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Monica Nelsen, DPT, PT


Assistant Professor of Clinical Physical Therapy


1540 Alcazar St. CHP 155,
Los Angeles, CA 90033-9260


Dr. Monica Nelsen has a broad range of experiences as a clinician, researcher, administrator, advocate and educator. After completion of a bachelor’s of science degree in physiology, she earned her doctor of physical therapy degree from USC in 1998, while supported by a teaching assistantship in biostatistics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, where she identified a passion for teaching. She introduced rehabilitation research into the biostatistics curriculum for graduate-level and post-doctoral students in occupational therapy, physical therapy and medicine. At the end of her second year in the DPT program, she was granted a research assistantship in addition to her continued teaching assistantship.

Her early clinical career included outpatient orthopedic and acute hospital settings as adjuncts to her predominant focus in neurorehabilitation, which placed her in both inpatient and outpatient programs at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center and Scripps Rehabilitation Hospital. During this time, she became a strong advocate for patients as well as other vulnerable populations.

In 2008, her previous experience in research brought her back to USC as a program director for a multi-site, NIH-sponsored, randomized controlled trial in stroke rehabilitation. She led teams across seven hospital systems and three universities, based in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. Upon successful completion of the study, Dr. Nelsen returned to her early passion for teaching and joined the development team for the hybrid pathway of the USC DPT program, with specific responsibility for the immersion experiences of the DPT curriculum.

The Spring of 2020 changed the world with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many in-person activities came to a halt, including laboratory classes in the DPT program. Dr. Nelsen was appointed chair of the health & safety committee for the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, which developed successful protocols that permitted a safe resumption of on-campus preclinical lab activities beginning in July of 2020 and continue to date. Through this work, she became an integral faculty member in both pathways of the DPT program. Dr. Nelsen became the course director for Principles of Disease in 2021 and also serves as director of didactic and laboratory education for the DPT program.

On a good day, you may see Dr. Nelsen’s canine companion on campus. On an even better day, they would be glad to have you join them for a walk or a hike!

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy, University of Southern California, 1998
  • Bachelor of Science, Biology and Physiology, San Francisco State University, 1995


See Monica Nelsen’s curriculum vitae.