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Game on

Sam K. Yohannan, DPT, ’12, PT, MS, puts his heart and soul into the game. Video games, that is. Dr. Yohannan has spent years making a difference in the lives of burn survivors through his research in video game therapy. His latest study demonstrates the outcomes on pain, anxiety, active range of motion, function, and enjoyment with the use of the Nintendo Wii during acute burn rehabilitation.

Dr. Yohannan is the senior physical therapy specialist and burn research coordinator at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City. Born and raised in New York, he has traveled around the country practicing rehabilitation in a variety of settings. He also has presented research forums both nationally and internationally and taught physical therapy overseas as a member of the International Outreach Committee of the American Burn Association.

He took a specific interest in treating burn survivors during his burn service rotation around the time of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. That’s when Dr. Yohannan fell in love with the patient population and found that working with burn patients was the most satisfying.

“To see patients walk around the burn unit after being in bed for so long, to see them get better and return to their function, families, and communities,” he says, “is the most rewarding.”

For instance, one burn survivor, a former soccer player, became deeply depressed by his injury. Through gaming, Dr. Yohannan was able to get him back on a virtual soccer field.

Just months before earning his doctorate in physical therapy from ASHS, Dr. Yohannan’s research, “The Utilization of Nintendo Wii on Burn Rehabilitation: A Pilot Study,” was published in the Journal of Burn Care and Research. The article received the 2011 American Burn Association’s Clinical Research Award.

With his DPT in hand, Dr. Yohannan hopes to continue to study the effects of gaming therapy on engaging and motivating patients. His favorite part of working as a researcher, he says, is seeing clinicians reference and apply research evidence to improve patient care.

“Gaming allows patients to temporarily escape from the hospital or their physical condition and gives them a way to interact with other patients,” Dr. Yohannan says. “Not only do video games facilitate active movement, but it also puts smiles on faces.”

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