USC physical therapy faculty and students earn accolades at APTA NEXT 2015 conference



Nearly 2,000 physical therapy advocates, clinicians and educators from across the nation made their way to National Harbor, Md., last week for the American Physical Therapy Association’s NEXT Conference & Exposition.

During the four-day national conference, faculty and students from the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy—the U.S. News & World Report’s top-ranked physical therapy program in the nation—earned several accolades, including scholarships, awards and fellowships and spent time on Capitol Hill advocating on behalf of the profession.

Scholarships, Awards and Fellowships

One of the top awards went to professor Lori Michener, who was named a Catherine Worthingham Fellow—the highest award given by the APTA. With Michener’s award, USC’s physical therapy division now boasts eight faculty members with such distinction, giving it the highest concentration of Catherine Worthingham Fellows of any physical therapy program in the nation.

Michener joined the division in 2014 and has already received more than $600,000 in funding for research conducted in her laboratory, Clinical Biomechanics Orthopedic and Sports Outcome Research.

 Read more about Michener’s award here. 

Professor Kornelia Kulig took home the Helen J. Hislop Award for Outstanding Contributions to Professional Literature. Kulig earned the publication award for her extensive scholarly writing in the area of neuromechanics accompanying musculoskeletal injury, according to an APTA release.

She joined the division in 1997 and co-directs the Jacquelin Perry Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Laboratory.

Read more about Kulig’s award here.

Two students, Zuleima Hidalgo DPT ’15 and Peter Muhn DPT ’15, earned Minority Scholarship Awards, each worth $5,000.

The scholarships—supported by the Minority Scholarship Fund—are meant to acknowledge participation in minority affairs activities and services, the potential for superior achievements in physical therapy, professionalism and academic excellence, according to the scholarship application.

During her time at USC, Hidalgo organized the first service-learning trip to Barranquilla, Colombia. She also advocated to lower interest rates on student loans and was present when Barack Obama signed a bill doing just that into law in 2013.

Muhn has volunteered with the Fit Families Program, a free program that offers preventive and wellness physical therapy to underserved families. He’s also volunteered with the Special Olympics and at Adelante, a program that offers cancer survivors a free exercise class.

Marching on Washington

Division faculty and students also had an opportunity to flex their advocacy muscles. On June 3-4, more than 1,000 physical therapy professionals marched on Washington, D.C., for PT Day on Capitol Hill.
“I joined fellow colleagues Dr. Resnik and Zuleima Hidalgo to converse with California legislators about repealing the therapy cap, supporting concussion awareness legislation and several other issues surrounding our profession,” explained Scott McAfee DPT ’16.

McAfee was recently elected to a two-year term on the APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors, a group that works to launch new initiatives, promotes student involvement and serves as a voice to more than 25,000 DPT students and 11,000 physical therapy assistant students across the nation.

The APTA NEXT Exposition & Conference is considered the leading-edge event for physical therapy professionals, offering them cutting-edge programming, innovative content and a chance to rub elbows with some of the profession’s most forward-thinking individuals.

Last year’s conference featured associate dean James Gordon, who gave the prestigious McMillan Lecture, becoming the fourth Trojan to do so.

His lecture, titled “If Greatness is a Goal,” challenged the profession to continue investing in research and clinical care or else risk losing the momentum the profession gained during the 20th century.

Watch James Gordon’s McMillan Lecture here.

Next year’s NEXT Exposition and Conference will take place June 8–11 in Nashville, Tenn.