By Kate Hunger
Growing up in the Philippines, Assistant Professor Bobby Belarmino, PT, DPT, PhD, CCS, was mesmerized by the power of the heart.
“I was always fascinated by the heart since I was a little boy; how one single organ the size of a fist is so strong that when the heart stops … you know what happens,” said Dr. Belarmino, a faculty member in the Department of Physical Therapy. “It’s not like a broken bone that will heal eventually, and you can still continue to live your life. When the heart stops, you know the result.”
Dr. Belarmino’s passion for the heart would eventually dovetail with his interest in physical therapy, a profession he chose after he helped care for his grandmother as she recovered from a stroke. “I saw how my grandmother went from bedridden to ambulatory,” he said. “It was fascinating to me to see that transformation.”
Dr. Belarmino earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy from Virgen Milagrosa University Foundation in the Philippines, a master’s in Applied Physiology from Columbia University, a Doctor of Physical Therapy from MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, and a PhD in Physical Therapy from Texas Woman’s University in Houston. He is a board-certified cardiopulmonary clinical specialist.
Dr. Belarmino joined UT Health San Antonio in 2019. His research interests include intensive care unit rehabilitation, most recently with a focus on PT interventions on COVID-19 patients. His other research interests include reducing hospital readmission among patients with cardiovascular and pulmonary issues through the use of PT, and the use of rehabilitation interventions to improve frailty among the elderly.
One of his current research projects studies how PT can help reduce hospital readmissions. He also is researching how lung transplant patients can be weaned from mechanical ventilation by strengthening the diaphragm using an inspiratory muscle training (IMT) device. Dr. Belarmino was one of the authors of “Physical Therapy Practice for Critically Ill Patients With COVID-19 in the Intensive Care Unit,” published in the September 2021 edition of Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy Journal. The article describes the authors’ development of a novel clinical decision-making algorithm to guide PT practice for patients with COVID-19 in the ICU.
With an eye toward future research, Dr. Belarmino is seeking collaborators who also are interested in studying the psychosocial aspect of chronic cardiovascular conditions and the role PT can play in identifying and helping manage the patients’ stressors.
Dr. Belarmino always finds the intersection of teaching, research and clinical care to yield the most meaningful insights as he helps prepare future clinicians.
“I look at it as a symbiosis between teaching, researching and doing clinical practice. They all intertwine. I engage the class in good discussion when I bring in patient stories from the clinic. I am a better clinician when I am current in my clinical skills and knowledge, and I come up with good research questions when I am at bedside.”