Ph.D in Rehabilitation Science
Masters in Physical Therapy
Board Certified Specialist in Neurologic Physical Therapy
Dr. Colón-Semenza is a rehabilitation scientist and a physical therapist who is a Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Neurologic Physical Therapy. Her research is focused upon motivation for exercise in people with neurological conditions as well as the reduction of health disparities in rehabilitation. She brings a wealth of experience to her research from over a decade of clinical practice, much of which was at the Nayden Rehabilitation Clinic at the University of Connecticut.
Dr. Colón-Semenza completed her PhD in Rehabilitation Science at Boston University under the mentorship of Dr. Terry Ellis. She received her Master’s of Physical Therapy at the University of Delaware and received her Bachelor’s of Science at Rutgers College. She is currently a board member of the Connecticut chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association. Dr. Colón-Semenza is involved in the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) locally and nationally. She represents CT nationally in the APTA House of Delegates. In the CT chapter of the APTA, Dr. Colón-Semenza is a chairperson of the Special Interest Group focused upon Neurologic Physical Therapy and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. When she is not conducting research, engaging with students, or working with patients she can be found running and hiking on the beautiful trails surrounding UConn, with her family, friends, and puppy!
Motivation, behavior change, social support, apathy, effort-based decision-making, health equity, mental health
I am broadly interested in motivation for exercise and physical activity. My long-term research aim is to increase the physical activity of people with neurological conditions to mitigate symptoms and disease progression. Specifically, I aim to engage individuals from underrepresented groups with neurological disorders through community-based participatory research. I am currently adapting a physical activity peer coaching program for individuals living with Parkinson disease who identify as Hispanic/Latinx or Black/African American. This is an extension of my prior work, a behavioral feasibility trial, grounded in Bandura’s social cognitive theory and self-determination theory. We used mobile health technology along with principles of behavior change in the general population of people with Parkinson disease.
In addition, I have investigated the role of effort valuations and incentives to increase physical activity, especially in the face of impaired motivation, namely apathy and the anticipation of pleasure in neurological conditions (impairments in mesolimbic dopaminergic pathways). Finally, I am interested in the effect of physical therapist interventions upon mental health in those living with neurological conditions. My diverse clinical experiences in hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, and outpatient clinics for over two decades inform my research questions and drive for health equity.
PT 5456 – Neuromuscular Rehabilitation
PT 5466- Integrated Clinical Experience, Neuromuscular
Grants & Awards
Boston University, Sharon and Robert Ryan Fellow, 2018
Boston University, Dudley Allen Sargent Research Fund award (#9250001170), 2017
World Parkinson Congress Travel Award, 2016
University of Connecticut, Service Learning Faculty Fellow, 2013-2014
K. Rawson, J.T. Cavanaugh, C. Colon-Semenza, T. DeAngelis, R.P. Duncan, D. Fulford, M. LaValley, P. Mazzoni, T. Nordahl, L. Quintiliani, M. Saint-Hilaire, C. Thomas, G.M. Earhart, T.D. Ellis. Design of the WHIP-PD study: a phase II, twelve-month, dual-site, randomized controlled trial evaluating the effects of a cognitive-behavioral approach for promoting enhanced walking activity using mobile health technology in people with Parkinson-disease. BMC Neurology, 2020, April 20;20(1):146
C. Colón-Semenza, D. Fulford, T. Ellis. Effort-Based Decision-Making for Exercise in People with Parkinson Disease. Journal of Parkinson Disease, under review
T. Ellis, C. Colón-Semenza, C. Thomas, M. St. Hilaire, G. Earhart, L. Dibble. Evidence-Based Physical Therapy and Exercise for Parkinson Disease. Seminars in Neurology, under review
C. Colón-Semenza, N. Latham, L. Quintiliani, T. Ellis. Peer Coaching Through mHealth Targeting Physical Activity in People with Parkinson Disease: A Feasibility Study. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 2018, February 15; 6(2): e42
N. Wendel, C. Macpherson, K. Webber, K. Hendron, T. DeAngelis, C. Colon-Semenza, T. Ellis. Accuracy of Activity Trackers in Parkinson Disease: Should We Prescribe Them? Physical Therapy Journal, 2018, June
J. Lang, T. Kassan, C. Colón-Semenza, L. Devaney, M. Joseph. Test-Retest Reliability and Minimal Detectable Change for the 10-Meter Walk Test in Older Adults With Parkinson’s disease, Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy, 2016, Oct-Dec;39(4):165-70
C. Colón-Semenza. Chapter 10: Exercise & Physical Therapy in the Management of Parkinson’s Disease in “A Free, Brief Guide to Parkinson’s Disease for Patients and Families” J. Friedman, Feb. 2020
Zajac JA, Cavanaugh JT, Colón-Semenza C, DeAngelis TR, Duncan RP, Hessler M, Nordahl T, Rawson KS, Shumate S, Earhart GM, Ellis TD. Life-space as an indicator of active mobility in persons with Parkinson disease. Platform Presentation, American Physical Therapy Association, Combined Sections Meeting, Virtual, February 2021
C. Colón-Semenza, M. Warren, D. Fulford, T. Ellis. Effort-Based Decision-Making for Exercise in People with Parkinson Disease, American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting, Denver, CO. February 2020
J.T. Cavanaugh, C. Colón-Semenza, T. DeAngelis, R. Duncan, D. Fulford, M. Hessler, T. Nordahl, K. Rawson, G. Earhart, T. Ellis. How Well Do Clinical Walking Measures Predict Natural Walking Behavior in Parkinson Disease? American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting, Denver, CO. February 2020
A Christoforou, S.A. Archer, J.T. Cavanaugh, C. Colón-Semenza, T.R. DeAngelis, R.P. Duncan, D. Fulford, M. LaValley, T. Nordahl, L. Quintiliani, K.S. Rawson, M. Saint-Hilaire, C.A. Thomas, J.A. Zajac, G.M. Earhart, T.D. Ellis. Is Walking Self-Efficacy Related to Real-World Ambulatory Activity in Community-Dwelling Adults with Parkinson Disease? American Physical Therapy Association, Combined Sections Meeting, Denver, CO. February 2020
C. Colón-Semenza, T. Cole, M. Delaney, D. Fulford, T. Ellis. Anhedonia Influences Physical Activity Levels in People with Parkinson Disease. American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting, Washington, D.C. February 2019
A. Andreasik, A. Williams, C. Colón-Semenza, T.R., DeAngelis, K. Hendron, T. Ellis. Benefits of Physical Activity in Improving Function in persons with Parkinson Disease. American Physical Therapy Association, Combined Sections Meeting, New Orleans, LA. February 2018
C. Colón-Semenza. Motivation & Apathy in People with Parkinson Disease. Boston University, Parkinson Disease Community Wellness Group Training, Boston, MA, May 2017
C. Colón-Semenza, N. Latham, L. Quintiliani, N. Sullivan, T. Ellis. Feasibility of Peer Coaching to Increase Physical Activity in People with Parkinson Disease. American Physical Therapy Association, Combined Sections Meeting, San Antonio, TX, February 2017
C. Colón-Semenza, N. Latham, L. Quintiliani, N. Sullivan, T. Ellis, A. Jette. Development of a Training Program for Peer Exercise Coaches for People With Parkinson Disease. Gerontological Society of America, Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA, November 2016
C. Colón-Semenza, J. Wertheimer, T. Ellis. Are People with Parkinson Disease Adhering to National Guidelines for Exercise and Physical Activity? American Physical Therapy Association, Combined Sections Meeting, Anaheim, CA, February 2016