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Physical Therapy Alumna, Faculty Collaborate on Airbag for Hips

By Nicole Carrera

Published on July 30, 2020

Rebecca Tarbert HS’99, MPT’99, PT, DPTWith more than 300,000 senior patients hospitalized each year for hip fractures, USciences faculty in the Department of Physical Therapy along with an alumna of the program are studying new technology that has a chance to give patients a leg up. Tango, a device company that created a product that deploys like an airbag in the event of a fall, is currently collaborating with physical therapy faculty and alumna Rebecca Tarbert HS’99, MPT’99, PT, DPT, Director of Clinical programs. 

“Traditional methods of hip fracture prevention for older adults identified as being at risk of a serious fall injury include the utilization of floor mats and the gold standard of passive hip padded garments.” said Dr. Tarbert. “The adherence to these garments has proven to be low. The Tango belt is an unobstructive wearable that exceeds not only the impact force attenuation of the traditional hip pad garment, but has also demonstrated greater user adherence.”

Tango was founded by trauma surgeon Dr. Robert Buckman, and engineer Drew Lakatos. The pair realized that they both had an interest in preventing hip fractures in older adult patients, and together they created the Tango Belt. 

This wearable device senses when a patient falls, and deploys an airbag to protect the hips and offer increased safety from fall injuries. The Tango belt also sounds an alarm, tracks how often the patient falls, and has the capability to alert emergency contacts via email or text. Tango airbag deployed during a fall

Tango is currently collaborating with USciences physical therapy faculty members including Carol Maritz PT, EdD, GCS, and Shaun Varrecchia PT, DPT, to secure a research study into the belt and how it can offer increased balance confidence and independent mobility for those at risk of hip fracture.

“One of the reasons I chose physical therapy as a career is that there are so many options as to what you can do with the skill set,” said Dr. Tarbert. “My master’s degree prepared me with the foundational knowledge of the practice of physical therapy, with aspects of the many pathways physical therapists can take.”

Dr. Tarbert received her master’s in physical therapy at 22 with the help of USciences’ 5-year accelerated program, and later went on to receive her doctorate from Temple University. Dr. Tarbert has also achieved her American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) clinical specialization in geriatrics. 

“The pathway I have taken over the years since leaving USciences isn’t for everyone, but I continue to trust my gut and believe in my own abilities, which has paid off,” Dr. Tarbert shares. 

Her passion for consulting with health technology companies and rehabilitation providers has led her to this point, and she anticipates she will someday move into a full time consulting role. 

In the turbulent time that students are experiencing now, Dr. Tarbert offers advice to those entering the physical therapy field. 

“Be open to opportunities and always be ready for change...it is inevitable,” she said. “The work of physical therapy is dynamic, and if you allow yourself to engage with the evolution of how healthcare is being delivered, you will reap the benefits of being part of a change versus suffering the challenges of resistance.”

Categories: News, Samson College of Health Sciences, Department of Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy, Alumni, Faculty, Research