September 2007 Issue
The Work Continues
Their academic paths crossed daily for four years –– Deborah Heiss, the interim director of Ohio State University's division of physical therapy, and Toledo native Kevin Granata, OSU alum and professor of engineering science and mechanics at Virginia Tech. The pair were working together on a research project designed to find causes of recurrent back pain. That collaboration came to a devastating end in April, when Granata was felled by a bullet after a gunman opened fire at Virginia Tech, and he and 31 other students and faculty members died as a result of the shootings.
Today, Heiss is committed to carrying on the study he started, determined to find the answer.
"Kevin was such a great guy. He had such an impact on my career that I just really want to make sure that his story is told and people understand it," Heiss says.
At the time of Granata's death, he and Heiss were in the beginning stages of determining whether a battery of exercises targeting the lower back could strengthen the muscles enough to prevent repeat injury. Granata and his team of assistants at Virginia Tech had designed pieces of equipment that measure muscle reflex and stability in sitting.
The idea for the study was sparked after Heiss and Granata met at a grant-writing conference in 2003, and he agreed to be her mentor. The two won a $250,000 National Institutes of Health grant to fund their effort. "The study is making good progress," says Heiss about the research. "Subjects are being recruited to participate."
Heiss remembers her colleague as one who would go out of his way to help others. That's, why after hearing gunfire on April 16, he shepherded frightened students to the shelter of his office and went off to see what else he could do.
"It's not surprising that Kevin put others' safety ahead of his own," Heiss says. "That's who he was."