22 November 2022

Improving Care of Musculoskeletal Injuries for Service Members: A Q&A with MIRROR Research Physical Therapist Marin Smith, PT, DPT

The Musculoskeletal Injury Rehabilitation Research for Operational Readiness (MIRROR) program, led by the Uniformed Services University (USU) and administered by Geneva, has more than 40 clinically relevant Musculoskeletal Injury (MSI) studies within the Military Health System.

MSI affects approximately 800,000 service members annually and results in 25 million days of limited duty. These conditions are the primary reasons for medical discharge and downgrade.

MIRROR provides infrastructure, operational, and research support to advance the treatment and preventive care for service members with non-combat-related MSI and reduce the burden on military readiness. Geneva’s research physical therapists are integral to the success of many of its research projects. We spoke to Geneva Research Physical Therapist Marin Smith, PT, DPT, about her role and the impact it has on military medicine.

Describe your role with Geneva and your impact on the program you work on.

I am a Research Physical Therapist at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in the Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R) Clinic. My job entails recruiting Active-Duty service members, retirees, and dependents for a myriad of research studies that address common musculoskeletal conditions including carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff (shoulder) pathology, knee osteoarthritis, and chronic neck pain. Additional tasks include maintaining regulatory binders, coordinating training for study interventions, baseline and follow-up data collection and participant scheduling. As a clinician, in addition to providing study interventions when applicable, I treat patients within the outpatient physical therapy clinic and support a monthly multi-disciplinary clinic at WRNMMC. As a steady presence within the PM&R clinic, in close collaboration with site investigators, I have been able to keep research as a daily focus for site providers and trainees as they see patients to facilitate recruitment for five research protocols over the past two years.

What kind of experience do you need to become a Research Physical Therapist?

In addition to having a strong foundation in clinical skills, time management, organization, and interpersonal communication are important skills to have as a research physical therapist. On a daily basis, one may need to balance and prioritize various clinical care, study recruitment, and regulatory tasks in addition to meetings with study investigators and key collaborators. Furthermore, being able to learn and adapt quickly as well as work independently can be beneficial within the clinical research environment.

What is the best part of being a Research Physical Therapist in military medicine?

Having the opportunity to give back to a community that has been such an important part of my life has been the most rewarding part of my current position. I grew up in a military family and have cherished every moment spent with the military families we’ve encountered while living stateside and abroad. Service members and their families make many sacrifices in the service of our country. The MIRROR program works to improve the care of service members and their families impacted by MSI and help them improve their quality of life. Additionally, this position has fostered unique opportunities to collaborate with and learn from other rehabilitation professionals, physicians, and surgeons as we strive to improve MSI care and overall operational readiness.

What recent work can you share that most excites you?

I have been able to facilitate the recruitment of over 350 participants across five studies over the past two years and witness firsthand the positive impact that study interventions have had on participants for up to one year from enrollment.

Describe the Geneva company culture in 3 words.




What projects, initiatives, or conferences are up next for you?

In addition to facilitating the start-up of five additional MIRROR research studies within the coming year, I am currently working on a protocol submission focused on utilizing musculoskeletal ultrasound to inform the treatment of upper extremity peripheral entrapment neuropathies under the mentorship of staff physiatrists and orthopedic surgeons. I am also looking forward to presenting at the American Physical Therapy Association’s Combined Sections Meeting in February 2023.


To learn more about the MIRROR program, please visit genevausa.org/programs/mirror.

Disclaimer: The views expressed do not reflect the official policy of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.