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Celebrating 70 Years of Innovation and Excellence


​Last month the University of Colorado Physical Therapy Program celebrated 70 years of charting new paths in education, research and practice. The September 7, 2017 70th anniversary festivities included an educational day filled with nationally recognized speakers and an evening gala honoring the Physical Therapy Program’s legacy of excellence while looking ahead to its future.
Director of the physical therapy program, Dr. Margaret Schenkman, kicked off the day of celebration welcoming alumni from around the country to the Anschutz Medical campus, along with students, faculty and others. “I am truly delighted to see so many of our CU PT Family here,” said Schenkman. “I can’t say enough about what a committed and talented group of faculty we have; our alumni who are not just our alums, many are also our partners in educating future physical therapists; current students who are the future, and other colleagues and friends of the PT program.  It’s terrific to join together today to share in this very special occasion.”

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Speakers at the daytime educational event included:

•    Nicholas Brown, Vice President of Therapy Operations at Howard Head Sports Medicine;

•    Dr. Sharon Dunn, President of the American Physical Therapy Association;

•    Dr. James Kelly, Professor in the Department of Neurology and Executive Director of the Marcus Institute for Brain Health at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus;

•    Dr. Leslie Morse, Endowed Medical Director of SCI Research at Craig Hospital and Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at CU;

•    Dr. Shirley Sahrmann, Professor Emerita, Physical Therapy Program at Washington University School of Medicine;

•    Dr. Jennifer Stevens-Lapsley, Professor, Physical Therapy Program and Director of CU’s Rehabilitation Science PhD Program;

•    Candy Tefertiller, Director of Physical Therapy at Craig Hospital; and

•    Dr. Steven Wolf, Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and Department of Cell Biology at Emory University School of Medicine.

During his remarks, Dr. Wolf summarized the recurring theme of the educational day, “The speakers that I heard today all talked about where we’re going and what we need to do to get there.” 

This theme of the future of physical therapy was most evident during a lunchtime panel of current students and recent graduates. Each of the panelists spoke about the strong sense of community within the program and the support they received from faculty. Michelle Vien, Class of 2017 said, “There have been several instances where faculty reached out to me to check on how I’m doing and really encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone.” Recent graduate Aundrea Lucero (2016) added that the program and its faculty provided her with a full toolbox as well as many opportunities to practice using these tools.

Alumna Joanne Posner-Mayer (1973) seemed to agree with this assessment of the program and noted that the foundational knowledge and skills she gained in the PT Program lead to a fruitful career. “It gave me my career, which has been very satisfying and successful. It opened hundreds of doors for me. I was able to go to Europe and work in two different countries as a physical therapist and I was able to teach in physical therapy,” said Posner-Mayer. “It also enabled me to work in business with a company that sold physical therapy equipment and then later start two companies called Ball Dynamics International and FitBall, Inc., which brought the popular fitness ball to the US. This product helped solve issues for many physical therapy patients and can be found in gyms, homes and offices around the globe.”

To ensure that others have access to the similar opportunities, Posner-Mayer established the first major endowment of the program called The Joanne Posner-Mayer Diversity Scholarship. This is just one of the ways she has given back to the PT Program.

Because of her many contributions, Posner-Mayer was honored at the evening celebration held in the Denver Art Museum. Honorees also included Pat Grant who initiated the first scholarship fund of the PT program and founded the Scholarship and Endowment Advisory Board, and former dean of the CU School of Medicine, Dr. Richard Krugman, who provided tremendous support to the program during his tenure. Each of the honorees was presented a token of appreciation by the evening’s master of ceremony, reporter and author T.R. Reid.

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In addition to recognizing the honorees and thanking them for their contribution, over 400 students, alumni, faculty, staff and supporters mingled on a terrace overlooking downtown Denver. Later attendees gathered to share a meal and toast the past, present and future of the PT program. Kevin Morris, student vice president of the class of 2018 capped off the night by proclaiming, “Tonight, let’s celebrate you, let’s celebrate the students, let’s celebrate the past 70 years and let’s celebrate the future of the program.

Visit our photo gallery for additional pictures of the event.