Know your Professor: George Coggeshall

February 10, 2016


We learn about PT Professor Coggeshall and the importance of Heart Month!

I love my students because___

They’re wonderful collaborators and believe that if they work together and help each other, they’ll all rise to the top! They ask great insightful questions, which keep me on my toes! We have a solid mix of learning and fun… they even laugh at my corny jokes!

What's your favorite class to teach and why?

This is like asking me which of my three children is my favorite – my answer is “the one that is in the room!” My students would say I’m passionate about Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Physical Therapy and Management for the Physical Therapist.

How do your students learn about the heart?

One of the reasons I chose to teach at Simmons is the way we emphasize the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems in our DPT curriculum. It starts during Advanced Human Anatomy, teaching small groups about the heart and lungs of their cadaver and I use that to provide a solid foundation for the Cardiovascular and Pulmonary course and through all the remaining clinical courses. I teach my students to appreciate they might not be able to treat a patient the way they planned because of their cardiovascular or pulmonary function. I help them understand how to employ other cardiopulmonary interventions in order to carry out their original plan for the musculoskeletal treatments.

What is your clinical practice area?

I am a board certified Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Clinical Specialist and get to practice one day a week at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. My caseload covers what I’m most passionate about: evaluating and treating patients with cardiac, vascular and pulmonary problems. So that includes post-op bypass grafts, valve repairs, heart transplants, and heart failure, patients with cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis and cancer or those who had surgical bypasses or who are post-op amputation.

In what ways does your clinical practice impact your teaching?

It keeps me most current in contemporary practice and allows me to tell real patient stories in real time in my classroom. It lends even more credibility to my teaching and makes the content interesting for the student. I enjoy when students in the clinic contact me with excitement and say, “I got to see what you were talking about in class!”

What does Heart Month mean to Physical Therapists?

PTs have a unique opportunity to discuss many topics with our patients while treating them. Since many components of heart and vascular disease are preventable, PTs, like nurses and dietitians and other health professionals, routinely discuss risk factors and explain ways to reduce heart and vascular diseases leading to heart attacks and strokes. Heart Month is a great way for all of us to highlight this content and a reminder that we should continue it year round.

As a health professional, what advice do you have for students who may be caring for patients or family members recovering from or experiencing a heart-related condition?

When it doubt – check it out! I have witnessed many patients with serious health problems become life-threatening because they ignored a new problem they didn’t think was a priority or were afraid to seek health care. Force some “tough love” on your friends and family and tell them to be open and honest regarding their symptoms and problems so that they can have a knowledgeable discussion and make an informed decision. You will save a life!

Heart Month is intended to raise awareness about heart disease - what do you think is important to share?

Since all Simmons undergraduate students and many graduate students are women, I want to emphasize the disparity in “heart care” between men and women that's evolved over years because of certain myths and realities. Here are some facts to keep in mind.

  • Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the U.S. 
  • Nearly twice as many U.S. women die from cardiovascular disease related problems such as stroke and heart attacks than from all forms of cancer combined. 
  • Young women are at risk for heart disease: it’s the 3rd most common cause of death among women ages 25-45 years old. 
  • Many young women think that estrogen will protect them from heart disease. The American Heart Association states that the loss of estrogen may contribute to the risk of heart disease as women age, but it has not been proven to protect women from heart disease. 
  • 75-80% of all heart disease clinical trials involve male populations. The conclusions of these male studies cannot be fairly used to guide the evaluation and management of women with heart disease because the pathology itself can be very different in women. Research needs to increase in this area to better evaluate and manage women with heart disease. 
  • Women traditionally are the caretakers of their family and oftentimes put their own care second to their loved ones. My recommendation to the women who might live this way is, “you can’t take care of your loved ones if you don’t take care of yourself!” 

Photo: Professor George Coggeshall with a painting by Simmons DPT alumna, Jennifer Kelly ‘15HS. The artwork titled “Exchange” was inspired by the vessels of the heart and hangs in his office at Simmons.