Jeanne Zanca, PhD

Head shot of Jeanne Zanca, PhD

Senior Research Scientist

Self-Management Skill Development Laboratory

Jeanne M. Zanca, PhD, MPT is a Senior Research Scientist for Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Research at Kessler Foundation and Research Associate Professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.  Dr. Zanca’s research focuses on secondary complications of SCI, with an emphasis on empowering interventions—programs or services that enable people with SCI and their loved ones to take the actions needed in everyday life to prevent and manage complications of SCI.  

Her current research focuses on promoting self-management of chronic pain and its consequences and improving quality of personal care assistance services for people with SCI.  Dr. Zanca also contributed to the development of the Rehabilitation Treatment Specification System, a theory-based system for defining rehabilitation interventions that is designed to improve clinical education, practice, and research. Dr. Zanca is a co-investigator for the Northern New Jersey Spinal Cord Injury System and an active member of the Kessler Foundation Institutional Review Board. She has successfully competed for funding from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, Department of Defense, New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Research, the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.  

Dr. Zanca is a leader in the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, serving as Chair of the SCI Interdisciplinary Special Interest Group (SCI-ISIG), Co-Chair of the SCI-ISIG Task Force on Secondary Complications and Aging, and Chair-Elect of the Rehabilitation Treatment Specification Networking Group.  She is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Spinal Cord Injury Medicine. Dr. Zanca received her Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science and Master of Physical Therapy degree from the University of Pittsburgh, where her research work focused on pressure injury prevention and early detection.  Her undergraduate degree in Biology/Psychology was completed at Rutgers University.  

Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal Investigation
Disability Rehabilitation
DPhil - Rehabilitation Science, University of Pittsburgh
MS - Graduate and Professional, University of Pittsburgh
MPT - Physical Therapy, University of Pittsburgh
BA - Biology and Psychology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick
First Place Poster Award, 84th Annual Meeting of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM) and the 14th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Neurorehabilitation (ASNR), 2007
Honorable Mention for Scientific Poster. Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, 2006
Outstanding Assembly Board Representative, awarded by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate and Professional Student Association, 2005
University of Pittsburgh-National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) Program Fellowship, 2004 – 2005
Jewish Healthcare Foundation/Coro Center for Civic Leadership Pittsburgh Health Sciences Fellow, 2003
Certified Coro Center for Civic Leadership Trainer, 2003
University of Pittsburgh-National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) Fellowship, 6/1999 – 12/2001
Leadership Scholar Award, awarded by the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Development, Rutgers College, 1998
Research Interests

Dr. Zanca’s research focuses on secondary complications of spinal cord injury (SCI), with an emphasis on empowering interventions—programs or services that provide knowledge, skills, or technologies that enable people with SCI and their loved ones to take the actions needed in everyday life to prevent and manage complications of SCI.


Yarar-Fisher C, Heyn P, Zanca JM, Charlifue S, Hsieh J, Brienza DM. (2017) early identification of cardiovascular diseases in people with spinal cord injury: Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 98(6):1277-1279. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2016.10.001. Feb 6. PubMed PMID: 28185637.

Hammond FM, Barrett R, Dijkers MP, Zanca JM, Horn SD, Smout RJ, Guerrier T, Hauser E, Dunning MR. (2015) group therapy use and its impact on the outcomes of inpatient rehabilitation after traumatic brain injury: data from traumatic brain injury-practice based evidence project. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. S282-92.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2014.11.029. PubMed PMID: 26212404; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4517295.

Zanca JM, Heyn P, Horn S, Charlifue S, Hsieh CH, Brienza DM, Chen Y, Dyson-Hudson T, Backus D; (2015) secondary complications and aging task force of ACRM spinal cord injury interdisciplinary special interest group. evaluating your pressure ulcer prevention plan: a problem-solving worksheet for people with spinal cord injury and their health care providers. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2015 Nov;96(11):2089-90. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2015.03.001. PubMed PMID: 26209604.

Dijkers MP, Ferraro MK, Hart T, Packel A, Whyte J, Zanca JM. (2014) toward a rehabilitation treatment taxonomy: summary of work in progress. Phys Ther. 94(3):319-21. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20130999. Erratum in: Phys Ther. 2014 Apr;94(4):437. PubMed PMID: 24481596.

Dijkers MP, Hart T, Tsaousides T, Whyte J, Zanca JM. (2014) treatment taxonomy for rehabilitation: past, present, and prospects. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 95(1 Suppl):S6-16. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2013.03.032. Review. PubMed PMID: 24370326.



  • Northern New Jersey Spinal Cord Injury System
    Objective: To demonstrate and evaluate a multidisciplinary system of rehabilitation care for persons with SCI, to contribute longitudinal data to the National SCI Database, and disseminate research findings to consumers and clinicians interested in SCI. The site-specific project examines pharmacologic approaches to managing bladder dysfunction, a complication that adversely affects quality of life for many individuals living with SCI.