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Sandra A. McCombe Waller, PT, PhD, MS, NCS

Academic Title:

Associate Professor

Primary Appointment:

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science

Secondary Appointment(s):


Additional Title:

Co-Director of SIMDAR


AHB 240B

Phone (Primary):




Education and Training

  • BS in Physical Therapy -University of Maryland Baltimore - 1985
  • MS in Education - Johns Hopkins University - 1991
  • PhD in Rehabiliation Science - University of Maryland Baltimore - 2004
  • Currently enrolled in  MS in Learning Design and Technology -University of Maryland University College


Dr. McCombe Waller is an Associate Professor in the Department of PTRS and Co-Director of the Sensory Motor Development and Rehabilitation Lab (SIMDAR) within the department. She was also the Director of Educational Affairs for the Doctoral of Physical Therapy Program from 2013-2018 where she was responsible for the DPT curriculum and the CAPTE accreditation requirments. Dr. McCombe is currently and has been funded as both PI and Co-I in a number of intervention studies with the goal of understanding the neurophysiological processes that mediated recovery of arm function and postural control after stroke in response to rehabilitation efforts.  She has expertise in functional outcomes testing and the development of novel training approaches to address both upper extremity function and postural control. Additionally she has expertise in neurophysiological measures including transcranial magnetic stimulation and the use of acoustic startle to explore excitability of the central nervous system. She has a history of collaborations with the GRECC, the Maryland Exercise and Robotics Center of Excellence and has participated in the mentoring of junior faculty through those programs. Dr. McCombe Waller has served as a primary mentor for two fellows from the previous ARRT grant and two pre-doctoral students and has served on the dissertation committees for 5 additional students.  As a licensed Physical Therapist and Neurologic Clinical Specialist, Dr. McCombe Waller is familiar with clinical care and educational needs of individuals with disabilities. 

Research/Clinical Keywords

Research: stroke, upper extremity, neuroplasiticity, bilateral, postural control Clinical: neurorehabilitation

Highlighted Publications

  1. Whitall, J., McCombe Waller, S., Silver, K.H.C., Macko, R.F. (2000) Repetitive bilateral arm training with rhythmic auditory cueing improves motor function in chronic hemiparetic stroke. Stroke 31, 2390-2395.
  2. McCombe Waller, S., & Whitall, J (2004). “Fine motor function in adults with chronic hemiparesis: Baseline comparison to non-disabled adults and effects of bilateral arm training. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Jul; 85(7):1076-83
  3. McCombe Waller, S.  and Jill Whitall (2005) Hand Dominance and Side of Stroke Affect Rehabilitation in Chronic Stroke. Clinical Rehabilitation Aug; 19(5):544-51
  4. Luft, A., Forrester, L., Macko, R., McCombe Waller, S., Whitall, J., Villagra, F., and Hanley, D. (2005) Brain activation of lower extremity movement in chronically impaired stroke survivors. Neuroimage. May 15; 26(1):184-94.
  5. Luft, A., McCombe Waller, S.,Whitall, J, Smith, G., Forrester, L, Macko, R., Hauser, T., Goldberg, A., Hanley, D. (2004) Interhemispheric Reorganization of Motor Activity is Necessary for Successful Rehabilitation. JAMA Oct 20; 292(15):1853-61.
  6. McCombe Waller, S., Wei, L., Whitall, J. (2008) Temporal and Spatial Control following Bilateral versus Unilateral Training, Human Movement Science. Jul 16.
  7. McCombe Waller, S., Forrester, L., Villagra, F., Whitall, J. (2008) Intracortical inhibition and facilitation with unilateral dominant, unilateral nondominant and bilateral movement tasks in left and right handed adults. Journal of the Neurological Sciences, 269, 96-104.
  8.   McCombe Waller, S.  & Whitall, J (2008) “Bilateral Arm Training: Why and Who Benefits? Journal of Neurorehabilitation. 23(1):29-41. Review
  9. Luft, AR., Macko, RF., Forrester, LW., Villagra, F., Ivey, F., Sorkin, JD, Whitall, J., McCombe Waller, S., Katzel, L., Goldberg, AP., Hanley, DF. (2008) Treadmill exercise activates subcortical neural networks and improves walking after stroke:  A randomized controlled trial.  Stroke Dec 39(12): 3341-50
  10. Jill Whitall, Sandy McCombe Waller, John D. Sorkin, Larry W. Forrester, Richard F. Macko, Daniel F. Hanley, Andrew P. Goldberg, Andreas Luft,  (2011) Bilateral and unilateral arm training improve motor function through differing neuroplastic mechanisms: a single-blinded randomized controlled trial  Neurorehabil Neural Repair 25: 118-29.
  11. Liu, W; McCombe Waller S.,  Kepple, T.; Whitall, J  (2013) Compensatory Arm  Reaching Strategies   After  Stroke: Induced Acceleration Analysis, Journal of Rehabilitation Research Design. 50:71-84.
  12. McCombe Waller, S  and Prettyman, M.  (2012) Arm Training in Standing Also Improves Postural Control in Participants with Chronic Stroke, Gait and Posture Jul;36(3):419-24.
  13. Kantak SS, Wittenberg GF, Liao WW, Magder LS, Rogers MW, Waller SM (2013) Posture-related modulations in motor cortical excitability of the proximal and distal arm muscles. Neurosci Lett. 533:65-70.3
  14. Rogers, M., Martinez, K, McCombe Waller, S., and Gray, V. (2014)"Recovery and Rehabilitation of      Standing Balance after Stroke” for the 2nd edition of Stroke Recovery and Rehabilitation
  15. McCombe Waller, S.; Whitall, J; Magder,  L.;  Hanley,D.; Goldberg A.; Luft. A. (2014) Sequencing bilateral and unilateral task-oriented training versus task oriented training alone  to improve  arm function   in individuals with chronic stroke. BMC Neurology 2014, 14:236 (14 December 2014)
  16. McCombe Waller, S. Yang, CL, Magder, L, Yungher, D, Creath, R, Gray, V, Rogers, MW (2016) Impaired motor preparation and execution during standing reach in people with chronic stroke. Neuroscie Lett. 2016  Sept 6;630:38-44

Additional Publication Citations

URL to My Bibliography:  (under McCombe Waller)  (under Waller)


Research Interests

Reserach interests include post stroke rehabilitation of upper extremity function and mechanisms of neuroplasticity as well as post stroke rehabilitation of postural control and the interaction between postural control and Upper extremity function.

Clinical Specialty Details

  • Certified Neurologic Clinical Specialist  1995
  • Recertified 2005, 2015

Awards and Affiliations

1985     UMAB Outstanding Achievement in Research Award
1985-2005     Elected to Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society
1995     Board Certified as an APTA Neurological Clinical Specialist
1995     Outstanding Faculty Award University of Maryland Baltimore
1996     Outstanding Faculty Award University of Maryland Baltimore
1998     Outstanding Faculty Award University of Maryland Baltimore
2002     Alumnus of the Year from Physical Therapy Alumni Association – UMB
2005     Outstanding Faculty Award University of Maryland Baltimore
2006     Outstanding Faculty Award University of Maryland Baltimore
2007     Outstanding Faculty Award University of Maryland Baltimore
2008     Outstanding Faculty Award University of Maryland Baltimore
2009     Outstanding Faculty Award University of Maryland Baltimore
2012     Outstanding Faculty Award University of Maryland Baltimore
2014     Outstanding Faculty Award University of Maryland Baltimore
2015     Henry O. and Florence P. Kendall Award from the APTA of Maryland