragala-Pinkham MA, Ideishi RI, Ideishi SK. Community-based programs for children and youth: Our experiences in design, implementation and evaluation. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics.2013.
  3. Fragala-Pinkham, O'Neil ME, Bjornson KF, Boyd RN. Editorial: Fitness and physical activity in children and youth with disabilities. International Journal of Pediatrics. vol. 2012. Article ID 162648, doi:10.1155/2012/162648.
  4. O'Neil ME, Fragala-Pinkham M, Miles C, Rowland J (2012). Roles for Pediatric Physical Therapists in Health Promotion. Fact Sheet by the Health Promotion, Fitness & Wellness Task Force for the APTA Section on Pediatrics.
  5. Fragala-Pinkam M, O'Neil, ME, Westcott SL. (2008). Young children with cerebral palsy- spastic diplegia: Clinical management recommendations for achieving functional mobility outcomes. Topics in Physical Therapy: Pediatrics, Vol. 2, Lesson 1. APTA, Alexandria, VA.
  6. Johnson MJ, O'Neil ME. (2002) Perspectives on the Power of Collaboration. Health Policy Resource, Newsletter of the APTA, Section on Health Policy & Administration; Vol. 2, No. 3.