APTA President to Speak at Division Commencement

Sharon DunnMarch 21, 2016
BY YASMINE PEZESHKPOUR MCM ’16

This year’s graduating physical therapy class will be sent off into the professional world with words of encouragement from the president of the American Physical Therapy Association.

The USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy has announced that Dr. Sharon Dunn will deliver the commencement address on May 13.

A longtime admirer of USC’s physical therapy program, Dunn said she was thrilled to accept the invitation.

“USC’s faculty, graduates and students impact our profession in many ways,” Dunn said. “From the science emanating from USC to the professional engagement at all levels of the APTA, USC is a standard for excellence with lasting contributions to our practice and our future.”

Dunn has been a practicing physical therapist for 30 years. In June 2015, the Louisiana-based physical therapist was elected to serve a three-year term as president of the APTA, physical therapy’s leading professional organization with more than 93,000 members nationwide.

While Dunn currently serves in a leadership position, she wasn’t originally interested in pursuing a career in health care. Her first career aspiration was to become a high school math or science teacher.

It wasn’t until she learned about physical therapy through a friend that she decided it was the right career for her.

“I saw my friend who was doing a homework assignment to break down the tennis swing — identifying muscles and planes of movement,” Dunn said. “I’ve been hooked on human movement and physical therapy ever since.”

Dunn, a board certified orthopaedic physical therapist, still managed to incorporate aspects of her original career plans. She currently serves as associate professor and chair of rehabilitation sciences at Louisiana State University Health Science Center.

“Having the opportunity through academics to engage with and influence young, aspiring physical therapists has been my greatest achievement,” she said. “Their accomplishments during and after school give me great pride and optimism about our profession’s potential.”

She said new physical therapy graduates should be optimistic and committed to taking advantage of the opportunities, as well as challenges, that lie ahead.

“There is no time like the present to make a positive difference in the world,” she said. “Don’t wait until you feel ‘ready’ to chase your dreams. Start where you are, continue to be teachable, learn from your mistakes and approach life like it’s a perpetual training program because that’s exactly what it is.”