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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Student Q&A: Mark Hoggarth, Physical Therapy & Human Movement Sciences and Biomedical Engineering Program Student

Mark Hoggarth

Mark Hoggarth, a second-year Doctor of Physical Therapy-PhD student in the Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences, in coordination with the Department of Biomedical Engineering, studies motor vehicle induced whiplash injuries in the lab of James Elliott, PT, PhD, professor of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences.

Hoggarth received his undergraduate degree in applied and computational physics and a master’s degree in applied physics, both from DePaul University in Chicago. He chose to study at Northwestern University because of the program’s focus on research and clinical practice.


What is your hometown?
I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. However, I’ve lived in Chicago since 2002.

What are your research interests?
My research focuses on traumatic injury, imaging modalities, and neuroscience. I study whiplash injuries after a motor vehicle crash in the Neuromuscular Imaging Research Lab (NIRL) with James Elliott, PT, PhD. I’m very interested in neurological changes in the spinal cord following a traumatic injury.

Up to half of people with a whiplash injury never fully recover, and a quarter of people develop a chronic Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD). WAD is characterized by complex clinical presentations of pain, weakness, hypersensitivity, dizziness, tinnitus, and problems swallowing, sleeping, and concentrating. Furthermore, most people developing chronic WAD have no radiological evidence of any pathology. Hence, my research is centered on developing quantitative radiological metrics to help identify those people who will transit to chronic WAD.

What exciting projects are you working on?
I’m excited to be working on a Magnetization Transfer (MT) imaging project right now. MT imaging is a quantitative way of looking at the myelin sheath surrounding neuronal axons in white matter. We’re finding that people with chronic WAD have anomalous MT values in their spinal cord. As the mechanism underlying WADs are very poorly understood, any biomarker helping to distinguish those at risk of chronicity is very exciting.

What attracted you to the DPT-PhD program?
I love research, but I also love working with patients. The dual degree program will put me in a great place to have my own research agenda someday, while still being able to practice clinically. I’m rooted in translational research, which makes me want to get my research out of the lab and into the clinic as quickly as possible. Living in both the clinical and research world is a great way to make sure my work in the lab stays relevant to patient care.

What has been your best experience at Feinberg?
Working in the Center for Translational Imaging (CTI) has been a high point for my training thus far. Learning the ins and outs of the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines, helping people through their scans, and running scans has been a fantastic experience. Everything in my research and clinical concentration comes together when I’m scanning at CTI.

How would you describe the faculty at Feinberg?
I work with multiple research physical therapists (PTs) and PT/PhDs, and I think one of those most astounding things I see is the commitment to their patients and study subjects. From being genuinely interested in a patient’s health to helping a research subject traverse the elevators and get to their car, the faculty here are models for great patient care.

What do you do in your free time?
I spend as much time as possible with my son…Do parents have free time? I enjoy suburban farming, lifting weights, and reading Ernest Hemingway, Annie Dillard, George R. R. Martin, and Laura Numeroff.

What are your plans for after graduation?
My ideal job would be in academics, but in a place where I could have a partial clinical practice. I would also like to travel for a bit, and pursue research collaborations in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.